The work of the Home Secretary - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Questions 1-86)


14 DECEMBER 2010

Q1   Chair: Home Secretary, welcome. I know you've had a very busy morning. You've been to Cabinet and then the National Security Council. We are most grateful to you for coming to this session. This is the Committee's normal twice-yearly session with you. You have now spent 200 days in the job. How are you enjoying it?

Mrs May: I am enjoying it, thank you, Chairman. As you know, there are some very interesting and challenging issues to deal with but I am enjoying it.

Q2   Chair: I want to start with the events of last week because it would be apposite for the Committee to ask you about public order issues and your very helpful statement to the House yesterday. Obviously the police did their very best to protect the Palace of Westminster. There is no doubt about that. But there are public concerns, some of which were expressed in the House yesterday, about the levels of violence, the destruction of buildings such as the windows of the Supreme Court and, indeed, whether or not the Duchess of Cornwall was poked through a window by a stick. At the end of the day, it was an attack on the heir to the throne. That must have caused you, as Home Secretary, particular concern. When did you know of the offer of Sir Paul Stephenson, reported in the newspapers, to resign over that incident?

Mrs May: First of all, you are absolutely right, Chairman, that this is a matter we should all be concerned about. That is why the Metropolitan Police are doing a review into that incident—to see exactly what happened and, crucially, what lessons can be learned from that incident. I have had a number of conversations myself with Sir Paul Stephenson over the period since last Thursday. I am not in a position to say, as I am not party to a conversation he may have had with somebody else in relation to the matter that you raise.

Q3   Chair: He hasn't offered to resign to you? We saw the newspaper reports and we thought it was appropriate to clear it up with you, because you would know about it, wouldn't you, if he had made an offer to resign?

Mrs May: What I would say to the Committee is that I don't think it is appropriate for me to reveal details of any private conversations I have had with individuals. The report that appeared to be in the newspaper, I think, related to something else.

Q4   Chair: So he didn't offer to resign over this issue?

Mrs May: As I have said, I don't think it is appropriate for me to reveal any private conversations that I have with Sir Paul.

Q5   Chair: Moving on to the type of inquiry and investigation that is going on, you told the House yesterday that there was an internal investigation by the Metropolitan Police which is going to reach your desk on Friday. Is that right? Is that about the royal incident or generally about the whole way in which the police dealt with this disorder?

Mrs May: There is a specific piece of work which is being undertaken by the Metropolitan Police this week on the incident relating to the royal car. That report will be presented, within the Met, to the Commissioner on Friday.

Q6   Chair: We have one report into the royal car which is internal to the Met, which will be with you on Friday. Is there a separate investigation or not into what happened last Thursday?

Mrs May: No, there isn't. It is important that we don't get a proliferation of investigations every time the police have to police the London streets, albeit that there were aspects of concern in relation to what happened last Thursday. But, of course, there had been previous demonstrations as well. Understandably, after any such event, the Met will do the job that everybody would expect them to do, which is to look back at how they have policed that particular event and to look at whether there are any lessons they need to learn for any future demonstrations that they would be policing. That is, as I say, a natural order of things that we would all expect them to do. There are also going to be, potentially, a number of investigations. There is certainly one investigation by the IPCC, and if there were any other formal complaints that the IPCC feel they should be investigating, they will be looking at those specific incidents and coming to their conclusions about that.

Q7   Chair: There is no investigation that you have asked for or commissioned in respect of last week?

Mrs May: No.

Q8   Chair: There's an ongoing look at what happened, as happens during any big disorder?

Mrs May: Yes. There is one other piece of work, if I may, Chairman. The HMIC had done some work on looking at public order policing.

Chair: Indeed.

Mrs May: And in the light of what has happened over the last few weeks, I understand that Sir Denis O'Connor is now looking again at that work in the context of the demonstrations that have taken place.

Q9   Chair: Was that at your request or did he, off his own bat, say, "I've done a piece of work on this"—of course, the Committee is familiar with that piece of work—"Let's bring it forward"?

Mrs May: Within the Home Office we, ourselves, have been looking at what work we might do in this area. Sir Denis and HMIC have decided that they will do that piece of work. It is appropriate for us to wait for these various pieces of work to come to fruition and I will be looking at the Metropolitan Police report on the incident relating to the royal car and at Sir Denis' work, when that is completed.

Q10   Chair: Is there a timetable for Sir Denis' report, because I understand that there are more protests planned for today? Obviously, what he has to say would be of great use, because his last report was extremely useful as far as his recommendations were concerned. Have you said to him you would like a report by a certain time, or is it just ongoing?

