I would like to deal with some domestic matters and make a few preliminary announcements. Members may remove their jackets during Committee sittings to ensure that they are attentive and comfortable at all times. Members should ensure that mobile phones, pagers, BlackBerrys and other electronic gadgets are turned off or switched to silent during Committee sittingsI feel that strongly and say it forcefully. There are money resolutions and Ways and Means resolutions related to the Bill, and copies are available in the Room.
I remind Members that adequate notice of amendments should be given: to be eligible for selection at a Tuesday sitting, amendments must be tabled by the rise of the House the previous Thursday; and for a Thursday sitting, they must be tabled by the previous Monday. As a general rule, my fellow Chairman, Mr. Hugh Bayley, who is sitting to my right, and I do not intend to call starred amendments. I hope that that is carefully noted by all Members, particularly by the political parties.
Not everyone is familiar with the process of taking oral evidence in Public Bill Committees, so it might be helpful if I briefly explained how we will proceed. This morning, the Committee will first be asked to consider the programme motion, which is on the amendment paper and for which debate is limited to half an hour. We will then proceed to a motion to report written evidence, then a motion to permit the Committee to deliberate in private in advance of the oral evidence sessions, which I hope we will be able to take formally. I will then ask members of the public to leave us briefly. Assuming that the second motion is agreed to, the Committee will then move into private session. After we have deliberated, witnesses and members of the public will be invited back and the oral evidence session will commence at approximately 11 oclock.
I give the spokesman for Her Majestys Opposition due notice that, with regard to oral evidence, I will call him first to question our witnesses. If the Committee agrees to the programme motion, it will hear oral evidence today and on Thursday then revert next week to the more traditionalI was going to say familiar, but I prefer traditionalproceedings of clause-by-clause scrutiny.
Thank you, Sir Nicholas. I hope that notwithstanding the serious matters that we are discussing, the atmosphere in which we have begun will continue throughout our sittings.
I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday 27 January meet
(a) at 4.00 pm on Tuesday 27 January;
(b) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 29 January;
(c) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 3 February;
(d) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 5 February;
(e) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 10 February;
(f) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 12 February;
(g) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 24 February;
(h) at 9.00 am on Thursday 26 February;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table
Tuesday 27 January
Until no later than 12 noon
Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Association of Police Authorities; the Airport Operators Association
Tuesday 27 January
Until no later than 1.00 pm
The Poppy Project; English Collective of Prostitutes; UK Network of Sex Work Projects; the Childrens Society; Object
Tuesday 27 January
Until no later than 5.30 pm
Alcohol Concern; Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; British Beer and Pub Association; Association of Convenience Stores; Local Government Association
Tuesday 27 January
Until no later than 7.00 pm
Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Serious Organised Crime Agency; Metropolitan Police Force
Thursday 29 January
Until no later than 10.25 am.
Liberty; the Bar Council
Thursday 29 January
Until no later than 3.00 pm.
Home Office; Department for Transport
(3) proceeding on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 16; Schedule 1; Clauses 17 to 20; Schedule 2; Clauses 21 to 25; Schedule 3; Clauses 26 to 31; Schedule 4; Clauses 32 to 61; Schedule 5; Clauses 62 to 86; Schedules 6 and 7; Clauses 87 to 91; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 10.25 am on Thursday 26 February.
I do not really want to say much at this stage. My understanding is that the programme motion has been agreed, but I shall respond if there are further comments.
It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Nicholas, and to debate with the Minister. We have previously debated measures in Standing Committee and in Statutory Instrument Committee, and we have always had a fruitful and businesslike way of dispatching business. I hope that that continues, but I have some comments to make.
The Bill is important, and Her Majestys Opposition are supportive of some of its principles. However, there are also some thorny questions about how the clauses will operate in practice, so it is incumbent on us to test carefully and scrutinise in detail the way in which many of those well-meant clauses would operate. In my judgment police reform is not thoroughly covered in part 1, and there are some omissions. I understand, and the Minister will no doubt remind us, that the announcements in the Green Paper have been carried through, particularly in relation to targets and the policing pledge. Changes in primary legislation are not needed to effect thosewe understand that.
The same might also be said of reforms to Her Majestys inspectorate of constabulary. However, it is disappointing not to see in the legislative programmeand certainly not in the Billimportant changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which would, if brought in quickly, ensure that more police time would be spent on the street. I shall not detain the Committee, but an important consultation was launched by the Ministers predecessor in March 2007it went to two consultationson reforming the Act.
Order. I hesitate to stop the Opposition spokesman, but this is a programme motion. We should not be going into the substance of the Bill. I should like to establish with all members of the Committee, right at the outset, that my fellow Chairman, Hugh Bayley, and I are very much on the ball. We are following what is going on, not just sitting here. If hon. Members go off the subject and are not speaking either to the Bill or to the relevant amendment, we shall quickly remind them.
Your strictures are taken into account, Sir Nicholas. I shall move on to say that part 1 contains police reform provisions, which need adequate time for debate; where the Bill deals with police reform, in a way that does not involve reform of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the provisions partly contentious. The clauses on the senior appointments panel and on collaborationa hugely important issuewill require the Committees time, although not to oppose the principle of the reform of arrangements to facilitate collaboration. With your permission, Sir Nicholas, I stress that while some of the issues in part 1 and other provisions are, in principle, not inimical to the Conservative positionsome of the principles are soundthe manner in which the clauses have been drafted prompt many questions. I am sure, Sir Nicholas, that you would not want us just to rubber-stamp things that look okay on the face of it. That is not the case in relation to collaboration or the senior appointments panel in part 1, nor is it the case in relation to part 2, which deals with sex offences and has some important aims. However, as we shall hear from witnesses, and as we shall tease out in future sittings, the drafting of part 2 is incredibly contentious both for support groups that want to help vulnerable sex workers and victims in the sex industry, and for the bodies responsible for clamping down on trafficking. Those important issues are not contentious in principle, but their implementation under the Bill is contentious.
The same can be said of alcohol misuse and the proceeds of crime in part 4. The Opposition are tough on serious organised crime, and tough on terrorism, so the reform of the proceeds or assets from crime regime has our general support. The way in which those provisions will be implemented, however, is quite another question, and it must be teased out in full, not truncated, debate. Finally, aviation security, about which we shall hear more in our evidence-taking session, raises all kinds of questions for industry at a time at which the recession is biting. We certainly want to see what the balance is between better security arrangements, if that is what the clauses deliver, and the cost of implementing them. On the face of it, the programme motion appears to provide adequate time for hon. Members to debate important clauses in an important Bill, but I, for one, am not keen to truncate or cut short any of our sittings, and I expect that they will all be needed adequately to scrutinise the Bill.
Before I call Paul Holmes to speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, may I make the same observation that I made during the Programming Sub-Committee discussions? In its Tuesday and Thursday afternoon sittings, the Committee has the opportunity to sit rather longer than has become the custom. If there is a problemif we are behind and there are issues that the Opposition parties want to debate at greater lengthI remind Members that those sittings provide the opportunity for longer-than-normal debates. I urge Members to take advantage of that provision.
May I welcome the way in which the Committee has begun proceedings under your chairmanship, Sir Nicholas, both this and last week, and the good signals sent out by the way in which the Government and the Opposition parties consulted last week, both informally and in the Programming Sub-Committee, to try to expedite business? Hopefully, that is a good sign of things to come in the forthcoming sittings. Following our debates and conversations last week, I am happy with the programme motion. The only thing that I would like to ask of the Minister is whether we managed to arrive at a resolution of the issue raised last Thursday in the Programming Sub-Committee about the clash between business in the Chamber and business in our Committee next Tuesday, and whether a rearrangement has been possible. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon wishes to raise the issue of proceedings on Report, after we have finished our consideration in Committee, but that is all that I wish to say.
When going through clauses in Committee, an important issue is the commitment to return to something on Report. It would help us if we knew that there was a commitment from all parties to come back to those matters on Report, and we always look to your guidance, Sir Nicholas, on whether we are debating the matter exhaustively or prematurely before other Members of the House have a chance to give their views. That matter was raised in business questions last Thursday. Generally speaking, there is sufficient time on Report to deal with anything that emerges from a Committees deliberations, but there are eight substantive parts to this Bill that we have to get through according to the timetable. That suggests that eight groups of amendments might emerge on Report, and I have never known eight groups to be addressed on Report in one day. To aid us in our deliberations according to this timetable, will the Minister indicate whether we are likely to get that and whether he will hold open the opportunity for us to have sufficient time on Report to debate, in particular, Government amendments in response to points we raise that are restricted by the timetabling motion? That would aid the Committees debates and considerations.
I again thank members of the Committee for the way in which they have begun deliberations, and I thank Mr. Ruffley for his comments. He and I have worked together on several Committees, as he said, and I have also worked with Mr. Brokenshire. We have at times had fervent and passionate disagreements, but only when fervent and passionate disagreement was needed and because we believed in the argumentsthat is unlike the grandstanding that sometimes takes place. Hopefully, that will help proceedings in this Committee.
I say to Mr. Ruffley, and partly in answer to Dr. Harriss question, that we will always consider ideas that emerge as we go through the Bill and that appear to be sensible. I know that Mr. Campbell and Mr. Fitzpatrick are of the same view. I cannot always guarantee that we will accept an amendment, but as Members know, I have at times changed certain things in Bills in that way, not only in Committee, but on Report.
In order that the Committees proceedings are meaningful, I intend to address any good ideas that Members come up with, as it has always seemed to me ridiculous not to include a good idea at some stage. The point of the Committee is to improve and adapt the Bill, notwithstanding the fact that there are sometimes disagreements. I hope that that is helpful to Dr. Harris, Mr. Ruffley and other members of the Committee.
I cannot say how much time will be available on Report, but I, like everyone else, want an appropriate amount, because, as Dr. Harris will know, if matters need to be brought back on Report, I bring them back. If necessary, we will try to ensure that sufficient time is available.
My understanding is that the debates on the police grant and the local government grant will be held on the afternoon of Tuesday 3 February, but that is not yet 100 per cent. certain. The usual channels will keep it under review and, if necessary, bring forward an agreed amendment so that we do not lose any time if it is necessary to change the timings on the programme motion in the sub-committee. To be fair both to Mr. Ruffley, given the amount of time he would spend on his feet, and to me, given the amount of time I would spend on my feet, I hope that the usual channels will consider us in their deliberations. The commitment to the Committee is that, if we do need to change the business that afternoon, we will obviously do it with the agreement of the Committee, but in such a way that no time is lost.
I welcome our witnesses to this first session of the Policing and Crime Bill Committee. They are representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities and the Airport Operators Association. Just as a formality, will each of you state your name, position and the body that you represent?
I am not biased in any way, but Mr Whatton is the chief constable of my authority. You are welcome, and we will start the evidence session with Mr. Ruffley.
Good morning. I would like to ask Sir Norman about the principle of collaboration in this Bill, making it easier for forces to collaborate, which you should be aware has cross-party support. However, the history of voluntary collaboration is not particularly a success story, which is why we have these clauses. Do you believe that the provisions in this Bill would allow a Home Secretary, whether Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative, to divide up the country on a regional or sub-regional basis and say to a cluster of forces, You have not been collaborating well and have been dragging your feet. There have been personality clashes between police authorities, and we Ministers are determined to make collaboration work.? Could a Home Secretary in effect mandate the five forces and give them a lead force to collaborate on whatever five things they think should be imposed, whether IT procurement, non-IT procurement or fixed-wing helicopters, and then impose that on the five forces that they think are dragging their feet? Speaking for ACPO, do you think that that can be delivered by the clause and, more importantly, that it is desirable for Ministers to mandate in that way?
Sir Norman Bettison: My interpretation is that, because of the way the Bill is drafted, that could be the ultimate end of the spectrum of influence. The Bill will place requirements on chief constables and chairs of police authorities and contains various nudges and pushes that could be used before the point of mandation was reached.
The other thing that the Committee might like to think about is that it seems to ACPO that at the mandation end of the spectrum there would come some transfer of accountability, which currently is fairly and squarely on the shoulders of individual chief constables in all operational matters. If they choose to collaborate, that accountability remains with them collectively, but it seems to ACPO that the Bill will create several clauses that will encourage, nudge and push them towards collaboration. Our reading of the Bill is that ultimately the Home Secretary, who currently has the power, will have a mechanism by which to mandate collaboration.
ACPO sees collaboration not as an end in itself, which we are in danger of lighting upon, but as a means to an enda means of providing either more effective policing services at the serious and strategic end of our business, or creating more cost-effective services by collaborating on procurement and back-office services.
Do you see a problem with police authorities buying into more collaboration, because for collaboration to take place there needs to by a buy-in from the chief constables of the forces that might be part of a regional or sub-regional collaboration and from police authorities? Why has the record been so dismal, taking the whole of England and Wales, when it comes to collaboration for the right end, which is squeezing efficiencies that mean more money for the front line? Is it to do with clashes between police authorities or disagreements between police authorities and chief constables? Is that a fair characterisation?
Sir Norman Bettison: No, that is not a fair characterisation. Chief constables and police authorities often see the benefit of collaboration. The problems are threefold. The first problem is that the current 43 police forces have differential and variable costs, so collaborating on an issue is rarely a fair and equitable discussion, because different authorities and police forces have different costs sunk in operations, equipment or plant. The second problem is that there is variability in the vision of priorities. For example, I am the chief constable of a large metropolitan police force that is prepared to stand up and say that it has a problem with serious and organised crime. When engaging with colleagues in neighbouring forces and police authorities in more rural areas, we often have different priorities. It might be for the general good to collaborate on serious and organised crime, but there are different views on the priorities.
The third problem, which is probably driven by the first two, is something that I refer to as the net donor syndrome. Every individual force and authority imagines that they will contribute to a collaboration and that they will be a net donor. If I were chief or chair of a big force, I might consider that my current assets would be diluted. If I were chief or chair of a smaller force, I might consider that my contribution would be sucked into the bigger metropolitan forces.
Along with a tendency towards local sovereignty, those three problems are barriers to the voluntary end of collaboration. For the greater good, there must be some nudges, pushes and pulls within the process.
Can I take it from that that ACPO would not object to mandation by Ministerswhoever they may beat the extreme end of the scale and that some forces would have to take it on the chin? Is it fair to say that ACPO would say that mandation by Ministers will deliver the benefits that the amalgamation and merger process would have delivered?
Sir Norman Bettison: The strategic threats and risks that mergers were intended to address are still present in policing. ACPO believes that collaboration around some of those risks would be a good thing. We see mandation as the extreme end of the spectrum. The Bill allows for consultation, discussion and negotiation with chief constables and chairs of police authorities before that point is reached. I ought to answer your question directly, however. If ACPO is convinced of the general good, we are prepared to concede to mandation. ACPO would be vociferous in pointing out to Ministers of any hue where the common good was being compromised rather than advantaged.
Although we want to make progress, Mr. Ruffley, do you want to put a similar question to Dave Whatton for a brief answer, because he represents a rather different police authority to Sir Norman?
I know that Mr. Whatton has had experience of this matter as deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police. I do not wish to hog the Committees time and will allow other hon. Members to ask questions. However, I have a final question for Sir Norman.
It is fairly well known that quite a few chief constable posts do not attract many applicants. I can think of two examples having met the new chief constables of Thames Valley police and Lincolnshire police. This is no reflection on the incumbents because I regard them both highly, but they were the sole applicants for those incredibly important jobs. Will the clauses on reforming the senior appointments panel really effect the step change that is required to get more high-potential officers into chief constable jobs?
Sir Norman Bettison: Not unless the intention is to mimic the military approach of moving people to posts around the country against their will. For that reason, ACPO does not necessarily think that the senior appointments panel measures should be contained in primary legislation. The aims of the senior appointments panel are supported by ACPO. However, unless talent management is taken to the extent of directing who applies for which jobsthere are personal and domestic barriers against doing soit is not clear that the senior appointments panel arrangements will affect the number of people applying for particular posts. Many different reasons play into this. First, the differential between deputy chief constable pay in a larger force and chief constable pay can be so small that moving family and house makes no sense.
Secondly, the imposition of a five-year fixed term appointment on postings affects the number of people applying for particular posts. Officers are very careful these days to ask themselves, Is a five-year window appropriate for me at this particular time in that particular place? Because it could be that, at the end of that five-year fixed-term appointment, they will be left somewhere high and dry where they do not want to be and, possibly, before reaching pensionable age. So, the constraints in previous legislation that have been placed on the employment of chief constables and deputy chief constables are in themselves a barrier to free movement.
We have just heard an exchange on the new power in the Bill for Ministers to compel and direct collaboration. How does that tie in with another new power in the Bill, which is the requirement that police authorities have regard for the views of local people? Can there not be a tension there? From my discussions with him, I know that Mick Creedon, the chief constable of Derbyshire, who is giving evidence to the Committee later, says that, in the east midlands area, collaboration is going ahead very well, but there are tensions in that you have to put resources and manpower into matters such as terrorism, serious and organised crime, internet paedophilia or whatever the issues are. However, locally, as I know from police authority meetings and residents meetings, people say, We want more police on the beat. In the event of such competing directions, the Bill says that we must have regard to what local people say, for example about police on the beat, and to what Ministers might be directing in relation to collaboration. How do you square that circle?
Sir Norman Bettison: The Government, in both the Green Paper and this Bill, have made it clear that local policing, as constructed around 43 separate police forces, is here to stay. There are all sorts of drivers towards the local, including the accountability to local people that you describe, but also funding decisions, the raising of local council tax and the accountability for the expenditure of local money. In a sense, if one is keeping 43 police forces, something is needed to catalyse the integration of policing services beyond the local. The collaboration clauses that are contained within this Bill are one such feature. But you are right to see that that would in a sense be against the grain, against the current, of the focus on policing being a local dimension.