Mrs May: It is ongoing. We can certainly make known to you the date when Sir Denis expects to be able to come forward with the report but, as you say, it is a bit of a moveable feast. If we do have more demonstrations taking place, he will need to decide at what point he is able to come to us with suggestions or make any recommendations, despite the fact that other things are still going on. It is important for the Committee to recognise that we need to look not just at the specifics of these demonstrations but at the whole question of public order policing and perhaps learn some specific lessons from what has happened in these demonstrations.

Chair: Indeed.

Mrs May: So it is a slightly wider-scale piece of work which, it is right to say, is not quite as time-sensitive as you suggest.

Q11   Chair: One final question from me before other Members will ask questions on this issue, and that concerns water cannon. Yesterday, you were quite specific in the House that you did not want to see water cannons being used on the streets of London or any other city. But you did say that the consent of the Home Office was required for the use of water cannons, whereas Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO, has said that a water cannon can be used by a Commander or an Assistant Commissioner. What is the precise situation? Who can authorise the use of water cannon? I assume you still hold to your view that you don't want to see water cannon on the streets.

Mrs May: I do. There are, if you like, two levels of decision about the use of water cannon were that to be the case to be considered. The first is that the Home Office does look at a list of measures and equipment that can be used by police forces to which the police forces have to have regard. Water cannon is not on that list and the Home Office would have to look at any consideration of the use of water cannon.

In terms of operational use of water cannon, of course it would be for the police themselves to decide whether they felt that was appropriate. I would expect that they would discuss that with the police authority and, in due course, with the police and crime commissioner, were they to wish to take that step. In relation to the Metropolitan Police, that would be with the Mayor. But there is the step of the Home Office looking in general at the use of water cannon, and then a specific police decision as to whether they believed, in any particular operation, there was an operational necessity or advantage in using it.

Q12   Chair: Has the Home Office done its bit on this yet, or is that still to be done?

Mrs May: The Home Office has not come to a decision on that, no.

Q13   Chair: Ian Paisley Junior asked you in the House yesterday about the water cannon in Northern Ireland. Is it correct that two of those water cannons have been decommissioned from Northern Ireland and are heading off to the rest of the mainland?

Mrs May: My understanding is that is not correct.

Chair: Thank you.

Q14   Mr Winnick: Yesterday, the House made clear its dislike, to say the least, of violence and hooliganism, and that includes those of us who fully support the object of the continuing demonstrations against the very substantial increase in tuition fees and the abolition of EMA. Can I ask you, as regards violence, about the position of Alfie Meadows, who, reportedly, was hit by a police truncheon, which has meant an operation lasting three hours? No one has alleged that he hurt or injured himself. Is there to be an investigation precisely as to how Mr Meadows was so hurt?

Mrs May: Yes, indeed. That complaint has gone to the IPCC and the IPCC are investigating that specific case.

Q15   Mr Winnick: You would be very concerned if, indeed, he suffered his injuries as a result of being hit by the police?

Mrs May: We must all be concerned about making sure that the police are using appropriate tactics in any such demonstration and the policing of any such event. It is important that we don't, and certainly I don't, myself, form a judgment as to exactly what happened in that incident. It is right that the IPCC are investigating it. They will look into that incident and they will obviously report in due course. There is no doubt, of course, that the police must be accountable for how they police these demonstrations and what they do on these demonstrations.   As I said in the House yesterday, I think the police exercised, in general, great restraint. They were doing a very difficult job. But where there are individual complaints of incidents like that, it is appropriate that those are properly investigated, and properly investigated by the IPCC.

Q16   Mr Winnick: On that aspect, I have just one further question, Home Secretary. Would we be right in saying that the most injured person arising from the demonstration last Thursday was, in fact, Mr Meadows? No one else suffered the same type of injury resulting in the life-saving operation that occurred.

Mrs May: I always hesitate to give an absolute. My understanding is that that is correct. There were a number of police officers who were also hospitalised temporarily, but I understand that Mr Meadows is the only individual who required an operation of that sort.

Q17   Mr Winnick: Home Secretary, we have received—certainly I have, and I understand other members of the Committee have also—copies of e-mails which have been sent to you strenuously denying that those who wanted to leave Parliament Square could do so. I will just mention one, if I may, although I have had a number which have been sent to you. I hope this will not prejudice you in any way, but this has been sent, apparently, from a Guardian journalist. He doesn't write on politics but on music, I understand. He demonstrated as a private citizen and he strongly denies all that you said about being able to leave Parliament Square. This is Dan Hancox. He writes: "I repeatedly tried to leave the kettle in Parliament Square between 5pm and 11pm—six hours." Every time he tried to persuade the police officer, whoever he was speaking to, there was complete silence from the police officers concerned.