Dave Whatton: The issues for me are that, in terms of operational collaboration, it makes complete and utter sense to be doing that on a regional basis with adjoining forces where there is coterminosity. One of the things that you touched on earlier in the questions was about back office functions and support services. On occasions, the emphasis on Government office areas acts against collaboration. If legacy systems are due for renewal at different times from those of other forces in your region, but there is a legacy system coming up somewhere else in the country, with the growth of the internet and other means, we should look wider across the whole of England and Wales to the most suitable points of collaboration.
Some extensive work has gone on: 14 forces across the United Kingdom collaborated really effectively on forensic science support services and developing contracts there. Work was led by Merseyside constabulary to look at human resources and finance functions and shared services. What stopped it being taken forward at that time was that the upfront investment in capital that was required for a joint venture could not be found. That work is still going on behind the scenes among a number of forces including Thames Valley, ourselves and others spread across the whole of the country.
We need to talk about collaboration across England and Wales and not get focused on the regional initiatives. Some of the significant savings that could be made will only be possible if there is some real investment up front. That is where the difficulty comes in the short term with the current funding arrangements. That is one of the things that needs to be looked at seriously if collaboration is to be mandated. If we are to do it properly, and as Sir Norman said, the accountability for mandation sits with the person who is mandating it as well, the issue around resources could also be resolved through that process.
How much difference does the new provision that police authorities must have regard to what local communities are saying have? How might that clash with a central direction to direct resources to collaboration?
Bob Jones: From a police authoritys perspective, I do not think that it will make much difference to the way that police authorities operate. Effectively it will merely formalise and enshrine in legislation what we do and consider our core duty anyway. We consider that our first priority is to listen to the communities and to take their views into account. Obviously that has to be balanced against the professional views of our chief constables and police force, particularly as there are a number of issues that would not immediately be visible to members of the community, such as serious organised crime, counter terrorism and so on.
So the priorities that we ultimately set, while we start from a bottom-up, listening-to-the-community approach, need to be balanced against some of the other key strategic issuesprotective services issues and so onand they ultimately have to be balanced about what is affordable. It has always been the duty of police authorities to have that balance. We have a statutory duty under the Police Act 1996 to require our chief officers to collaborate effectively. So, in effect, we will have all elements of that balance enshrined in legislation if the Bill proceeds as is intended. I do not think that it will make much difference to that aspect. We welcome the fact that there is potential in the Bill to give us a clearer legal framework for collaboration. One or two of my members have run into difficulties through a lack of legal clarity. We would welcome greater clarity. We very much welcome the fact that the Bill could facilitate a legal framework for that area.
We are concerned about some of the measures in terms of the way of achieving them. There is considerable progress on collaboration, driven on a non-mandatory and incentivisation basis. A lot is being delivered. A lot was delivered historically. That is very much underestimated. There is a lot of impetus behind it. Clearly if we could facilitate a legal framework, that could improve it still further. This particular formula may cause problems, particularly in terms of separating out a police authority collaboration from police service collaboration and not allowing for joint collaboration. Most collaborations will involve resources and decisions that are under the control of both the chief constable and the police authority. Being able to facilitate joint arrangements as well as the other two would be even better.
We are slightly concerned about how far reaching some of the proposals are, particularly the ability to issue direct orders to chief constables. Under the current legislative framework the Home Secretary can issue directions to chief constables. It is on the advice of Her Majestys inspectorate of constabulary and through the police authority. This proposal takes it much further than the current arrangements where the Home Secretary can directly mandate individual chief constables with no reference to and consultation with the police authority. We believe that that level of mandation is not necessary.
One more question on a slightly different issue. Sir Norman in one of his answers introduced as a sideline the issue of raising funding for police authorities through the levy of the precept on the council tax. Is the Bill a missed opportunity to tackle that? Most police authorities are capped by the Government by central directive, and, certainly in Derbyshire, are subject to what the majority group on the county council says that it will allow in terms of an increase? Last year, in my area, it would not allow a big enough increase in council tax to offset what was perceived to be underfunding from the Government. Do police authorities need more say in how they raise their funds?
Bob Jones: We, as police authorities, fundamentally believe in the principle of no taxation without representation. We believe that the current safeguard of ensuring that the majority of local councillors must be able to agree a precept is an important part of that principle. We also believe that if we do not have our own fund-raising responsibilities and duties, if decisions are taken elsewhere, without finance we effectively have no meaningful local accountability. We become a quango, such as a primary care trust, rather than a police authority that independently represents the views of the local community.
Sir Norman Bettison: The question is directed to the local precepting element of the policing budget, which is always the smaller part. The larger part is the general grant from the Government. I would saybut I suspect that I will get no support from my right-hand side, from Mr Jonesthat there are opportunities, which do not need legislation within this Bill, to fund the general grant, as alternatives to simply dividing it between the 43. Some of the strategic and serious risks faced by the police service might be better addressed by directing funding at other than the 43by directing it as a core grant to achieve some specific objective.
Dave Whatton: It goes back to the point I was making earlier. In the future, the financial position of everybody in public service will become even tighter. With the restrictions that have come in through capping, which has affected my force and other forces, we really do have to look at the efficiency and effectiveness of everything that we do. I am very keen to look at collaboration and other aspects of work, but on occasion our hands are tied, preventing us from investing in long-term measures, without in the short term cutting back on services we provide on the front line. So there is a real issue for us about dealing with things in the short term and long-term gains. That is something we need to be looking at across the board. That is where it is really important to look, on occasion, at the greater goodfor support from forces, the Home Office and other areas between each other, to provide better services across the board, rather than looking at individual police areas, on occasions where the finances really do drive the activity that you would like to do in a different way if you had the opportunity.
Good morning, and thank you for your evidence so far. May I ask a couple of questions on collaboration, and then on accountability? Sir Norman is absolutely right to say that mandating forces in the Bill is seen very much as a last resort, which the Government would consider only when everything else had failed. I am glad Sir Norman has put that on the record; I think that is an important point to make. To reiterate here, it is very much the last port of call, not the first port of call.
Could I ask whether Mr. Jones, Sir Norman and Mr. Whatton think that the measures in the Bill will encourage police forces to share services and collaborate? There has been a lot of progress, but what people want now is to try to encourage greater momentum and sometimes a bit more speed. Will the measures in the Bill encourage that?
Sir Norman Bettison: I think they could facilitate, without necessarily encouraging. I thinkthis has been touched upon by other witnesses as wellthat an incentive is needed that stands outside the clauses. The clauses facilitate; the encouragement, to take your word, is better addressed through invest-to-save, pump-priming and the incentive to address central targets that go beyond the local, because much of the targeting regime is about local delivery. In addition to the clauses, incentives must be thought through to encourage the direction of travel.
Bob Jones: I very much concur. There is some potential to facilitate matters and to remove some of the obstructionsthe lack of legal clarityto the frameworks for collaboration; however, there is the potential to add confusion, because the issue is about the separate arrangements. There is no arrangement for collaboration between the authority and police service, and that is the more normal pattern of activity in such collaborations. However, there is a lot of momentum from successful collaboration, and there is active support throughout the area, but there is a danger of throwing in additional areas where the issue is confusing. If the message is that the powers will be used only as a last resort, particularly changing from the previous arrangements with HMIC and the police authority arrangements to powers to give direct instructions to police constables, they are likely to be perceived as powers that could be used not as a last resort but as the first port of call. If the perception is, We are about to be forced into doing these things, so we might as well wait for that, there is a danger that it might disrupt the substantial progress that is being made on a voluntary and incentivised basis.
Dave Whatton: For a long time, there has been a desire to do more work on support, and that continues. However, there has been some reticence about operational collaboration. In the forces that I used to work in, West Midlands and Greater Manchester, there was a clear need to deal with serious and organised crime, terrorism and all sorts of things, but that is not so visible in my current force in Cheshire. One issue about operational collaboration is that we have only a limited pot of police officers with the right skills and abilities, and that goes back to Mr. Holmess point. If we are going to invest police officers in the tackling of serious and organised crime, and put large resources into surveillance, detectives and various other things, it will come out of another area of policingquite often, the local BCU, policing and community matters. They will be replaced over time by new probationers, but, initially, the staff will have to come from somewhere else, unless there is significant investment.
I understand that, with many of these things, we are trying to make better use of our resources, but that means some tough decisions about priorities. On collaboration, that is no different nationally or regionally from my own constabulary, where the urban unitary authorities regularly complain that there are not enough staff to deal with the issues that are relevant there, and the parish councils complain that rural officers are not visible enough there. We have difficult decisions to make, and we make them daily. That issue was just the same as the one under discussion, so we just need a forum, and, on mandation, opportunitiesgoing back to the point about the greater goodmay be realised at the expense of some parts of policing and some parts of the country. Ultimately, however, accountability is important and we have to make tough decisions about our available resources. There will be some help and some uncertainties, but there seems to be an urban myth that chief constables and police authorities do not want to collaborate. We do. If the legislation and changes come in, they will take out some of the uncertainties, but we need support on other things behind the scenes.
Mr. Jones, what do you think of the changes that have been made to clause 1 on the accountability arrangements for police authorities? Would Sir Norman and Mr. Whatton like to comment on whether they see the accountability arrangements as an improvement on what was previously in the Bill?
Bob Jones: We see those proposals as a massive improvement on the original Green Paper. We welcome the formalising of what we have always considered to be our core role. This is a much better way forward than the proposals on directly elected representatives. We felt that the involvement of all three political parties might have brought party politics into conflict with policing. We are in the process of writing to all three political parties to ask whether it is possible to attempt to achieve a consensus on future accountability arrangements. That should be dispatched today.
The current situation is dangerous because policing could be seen to be in conflict with political parties. That is dangerous for confidence in policing. It is essential that the whole community feels that the agenda of police constables and police services is to operate with fairness to all, without fear or favour and in the interests of the whole community rather than those of one section, whether that be a political party or not. This is a key issue that must be explored further.
Sir Norman Bettison: ACPO supports the removal of the proposal for directly elected local police authorities. I stress that there is no resistance to accountability, nor is there any reluctance to democracy being the wonderful cocoon in which UK policing exists.
We have talked already about the currents that pull towards the local. ACPO thinks that local elected members would be neither fish nor fowl. At the basic command unit level, they might represent about 100,000 people, which means they would not be so very local. However, being directly elected would give them a mandate and they would be required to renew that mandate on an annual or biannual basis. Therefore they would concentrate on and lobby at only the local level. The day-to-day task of chief constables is to balance the local with the serious, national and international. Having a directly elected member with a democratic mandate to concentrate only on the local would skew that balance. We therefore support the removal of those proposals.
Dave Whatton: Accountability is vital in being a chief constable. I have felt very accountable to my police authority on a number of occasions. I am not clear about the meaning of the provisions on collaboration in clause 5. Proposed new section 23(6) of the Police Act 1996 refers to a chief officers accountability in decision-making and collaboration, stating:
A chief officer may make an agreement only with the approval of the police authority responsible for maintaining the chief officers force.
Proposed new section 23A(5) speaks of collaboration for police authorities, stating:
Before making an agreement a police authority must consult the chief officer of the police force maintained by the authority.
Those subsections use different words. Personally, I believe that the tripartite structure should be equal. Those words seem to change the balance. The agreement of both should be required equally. Is this an issue of wording or is it the intention that the relationship between police authorities and chief officers be changed? If that is the intention, it is not explicit. This raises some questions.
Have we exhausted the new duty on police authorities, the appointment of chief officers and collaboration? If there are no further questions, perhaps Mr. Ruffley or Mr. Brokenshire will bring in the other two witnesses on airport security.
May I say that it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Sir Nicholas? First, I would like to ask the relevant witnesses if they agree with the premise that the current situation, in relation to policing at airports, does not work, is not effective and requires reform?
Robert Siddall: Yes, I think we would agree. We worked closely with Stephen Boys Smith, whose review ultimately triggered this legislation, and since his report, we have also worked with Government officials. Our take on his review was that we agreed with the diagnosis but not the prescription. The current system of designation is in need of overhaulit does not work particularly wellnot least because it creates a distortion among airports, as our own members will testify, as some are not designated and some are. Time seems to have rather passed by the reasons for those particular nine being designated as of today. So yes, we would agree.
Thank you, Sir Nicholas. I was simply asking the witness what is the primary area of concern not addressed by the Bills proposals, given the issues he has highlighted?
Robert Siddall: Perhaps I can give an overview, then ask my colleague, Ian Hutcheson, to provide an additional perspective. The problems that have dogged the policing of airports for twenty-odd years are clear, and there have been any number of working groups, committees, and so on.
There are two fundamental problems. First, when deciding how an airport should be policed, in the final analysis, it comes down to a subjective judgement, which may rely heavily on the personal views of police officers involved with that airport or in the final instance, the chief officer of the force where the airport is situated. There is therefore a degree of subjectivity, which has caused problems. The second big issue is that for designated airports today, one party pays while ultimately, the other is making the lions share of the judgement on what the resource numbers should be. Those familiar with quality management in industry might remember its original strap lineQuality built in. What we are seeing with this legislation and the previous regime, is that because of the design, disputes are built in. One party pays and another makes judgments. In business, that would be known as the principal agent problem, which means you have two parties whose interests are not exactly aligned. That is the fundamental flaw in the arrangements.
Ian Hutcheson: Robert has hit the key points, as the current arrangements rely heavily on personal relationships. The debate about accountability in relation to the Bill is interesting. In many respects, accountability is at the heart of some disputes in the policing of airportswhat accountabilities lie with the chief officer, and what accountabilities lie with an airports managing director? Despite 18 months of debate, we are no clearer on those issues. In fact, the latest position is that they should be decided locally. That could lead to accountabilities being different all around the country, which I do not think would be very good.
The other aspect is that knowledge of one anothers business will help to develop relationships. Too frequently, police forces seek to replicate the policing structure of a basic command unit or a small town in an airport that does not require all those levels of policing. Again, that comes down to a subjective judgment. There are no structures or methodologies that you can fall back on to say who is right. My fear is that the Bill does not change any of that. It introduces an executive committee and formalises the multi-agency threat and risk assessment, but multi-agency threat and risk forums have been operating at the designated airports ever since Sir John Wheeler recommended them. They have been extremely useful in informing the debate, but not at all helpful in dispute resolution.
Although the Bill addresses the designation and de-designation issue, and all airports will be susceptible to having police on a regular basis, my fear is that it does not remove the subjectivity to which Robert referred or the reliance on personal relationships. Todays overall economic climate will put pressures on the individuals in those negotiations, and I fear that there will be more disputes than ever before.
Would it be fair to say, in characterising what you have said, that the arrangements rely on the personal relationships between each of the relevant partners and that the proposals risk upsetting those relationships and making them more difficult?
Ian Hutcheson: I am not saying that they will make them more difficult. The relationship between Heathrow and the Met, for example, is so mature that it can stand some of those pressures, but where you seek to establish new relationships at airports that have never been policed on a regular basis, the overall operational environment will put real strains and stresses on the attempts to set up the relationships on which the police at the airport depend.
Mr. Whatton, perhaps I can ask you about the impact that the changes will have, as they are in essence mainstreaming airport policing much more than has ever been the case. What sort of impact will that have on the individual forces affected?
Dave Whatton: We welcome the proposals that the Bill puts forward. That has been an ongoing issue for several years, and we are getting to the point where we can take it forward in a meaningful way. It is completely unfair on the communities we serve that nine airports have a requirement for policing and a methodology, and that a large number of airports that have grown up since the designation was brought in have significant risks but do not have effective mechanisms for managing them in order to protect the public. One of the key aspects of that process is that it will apply across the board.
However, there are a couple of things that I would like to raise. With regard to the conversation we had about collaboration a short while ago, one of the issues is that experienced officers are taken away from communities or other roles to fulfil the new specialised roles to deal with organised crime. Exactly the same applies to airport policing, so no chief constable will want to put additional police officers into an airport unless there is a real need to do so to protect the public. It is not about growing police forces through the back door, because the individual staff have to come from somewhere else.
That means that we need to take serious decisions before we put any staff into the airports and transfer the costs across. It requires knowledge and openness, and these provisions mean that police officers, as well as senior staff in airports, the airlines and the industries concerned will have access to secret and sensitive information so that we can all properly assess the risks and come up with solutions, which might not mean extra policing. There might be other ways of doing this, such as investing in CCTV or other hard, protective measures: it does not automatically have to be police officers on every occasion. It means that we have to assess risk properly, then take forward, in agreement, measures to protect the public against the risk that we identify. One of the stumbling blocks that there have been for some time is the issue of accountability. Previous legislation was clear that the chief constable or his staff were accountable if they identified a risk and did not put in effective measures to mitigate it. If there was a disagreement among airport operators, and other issues arose, there was real lack of certainty about who was responsible for any decisions.
The decision by the Secretary of State to take on the dispute resolution process and, ultimately, the accountability for the decisions that arise from that, has cleared up the ambiguity as far as we are concerned. We do not expect lots of disputes to develop: we expect people to work together effectively to come up with reasonable measures to protect the public. However, now there is ultimately a mechanism by which a dispute can be resolved. Whoever resolves it, the payments proceed as a result. Airports are not the same as other areas of the community, and the cost of policing for them should not be put up nationally in some places and in other places by local taxpayers through the police authority and the precept. We need that fairness and equality across the board, and we fully support the proposals.
Before we continue with the questioning I remind witnesses and Members that we have just under a quarter of an hour until I must bring this set of questions to an end.
May I put one further question to Mr. Whatton as a supplementary on the risk of additional pressure being brought to bear, and on the limitations of front-line officers? Do you have any concerns that by changing a situation by establishing formal airport security plans, perhaps for airports that do not have such arrangements, a temptation or feeling will be created that there is a requirement to place additional police resource in such airports? That is not necessarily because there is any flaw in the judgment on risk assessment, but simply by virtue of there being a plan in place the subconscious impact may be greater focus, exposure and perhaps public scrutiny.