Chair: Home Secretary?

Mr Winnick: Can I just say that he is quite clear that the police were not allowing anyone whatsoever out of that kettling?

Mrs May: The police were allowing people out of that kettling in Parliament Square, and if you look at the numbers of people who were left in Parliament Square in the evening, given the number that started, it is quite clear that people were being allowed to leave Parliament Square.

Q18   Mr Winnick: So you are saying he's lying.

Mrs May: No.

Q19   Mr Winnick: You are saying he's lying.

Mrs May: No. No, Mr. Winnick, I am not saying that. You asked a lengthy question, and would you kindly allow me to answer the question, Mr Chairman, through you, if I may?

Chair: Yes, of course. Mr Winnick, please.

Mrs May: First of all, I have not seen these e-mails yet. I know people said in the House yesterday that they would be forwarding e-mails to me. I have not seen those e-mails yet. Secondly, as I say, people were allowed to leave the kettling in Parliament Square. The very numbers show that people were leaving Parliament Square during the time that has been set out. However, if an individual does have a complaint about their treatment and the methods the police were using, there is the proper process of them putting that complaint through the proper channels and, if necessary, that being investigated.

Chair: Thank you, Home Secretary.

Q20   Dr Huppert: There are two issues I was hoping to raise which I raised with you in the House yesterday, and on previous occasions. The first of those does indeed relate to kettling. I have also had e-mails from people I know personally and, while I accept what you say—that it was intended that protesters might be able to leave—it is quite clear that people were not given that information, whether or not it was actually what was happening. So there is a problem on information, which I hope you will look into.

But on kettling more broadly, before I move on to identities, it is a matter of great concern to many of us. My colleague Tom Brake, who used to be a member of this Committee, was in a kettle for many hours and still has strong opinions about them. We have recently seen the use of kettling on peaceful protesters, and there are a minority who are not so peaceful, but also on people who are very much under age. The youngest I have heard report of is around 12, but I don't think the age is the point. Will you be reviewing whether kettling is an appropriate thing to use across any age range?

Mrs May: Kettling has been reviewed on a number of occasions. It has been agreed and decided that it is an appropriate technique that should be available to the police and that, in certain circumstances, it is right for the police to use. It can be something that the police are using not just to contain those who may be demonstrating, some of whom may not be as peaceful as others, but, of course, sometimes it may be that it is felt appropriate to keep people in a cordoned area for their own sake, given what may be happening elsewhere. This is something which has been looked at on a number of occasions. I am aware that there have been, over the years, questions about this technique of kettling, but it has been looked at and it was felt appropriate for it to be a technique that is available to the police. Of course, they always consider very carefully when they are and when they are not going to use this as a technique.

Q21   Dr Huppert: I know you are aware that, further along the corridor, there is a more detailed analysis of kettling happening at the moment. Can I then move on to identification of police? The rules are clear: police should be clearly identifiable in these processes, whereas we have seen imagery showing police who appear to be deliberately disguising identification numbers. I'm sure you would deplore that behaviour. Is there some suggestion that perhaps it should be a requirement on police officers to report anyone else they see not identifying themselves correctly?

Mrs May: First of all, I think we all agree that the police officer should have that identification available. Those who are on duty around, as you have seen, should have that clear identification on their uniform. On the question of whether you put some sort of duty on an individual police officer to say what they have seen, if a police officer sees something happening in a demonstration that they feel is not right, I would expect in the natural course of events that they would say something. However, I have to say that in the circumstances in which you are in Parliament Square or in any other place, actually in action, in terms of policing a demonstration where violence is taking place, your first intent is to get on with the job you are doing at the time.

Q22   Dr Huppert: But you would encourage and support whistle-blowing, as it were?

Mrs May: As I have said, I think everybody would expect that in any circumstance any police officer who saw inappropriate behaviour by another police officer would take the appropriate steps.

Chair: Could I appeal to the members of the Committee for brief questions, because we have a lot to cover and we want to move on from the disorders of the last week? That is not a reflection on your question, Mr McCabe.