Dave Whatton: I do not think that there will be any increase in police officers or resources going into airports just because we have a plan. Additional resources may need to go in, because we have, by this process, identified genuine risks against which we need to protect the public. The plan per se will not bring in any resources, but if we identify risks which we did not know about beforehand then, quite properly, we need to do something about it.
I have just one question on funding for security. The Airport Operators Association believes, as would any business, that policing should all be done through central funding and that you should not be picking up the tab. Can you justify that approach with airports?
Robert Siddall: It is probably a more nuanced position. We accept that there is a degree of local decision making, because the whole process is based on MATRA, which looks at local threat and risk assessment. I would not say that we are set on some kind of central solution with regard to funding. However, that is a position that we have held because we got to a point where we lost so much faith in these arrangements, that we felt the only way to solve that was by some sort of central levy. There are two aspects: security is paramount and our first concern is absolutely that passengers can travel safely and securely. However, while that has to come first, we do have an eye to affordability, especially in the current climate, as Mr. Hutcheson has mentioned.
These arrangements create a problem, as it is not clear that there will be value for money. Despite what Chief Constable Whatton says, if you consider this objectively, you have to ask why would police forces not put lots of officers into an airport, apart from the fact that those resources might be limited, so a decision has to be made about that. There is only one case going through this process that has not obtained an agreement through custom and practicePrestwick airport, which is one of the nine designated airports. If it had not been for the frenetic activity of officials in recent months, that case would be in dispute. Unsurprisingly, the problem is that the police would like to put a great many more officers in than the airport believes is appropriate. To me that seems to be a case in point.
That is one side of the coin. The other side is that we accept that airports should pay where policing is appropriate for risks that occur on the airport. However, a great deal of the policing will be for counter-terrorism measures, which are somewhat subjective and perhaps more vague than other measures in terms of making the linkage as to what you get for what resource. We feel that that is also partly a threat against the state. We feel that that should be looked at in that way. We are not simply saying that we do not want to pay for any of this: it is a more complex picture than that.
Robert Siddall: That is a very good questionI wish that I had a good answer. The Bill designs in a problem whereby one party pays and another effectively decides the resources. We would like to see the Government stop and look at alternatives such as using British Transport police to police airports, which is an alternative we pushed in the days of the review. We felt that Stephen Boys Smith dismissed that too lightly. That would be one example. The other is to go back to looking at some kind of central system.
But why would using British Transport police not give rise to exactly the same problems? The police would want to over-egg the security, which is their job and you would not want to pay for that, which is your job.
Ian Hutcheson: The earliest part of the debate was about collaboration as a driver for economies of scale. The deployment of a single force across the UKs airport would bring economies of scale to airport policing that the current arrangements do not. It is very much a local negotiation on risk and who can negotiate the hardest. You may not always get the correct deployment of police. One area that is particularly difficult is the deployment of armed police at airports. There seems to be a growing view in the police service that all airports need to have armed police. The airport operators see armed police very much as a deadly force and the last resort: there must be other ways of mitigating risk. Armed policing is a very specialist skill. Permanently to deploy armed police at airports could lead to the de-skilling of these officers. That is something that we would like to look at. If you had a national approach to the policing of airports, it could be built into that.
Bob Jones: The Committee would find it interesting to see the level of resource put in by airport operators, particularly to the non-designated airports, including some very hard negotiations by some of the designated airports. I understand from my Scottish colleagues that the offer at Prestwick was of no support whatsoever to local policing. In places like Merseyside, the agreement is one funded by the police authority and by the airport operators. That is the information that I have from my colleagues who are involved in those negotiations from our side.
The Stephen Boys Smith review not only analyses a problem, it puts forward some potential solutions. We have had major problems with designated airports having some degree of legal framework to ensure that there is a commitment, including a financial commitment from the airport operators, while the non-designated airports, many of which now have much greater passenger numbers than many of the designated ones, do not have the problem. It is a question of fairness. It is a question of fairness for the airport operators, as well as particular police services, to ensure that they have a standard legal framework: it should not be the case that some airports are designated and some are not. If you looked at the figures, I think that you and the public would be concerned about the low levels of support for policing, particularly at non-designated airports, but also at some designated airports. If that became a matter of public knowledge, there would be a greater clamour to move this legislation forward as quickly as possible.
Our only slight reservation, probably contrary to the airport operators, is that the current system effectively requires unanimous agreement. That is a commendable desire, but it effectively results in a position where there is an individual veto. The appeal against that is extremely cumbersome and mechanistic, and can drag on for a considerable period of time, when there may be an important security risk that needs to be addressed in the short term rather than going through such a cumbersome process. I would hope that the Committee looks at the arrangements for resolving those issues where there is not unanimous agreement.
Robert Siddall: I disagree with a lot of what was just said, although I can see why that perspective is taken. If we look at the Prestwick caseI do not think it is appropriate to bring all that out in front of the CommitteePrestwick airport, as an operator, has played a constructive role in those discussions with Strathclyde police. In fact, in the first instance, it believed that it had reached an agreement with Strathclyde police. I do not believe that it can be the case that it offered no input at all; it believed it had reached an agreement, which was overturned on the appointment of a new chief officer. That tells us something about the subjectivity problem that was raised earlier.
If we look at other non-designated airports and their reluctance to fundI fully agree with Bob Jones that that is true in many areas, although the picture is patchythere are examples of good relationships where police are funded at airports, and I can cite a few. Where there is reluctanceand I agree that there ispart of the reason is that this problem has not been solved. The reluctance arises because the airport fears that, as soon as it sits down at the table with its cheque book, it will suddenly be staffed out with a large number of officers. That stand-off remains until we solve this problem. That tells us that there is a problemit does not tell us something about the solution. As for designated airports being under-resourcedthat would be an issue if it were a matter of public scrutinyperhaps Ian Hutcheson could comment on that.
Dave Whatton: The issue of arms support at airports needs to be dealt with on a threat basis, and needs to be dealt with through the process, but it is appropriate at some airports. Something else is really important: we have talked about a large number of police officers and replicating BCUs. There are three airports that have large numbers of police officers present. At most of them, we are talking about 10s and 20s, but in Prestwicks case, we are talking about moving from two police officers to nine, so I think that the word large is misleading in that context.
I have a simple question for Bob Jones about accountability. Are there any amendments that you would like to see made to these clauses on accountability that would enhance the accountability of the police to police authorities? Do those amendments exist? Will you send them in?
Bob Jones: We would suggest that there are a few that could be made to improve measures on appointments and reporting back, particularly of councillor members. Our major aspiration at the moment is to try to see whether there is any possibility of getting cross-party consensus on future arrangements, because we do not feel that the continued party-political debate about these arrangements is helpful to the police or community confidence in the police.
I thank our witnesses for their co-operation. It is about to strike 12 oclock. I know that I speak on behalf of the Committee when I say that we are grateful for the full and frank answers that have been given to all questions. You may now leaves us and allow our next group of witnesses to join us. We are grateful to Sir Norman, Dave Whatton, Bob Jones, Robert Siddall and Ian Hutcheson. The evidence has been valuable.
I welcome the second group of witnesses to come before us this morning. I welcome Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project, Frances Brodrick, assistant chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project, Niki Adams, the spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, Hilary Kinnell, co-vice chair of the safety, violence and policing group from the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, Kathy Evans, the project policy director of the Childrens Society and Sandrine Levêque, the campaigns manager of Object. To assist everybody, perhaps each person will give their name and explain who they are.
Niki Adams: You have hit on the first big problem with the legislation. Controlled for gain has a wide definition. People working in the sex industry are no more likely to be controlled for gain than any other worker in the UK. The definition that Fiona Mactaggart said the Government would use, in the Second Reading debate, was that they would require compulsion; but you can see from the definition of controlling in the Bill, plus the definition used in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, that it in fact would include any woman working in any situation where there was a work rota; workmates could be criminalised under it.
We have seen prosecutions of women; we are actually working with a woman at the moment whose case is coming to court. She is the mother of four young children, who was working with another woman in premises, and is being prosecuted for controlling. We have, here, some women from Soho who work in flats with maids. They were raided in December and threatened by the police with being prosecuted for controlling, when they are the first line of defence for working women against violent attacks and exploitation. I hope that you will give them an opportunity to speak and will hear evidence from them.
I am afraid only those who have been asked to come as formal witnesses can address the Committee. I have no doubt that you will be able to speak on behalf of those for whom you have just replied. I am sorry; those who are not registered with us as official witnesses cannot give evidence.
Niki Adams: Yes, and already it is being used in that way, so what Fiona Mactaggart said in the Second Reading debate in fact is not true; we have already seen prosecutions, and prosecutions for controlling under the 2003 Act have actually gone up significantly since 2003 when the definition was changed. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has enabled the police to claim 25 per cent. of the money, assets and other resources collected at the time of arrest and after prosecution, and we think the Act is a big motivation for the increase in raids and prosecutions in this area.
I can help Niki Adams. I have just given advice on what is permitted at this Committee sitting, but there is nothing to prevent your colleagues from submitting written evidence to the Committee. Such evidence, as long as it is acceptable, not in offensive language and is appropriate to the Bill, will be circulated. If your colleagues would like to give evidence they can, but, sadly, it has to be in writing.
On how the clauses might operate in practice, it has been suggested to some members of the Committee that it would not be easy to enforce them, because quite a lot of women who were being forced into this industry would not give evidence, to put it bluntly, against a pimp or someone who was controlling them. They would be scared of being brutalised or attacked if they gave evidence to the police or the Crown Prosecution Service. From what you are saying, that does not seem to be so much of an issue. Enforcement is happening, from what you just said.
Niki Adams: Yes, that is very much the case, because it is being used against people who are involved in consensual sex. There is not any force and coercion present, but those are the people who are primarily being prosecuted under both the controlling legislation and also, unfortunately, under the trafficking legislation, which, in the UK, also does not require force and coercion to be proved. A woman in our network who is from Brazil and who has been here for 25 years running premises that everyone accepted were a safe and good environment for women to work in was prosecuted for trafficking and sentenced to three years in prison. She nearly lost custody of her young son, and is now facing deportation. She had her life savings, her house, her car and all her possessions confiscated. The law is being used in that way to prosecute people who are involved in consenting sex.
The figures that have been used to justify the proposalsthe figures on traffickingare false. They have been discredited in many academic studies including on a recent radio 4 programme, where they showed that the figure that was widely being usedthat 80 per cent. of women working in the sex industry in the UK are traffickedactually came from POPPY project research that found that 80 per cent. of women in the sex industry are immigrant women. There is a very big difference between being foreign and being forced, which is what the programme concluded.
But paying for sexual services from a person who is controlled for gain will be an offence. May I just give you this scenario? If a man understands that seeking and using the services of a woman who has been trafficked is a strict liability offence and he will be committing an offence, in practice, if he knows the law, he might say to the woman, Have you been trafficked or are you controlled for gain? Let us just imagine that scenario. It seems that there is no incentive whatsoever for the woman concerned to answer that question truthfully because if the man asks the question, she will understand that he knows the law. If she says, Yes, I have been trafficked, the first thing the man will do in all likelihood is say, Okay, Im not going to commit an offence; Im going out the door. The woman will then lose the money.
It seems almost impossible to conceive of a sex workera femaleanswering that question truthfully because the minute she does so she loses business and, if she has already been brutalised, she will face heaven knows what consequences for losing trade and money. What are the chances of women answering that question truthfully?
Niki Adams: The problem is that the figures on how many women are trafficked are distorted. Where women have been trafficked or are facing rape, violence or other kinds of coercion, the question is what will best help them escape from that situation and get the help that they need. Criminalising them and their clients is certainly not going to help. What does help, as has been shown in New Zealand, is decriminalisation, which has enabled women to come forward, report violence and get help in many different areas. The New Zealand experience has not been looked at properly by this Government and, in fact, was reported falsely in the debate on 19 January, when it was said that what New Zealand has done was legalisation, which is not true. Fiona Mactaggart claimed that there had been an increase in the number of people working in the sex industry. In fact, a substantial and thorough recent Government review found no increase in the number of women in prostitution. They found that women were more able to come forward to get help and that conditions were less exploitative in the brothels in which women worked.
In response to your question, the crucial issue is what most helps women to escape from violent and exploitative situations. The legislation will do nothing to help that, and will actually force prostitution further underground and make it harder for women to be public and get help.
Denise Marshall: I think that Niki Adams said that the Radio 4 programme claimed that 80 per cent. were foreign nationals and were therefore trafficked. Unfortunately, we cannot control the media. What we said in our report Sex in the City was that 80 per cent. of the women were foreign nationals and that we believed a significant proportion of them were trafficked. We did not say that they were all trafficked; we have not claimed that. We do not know the figures. We were able to show that around 80 per cent. in off-street sex commercial establishments were foreign national women, but we did not claim that they were all trafficked.
Niki Adams: The problem has been that, for example, in relation to Soho, which is one of the areas where the sex industry is less underground and where it is easier to see what is going on, even the police said for many years that 80 per cent. of women there were being trafficked. One of the women here today works in Soho. She is from Hungary. Her father died when she was younger and she is here supporting her son and her family back home. That is the most common average situation of women working in the sex industry. Some 70 per cent. are mothers who have gone into prostitution to support their families and other people in the community. We are in an economic recession, and more women will be forced into prostitution to survive. The legislation will do nothing to help women get safe working conditions or survive in that way. What it will do is actually force prostitution underground and make it worsemore dangerous.
This is my final question. May I ask the representatives of the POPPY project whether they think that the clauses as draftedpredominantly those relating to the strict liability on menare going to choke off demand and help to solve the problem through the straightforward criminalisation of the punter, so to speak? Do you think that that is going to work?
Frances Brodrick: Absolutely. We think that it will have the really big effect of making men think about their responsibility for funding the sex industry and the growth of that industry. We also think that it will also make them examine their responsibility for the further exploitation of women who have been controlled for gain.
Denise Marshall: Interestingly, in the time we have run the POPPY project, we have had 22 referrals from puntersfrom those buying sex from trafficked women. They made the referrals because the women were in an obvious physical and emotional state of distress. That sounds good on the surface until you realise that all the 22 men had sex with the trafficked woman before they phoned us. These are trafficked women whom we have taken into our projects and whom have given evidence to us in statements. All those men, knowing the women were trafficked, had sex before phoning us to help the women to get out of their situation.
Hilary Kinnell: The first question Mr. Ruffley asked was about the proportions of women who are controlled for gain. The UK Network of Sex Work Projects has 63 member organisations that work directly with sex workers. A survey of the client group of projects affiliated to the network showed that, in 2007-08, more than 6,500 indoor female sex workers were in touch with projects in our network. The majority of them are in premises where there is more than one personeither more than one sex worker, or a sex worker and a receptionistbecause those are the indoor scenarios that are easiest for social worker-types of whatever description to access. There is much less contact with independents who work alone or through escort agencies.
That is the basis of our expertise, and if you have the networks submission in front of you, you will see that we agree with almost everything that Niki Adams has said about the clauses on controlling for gain, which relate to not only the criminalisation of clients, but the closure of indoor premises.
The only thing I would point out on the question of statistics is that the POPPY projects survey was of indoor sex workers in London. The 80 per cent. of foreign women at the premises that they surveyed applies to the London area, not to the rest of the country. It needs to be made absolutely clear that everywhere in the country, street sex workers are nearly all British women. Outside the London area, large numbers of women working at indoor premises are British. As Niki has explained, over the past few years a number of premises that have never caused any trouble, where the women working there have reported their own concerns about trafficking and coercion to the police, have been raided on the pretext that there is evidence of trafficked women working there. None have been found, but the people who have been found have been prosecuted. That is the way things are working at the moment. We have no confidence that the provisions of the Bill will make matters any better; rather, we are convinced that they will make matters worse.
My question is to Niki Adams and relates to clause 20, which is the closure orders clause. Taking Ipswich into account, and given that although many sex workers work indoors, there are also those who are out on the street, what impact do you think the closure orders will have on the safety and vulnerability of sex workers? Will they make the position of neighbourhoods and residents any better or worse? Will they make the lot of the sex workers any better or worse?
Niki Adams: It will have a very negative impact on women working in the sex industry. Women will be forced out of premises. Many women will not have the option of giving up prostitution and will therefore end up on the streets. Nuisance has been raised as a problem in relation to women working on the streets. We feel that that is no justification for criminalising women working on the streets. The law should be abolished to allow women to work together from premises, which, in New Zealand, has been shown to help women move off the streets and inside. We know that it is ten times safer for women to work inside than out on the street.
Existing legislation has been implemented against premises where the allegation is that drug use is taking place. Release has described that legislation being used in a very insidious fashion. It said that the evidence used to close down premises is often very tenuous, in that magistrates rarely refuse police applications for an order for closure and the police have been able to present hearsay evidence. No actual evidence has to be produced to get a closure order, and like antisocial behaviour orders, that has led to enormous injustice. People are accused and they do not have the opportunity to confront their accuser or to counter the evidence that has been produced. In the same way as with antisocial behaviour orders, the order starts off as a civil offence, but the breach of the order is treated as a criminal offence. In this case, with the closure orders, people end up with six months in prison. The idea that, under the Bill, women will be forced out on to the street and may face imprisonment of up to six months is a dangerous proposal.
The impact of criminal records on women lasts their whole lives. A woman whom I was hoping that you would be able to hear from today, from our network out of London, has worked on the streets for many years. At quite an early age, she got a criminal record, which has now prevented her from being able to work in many other areas. She initially went into prostitution to support her disabled daughter. She wants to work with children. She is very involved in her community and was offered a job by her community centre, but she had to turn down because she knew that as soon as she was investigated, it would come up that she had a record for prostitution. Even if that did not prevent her getting the job, she did not want everybody in her community to know that that was the situation.
Such a thing has happened over many years to many thousands of women, and it has institutionalised women in prostitution. This measure and any other measure that increases criminalisation will continue to wreck womens lives and prevent them from getting out of prostitution.
We know that there are two groups: those who take the intelligent and informed decision that they want to sex workers; and those who end up there as a result of need, trafficking or whatever. On the drug issuerepresentatives of the POPPY project might want to answer thisa huge number, although I do not know the percentage, of sex workers are also involved in the drug industry. That is why raids have been made on the various indoor premises that you have spoken about. Is there an effective way in which the law could be decoupled so that drug offences could be prosecuted without closing down the premises?
Niki Adams: Women who are using drugs need the same help as all drug users. In New Zealand, as a result of the change in the law, there was a big shift in how women who use drugs were treated. They were treated as patients, not criminals, which had a big impact on enabling women to get off drugs. There is a problem with the rehabilitation services in this country. We have worked with women who have tried to get into rehab and have been prevented from doing so over and over again for many months. The Bill includes a measure on compulsory rehabilitation, which I know you have spoken against, but there is no evidence that compulsion works, and all that will happen due to that measure is that women will end up in an endless cycle of breaching orders. It is not an alternative to a fine, because as soon as you breach your order, you go back to court and face a fine and possible criminalisation, as you would have before. It is really a punitive measure that will increase criminalisation and imprisonment.
The provision will ask a sex worker to attend three meetings. Do you think that the compulsory aspect will deter sex workers? If so, how should help be given to a sex worker who wants to move out of the industry?
Niki Adams: I think that it will deter women. The meetings will be largely useless because resources are not being provided. To get out of prostitution, women need resources to address their particular economic needs. Drug use might be involved, in which case they need rehabilitation services to be provided when they are ready and able to take up those services. Much of our day-to-day work is about pressing for resources, such as housing and benefits, to help women get out of prostitution, if they want to.
In the aftermath of the Ipswich murders, for a very short period, there was a determination to try to find ways of getting women out of prostitution. Women were given a small amount of money each week, which dealt with their daily needs. Women were prioritised for housing and assisted through the labyrinth of the benefits system to ensure that they had an income. Child care was provided, which had an impact. Those services were then withdrawn and there was a reversion to the age-old clampdown on clients. That meant that prostitution was forced underground, and there was no decrease in the number of women workingthey were simply displaced or made invisible. So, there have been times when people have looked at what women need to get out of prostitution and things have worked. Fundamentally, it comes down to resources, not compulsion or a criminal record, which would mean that even if you were able to leave, your chances of getting another job and finding another way of supporting yourself would be destroyed.
Denise Marshall: One thing that I wanted to agree with was that there is an appalling lack of resources for women in London if they wish to get on to any rehabilitation programme and get off drugs. There are two residential services, at most, for women and children across London. The resources are simply not there for housing or any other services. I do not think that you can do one without the other: you cannot not provide exits for women.
If you decriminalise women, you will enable them to work in projectswith children and young women at risk of entering prostitutionbut they are not currently able to do so as they have a record because they were working as prostitutes. I think that you should be decriminalising. However, I do not think that sustaining women in prostitution is the answer. The criminalisation of men will go someway towards ensuring that they take responsibility.
Sandrine Levêque: Just to pick up on the point about making punters think twice and take more responsibility for their actions, due to the nature of what Object does, we are approached regularly by women who have been involved in prostitutionon the street, in brothels or as escortsand say that it is extremely hard for their voices to be heard. The not-so-nice reality of being in prostitution is often ignored by the media. You have this Belle de Jour stereotype of what it is to be in prostitution. Obviously, as we are hearing today, that does not reflect the reality. One woman who contacted us last week got involved in prostitution at the age of 13. She had left her home and had been on the streets of Coventry from that age. She welcomes this move because it will make people think twice before they pay someone for sex. Even if there is consent, you do not know the routes into that situation. We wholeheartedly welcome measures to make people think twice in that respect. I wanted to say that on behalf of those women who contacted us.
May I confirm first that none of the witnesses supports the provisions in law and in this Bill that criminalise women in prostitution? Is there anyone who supports that? No. Turning to Ms Marshall first, do you think that men who knowingly have sex with women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution are committing rape? Did you report the 22 men who had sex with trafficked women who you believed, rightly or wrongly, knew that they were trafficked and forced into sex when they came to you with the referral? Did you report them to the police for rape?
So to encourage referrals you allow anonymous referrals. I can understand why. Is that because you think that if people who refer feel that they will be prosecuted they are less likely or not likely to refer?
Denise Marshall: I think that if they thought they would be prosecuted they would be even less likely to refer. However, they have made telephone referrals and made anonymous referrals to give us the addresses of premises. We then pass that information on to the police, but unfortunately that is a telephone call and one punter and so we are not able to track those men.
So on the basis of 10 times a day and then for another month, hundreds of rapes are prevented by each of those men coming forward. Do you think we should do more to encourage more men to come forward, whether or not they have had sex with these women, in order to help you and the authorities to prevent rape on this scale?
Denise Marshall: I am not sure how to encourage them. In the latter part of last year we conducted face-to-face interviews with 104 customers of commercial sex premises. Many of the men were aware that the women they had sex with were potentially trafficked or potentially unwilling. In the time that we have been open we have had only 22 referrals. I do not know how one would get them to be more willing to come forward.
Is there any evidence from abroad that anyone is aware of as to how they manage to increase the number of referrals from men? Do they use the Bills approach of trying to deter men through criminalisation, or do they use another technique?
Hilary Kinnell: I believe that in some countries a hotline has been set up for clients who have concerns about the conditions under which women are working. Our network and the International Union of Sex Workers have argued for such a line. My area is violence against and murder of sex workers. In practically every case where a sex worker is murdered, the first group of people whom the police want to come forward are the sex workers clients. In a number of cases successful investigations have been dependent on clients coming forward as witnesses. There have also been unsuccessful cases where crucial clientswho are not suspected of the murderhave been seen in the area but have not come forward. Those cases have been in areas with heavy anti-kerb crawling operations, where the local press and sometimes local politicians and police have done their best to demonise clients and paint them all as rapists and scum. My work on violence against sex workers shows clearly that they are much more at risk from people who do not pay than from people who do.
Ms Evans, you are from the Childrens Society. I think in the briefing that you and your coalition sent on Second Reading that you wanted to see decriminalisation of under-18-year-olds. You saidand I would be grateful if you could confirm it for the recordthat you thought that the Government had planned to do that at some point earlier. Do you know why that has not happened in this Bill?
Kathy Evans: The turnaround in public policy to view the involvement of any young person under 18 in prostitution as being the victim of abuse rather than committing an offence, started in 2000 with the guidance on safeguarding children involved in prostitution. The Governments policy has been clear and welcomed by the childrens sector in terms of viewing the child in need of support and at risk of significant harm under the Children Act. What remains is to remove the legislation that currently would still criminalise them for various offences related to involvement in prostitution, of loitering and soliciting. Our particular concern is that that continues to be an anomaly. A raft of offences has been created for any adult, male or female, who is in any way involved in the sexual exploitation of children, whether as a customer or involved in the chain of offences. At the moment it also includes in law the child who is abused through that involvement. We have heard a lot about how the industry is pushed underground and is therefore more invisible, adding to the vulnerability of women and boys under the age of 18 who are sexually exploited. It is already underground and it is difficult for those children to feel they can come forward. They are often told and reminded that they are doing something illegal; that is one of the tools with which they can be coerced. It is the only case where a child who has been abused by someone else is considered to be doing something wrong themselves. We need to see that legislation repealed.
Kathy Evans: Attitudes are starting to change. There has recently been consultation on the Governments intended revised updated guidance on safeguarding children involved in prostitution. A straightforward question was asked whether responding organisations had views about decriminalisation. My understanding is that a high proportion said that they did and the Government are currently compiling the analysis of those views. So the Government have said they are open to the case for final legal repeal of those offences. In the past they have been concerned that to repeal the law would send a message that it was all right, but that is not our experience in any other form of abuse or exploitation of children. That is the anomaly that we want to undo.
One of the issues for me is whether the intentions of this legislation will be effective in making women safe. I think we all share that objective. I understand that it has been subject, as far as possible, to academic inquiry. I shall start with the POPPY project witnesses. What academic evidence in the Home Office review led them to believe that they would be safe in welcoming the reviews proposals for the new offence of controlling for gain, and the closure orders in respect of the safety and health of womenusually women; vulnerable womenin the sex industry?
Frances Brodrick: We work with large numbers of women who have been exploited in the worst possible ways, controlled and prostituted by their traffickers. They come to us and tell us about the types of exploitation and abuse they have suffered at the hands of their punters. Sometimes, men who buy sex do not know, for various different reasons, that they are buying sex off a woman who is being controlled, but sometimes they do, and it gives them an enormous amount of power over women. We have heard horrific stories about how women have been exploited and abused, and they are powerless to do anything about it. The measure not only says very clearly to punters that they need to take responsibility for the sex trade and for buying sex off women, but provides for legislation and enables women to come forward to testify against punters.
I understand that, but there may be alternatives that do it better. My question is, what is the academic evidenceeither from the Home Office review or elsewhere, if it is not therethat underpins your view that the legislation will be the best way to improve the situation generally, and particularly for your clients?
Denise Marshall: In terms of academics, the situation is quite difficult, because one academic will say that prostitution is empowering and the best way to move it forward is to legalise it, but another academic will tell you that 85 per cent. of women in prostitution are there against their will. So those on each side of the fence use whichever academic research suits them best.
I accept that, but the separate question about what improves the safety and emotional and physical health of women is more amenable to comparative study than the more political question about whether it is generally exploitative or empowering. I absolutely understand that different academics have different views.
Denise Marshall: Unfortunately, that impacts on the daily life of women with whom we work. I have a quote from a POPPY service user. We talked to her about prostitution, and she said, Lets say if I dont feed you, youre going to die. If men dont pay for this, prostitution will die. And she will not be in the situation. There is no demand; there is no supply, and her situation will not occur. You have to have the resources. There is no point in doing this if you do not have the resources to help women get out, or the resources for trafficked women. It is quite clear to me that this is the start of ending prostitution, which means violence against women.
Hilary Kinnell: We are dismayed by the lack of evidence that the demand review appears to have consulted. The Home Office commissioned a literature review of academic work on demand, and we were told that it would inform the demand review, but the literature review has not yet been published. My briefing is a little sketchy on the issue, but the references in the demand review are to Home Office documents and to the POPPY projects Big Brothel report. I would say that the strongest evidence around the relationship between safety and the legislation surrounding the sex industry is that of over 100 sex workers who have been killed since 1990, 84 per cent. were street workers, whereas the proportions of street workers versus off-street workers in the industry are probably the other way round80 per cent. indoor and 20 per cent. street. That vulnerability of street workers does not seem to be falling, even though the numbers of actual street workers are falling, which takes us back to the very inadequate evidence base on which this whole subject is being discussed.
An earlier question was about the extent of drug use. We are frequently told that the vast majority of sex workers are dependent on class A drugs, which is true as far as street work is concerned, but with reservationswhen you are running a project that provides a drug service you are likely to see sex workers who are drug users, so the level may not be as high as is sometimes thought. Certainly, I have been working with sex workers for more than 20 years and it is my experience that the extent of drug use among street women has gone up a lot in the last 10 years. As far as indoor work is concerned, there is no such connection, and it is entirely false and misleading to say so.
There is no evidence that says that the vast majority of women involved in the sex industry were coerced into it or coerced at an early age, or came into it at an early age. There is none whatsoever. There are small projects that have been based on, say, women who became involved in the sex industry under the age of 18, which have remarkably shown a very high percentage who came into the industry under the age of 18. But they are small, localised studies and they cannot be generalised to the whole population of sex workers in the country.
Niki Adams: Just on the figures, I think that Hilary has indicated how any evidence that the Government have produced to back up the legislation has actually been discredited or is completely false. They are ignoring evidence that would actually prove the opposite. The New Zealand experience is that there has been an increase in the number of women coming forward to report violence. I think when you look at what measures are needed to make women safer in prostitution they are very similar tonot disconnected completely fromwhatever women generally need to be safe from rape and other violence. The conviction rate, for all women, of reported rapes is an appalling 6 per cent. and there is evidence to show what could be done to improve that conviction rate: investigate offences thoroughly; improve womens ability to come forward and report rape; deal with the way that women face character assassination in court. Those are the measures that should be addressed by the Government if they are serious about dealing with womens safety.
I wanted to comment on what the POPPY project said about the idea of getting rid of prostitution. We would like to get rid of prostitution, but we know that it cannot be done until we have abolished womens poverty and dealt with the exploitative situations for women working in every other industry, when womens wages are so low. Womens average wage at this moment in time ranges between £5 and £11 an hour. If you are a mother you get less money; if you are an immigrant woman you get less money. Until those economic conditions are dealt with and women can support their families in other jobs, women will be forced into prostitution.
Niki and Hilary, if the provisions go through as the Government intend, in the Bill, whatever their desire to improve the lot of women, what do you think the impact will be in reality?
Hilary Kinnell: I think that the impact will be almost entirely detrimental. The only element of them that the UK network would support is removal of the term common prostitute from the statute book, which is an entirely symbolic move. The provisions relating to street work rehearse all the things that we have already had, such as targeting the clients and enforced reform of sex workers.
About 10 years ago, street sex workers started to be given ASBOs. We were told that that provided an opportunity to engage, provide services, address offending behaviour and all the rest of it. As has been said by othersand remarkably by both Niki and the representatives of the POPPY projectresources are needed. There is no provision for any resources to address those issues.
As far as indoor work is concerned, particularly the orders for closure of brothels or premises in which it is suspected that somebody may be controlled for gain, the Bill is utterly disastrous. It will destabilise indoor working situations for a vast number of sex workersboth men and women. Looking at the fine detail and the accompanying schedule, the Home Secretary will be able to give the police the power to raid premises under almost any circumstances that he or she likes.
Control for gain is a terribly indistinct definition, which applies both to the premises and to paying for the services of somebody who is controlled for gain. We fear that the police will be required to target such a wide range of individual clients and premises that places in which there is abuse, exploitation and coercion and clients who are violent and destructive will simply be lost in the mass. In my experience, police officers who are tasked with investigating serious crimes against sex workers do their damnedest to carry out such work, and they are inhibited all the time by the law itself because it inhibits people from coming forward to give evidence. It also makes sex workers more vulnerable in the first place. Iand also the networkcannot see how these provisions will do anything to improve any of those things.
Niki Adams: I will be quick. Concretely, it will force women out of premises on to the streets, where it is more dangerous. Women will be forced to work alone. That is already happening in Soho, where receptionists are being threatened with controlling charges. The change in soliciting for the purposes of prostitution will increase arrests. It makes it easier for the police to arrest women on the street because in order to prove persistence, they have only to prove that it took place a couple of times over a period of three months, which is very different from what happens at the moment.
Imprisonment will increase because of the closure orders, the imprisonment aspect of the compulsory rehabilitation, the number of arrests of women on the street and the controlling convictions. It will prevent women from coming forward. When they criminalised clients in Scotland, attacks against sex workers really soared. It will prevent women getting out of prostitution because they will have a criminal record, it will institutionalise women in prostitution, and it will divert prosecutions.
Hilarys point is very important. She says that it will divert police time and resources away from prosecuting rape and other violence to prosecuting consenting sex. As a result, the prosecutions will increase because there is the big motivation of profiteering by the police, the CPS, the Home Office and the Inland Revenue, which all get a cut of the earnings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Sandrine Levêque: We welcome the commitment behind the reforms. There is a clear consensus that the law needs to be changed, and for that reason it is important that the reforms are as robust as possible. We are concerned that the reforms are undermined by two key flaws. First, the clause is optional, which will create a postcode lottery in which local people in some areas will be empowered to have a say in licensing processes and to bring up gender equality in those processes, while those in other areas will not. That sends out a mixed message on the gender equality duty. On the one hand, all local authorities are required to promote gender equality in everything they do, but on the other, a major piece of legislation, the Licensing Act 2003, prevents them from doing that when it comes to licensing. We have a real opportunity here to put that right and strengthen the gender equality duty by allowing all local authorities to license lap-dancing clubs as sex-encounter venues and make that universal.
Secondly, the reforms currently exempt premises where lap dancing happens less than once a month, which creates a major loophole for venues that hold monthly events of that kind and are catered for by a growing number of agencies. They also reinforce a current loophole relating to temporary event notices, which are used by many pubs and bars to obtain 12 permits a year for stripping or lap-dancing events. Those permits can only be opposed by a police authority on the grounds of crime and disorder. They cannot be opposed by a council or anyone wishing to have their say. There will always be a loophole that will not be touched by these reforms.
There is massive public support for the reforms from a broad coalition, including womens organisations, councils, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Local Government Associationyou know who supports this. It is therefore important that they deliver on social justice and equality, and to do that, the reforms need to be universal and ensure that all sex-encounter activities are regulated, regardless of how frequently those activities are happening.
I have one very quick question for Ms Evans on the issue of the foreign orders for sex offenders, particularly the foreign travel orders. What impact will changing the age from 16 to 18 have, why is that important in your view, and do you believe that that increase to five years is appropriate?
Kathy Evans: We think that it is important that all legislation relating to sex offences and children involved in sex offending should be consistent with the reforms that have been introduced, which essentially define exploitative offences against children so that they apply to those up to the age of 18, and children below the age of 18 should not be penalised for that involvement.
Hilary Kinnell: My view is that men who pay for sex are very unlikely to be violent towards sex workers. There are a small proportion who are and who seem to believe that paying for sex somehow entitles them to be violent and abusive, but the vast majority of violence and abuse comes from people who are not paying or refuse to pay. A lot of violence comes from people who think that, because someone has been paid by others, they are entitled to attack them. The idea that paying for sex is intrinsically abusive has completely blinded people who care very much about the welfare of women to the real abuse that is going on and to understanding why that happens and under what circumstances. There are perfectly straightforward measures that can be taken to prevent it happening.
I have to bring the sitting to an end as the time allotted for the questions has now ended. I thank our witnesses for the frank, open and full way in which they answered the questions put to them. It has been very valuable evidence for the Committee.