Q23   Steve McCabe: I'm watching the clock, Mr Chairman. Home Secretary, Willie Whitelaw offered to resign over the security breach involving Michael Fagan. A number of your colleagues—I don't know if you were involved—demanded the resignation of David Blunkett over the security breach concerning the comedy terrorist at the royal birthday party. At any time over the last few days, have you thought that you should consider your position over the latest breach?

Mrs May: The answer is no. I think there are differences between the sorts of breach of security that have occurred previously and the incident that took place in terms of the royal protection. But it is important that we look at exactly what took place in relation to the royal car and the decisions that were taken. If there are lessons to be learned from that, it is appropriate that those should be learned.

Q24   Mr Burley: In the past few weeks we have seen Millbank Tower smashed up and fire extinguishers thrown off the roof; we have seen burning braziers down Whitehall; we have seen Treasury windows broken; we have seen the unedifying sight of a millionaire swinging from the Cenotaph and the heir to the throne has now been assaulted. Do you share many people's concerns that the police appear to be far too soft and tolerant with these continued protesters?

Mr Winnick: But beat them up.

Mrs May: Can I, first of all, Mr Chairman, correct something that Mr Burley may have perhaps said inadvertently? He said the heir to the throne had been assaulted.

Chair: The car of the heir to the throne.

Mrs May: The car of the heir to the throne was attacked, yes. It is a matter of record, in relation to the first demonstration and the violence that took place around Millbank and around Conservative party headquarters—and, of course, there are other offices in that building; we should never forget that—Sir Paul Stephenson himself, that evening, came out and publicly said that the police had made mistakes in terms of their judgments about the policing of that particular demonstration. They have since, obviously, changed their approach to the demonstration. They had a considerably larger number of officers available to police the demonstration last week, for example, and they have learned the lesson from that first demonstration.

  It is always a difficult balance. This is one of the reasons why I say, as I did yesterday, that the police do have a very difficult job in policing demonstrations such as this. We all want to be able to ensure that peaceful protests can take place. Indeed, as a coalition Government, we have a commitment to ensuring that peaceful protests can take place. That is something I would hope people would want across the whole of the House. From the point of view of the police, they have, therefore, to engage, as they do, with those who are going to demonstrate and are intending to demonstrate in a peaceful way. What matters is that they are then able to take appropriate action when there are those who do not wish to demonstrate peacefully. Last Thursday, there was a significant number of people who wished to engage in violence and criminal damage. It is appropriate that the police take action against those and ensure the full force of the law comes on those guilty of such damage and violence.

Q25   Mark Reckless: Home Secretary, setting aside the royal protection incident, we have had complaints, on both sides, of too-tough treatment with particular protesters and also perhaps not sufficient protection of certain sites around Whitehall. But would you agree that, in really difficult circumstances, the police broadly got the balance right and should be congratulated for their work in protecting us all and allowing a peaceful protest largely to proceed?

Mrs May: Yes. I think, overall, the police did do a good job. Of course, there are individual incidents, such as that relating to Mr Meadows, which it is entirely right should be investigated by the IPCC and appropriate action should be taken on the decisions that come out of that investigation, but overall, the police were doing a very difficult job in very trying circumstances. There was a lot of provocation. They did police it well. Crucially, they achieved their clear aim, which was to ensure that Parliament could continue, that Parliament could have the debate that we wanted to have on the particular issue, and that students who attended and wished to lobby their Members of Parliament were free to do so, and access was made available to those students. Access to Parliament was open at all times for MPs. We all—I as much as any other MP—value the right we have of access to Parliament at all times. So I think, overall, they did do a good job. As I say, individual incidents will need to be investigated but, overall, they did do a good job.

Q26   Mr Clappison: Can I say, very briefly, I share that judgment, as somebody who was out and about last Thursday around Westminster, outside, and on previous occasions, and I also share the view that has been put that the vast majority of the demonstrators were very peaceful and well-behaved young people? Can I take you back to a point you made, which I think is a very important point? There does seem to be a fringe of demonstrators who, in some cases, may not obviously connect with the student world, who turn up for these demonstrations and who are equipped in a way which prevents them from being identified, using masks and so forth. That is the concern which most members of the public will have, I think, about identification on this occasion. Would you be prepared to reflect on the concern that there is this small fringe of people who seem to be out to make trouble for the police and for the authorities generally on these occasions and really spoil the protest for the vast majority of demonstrators?

Mrs May: Indeed. For the vast majority of demonstrators who want to demonstrate peacefully, what they will have seen is that their cause—the issue for which they were demonstrating—is swept to one side in the public concern about the violence that takes place in the demonstrations. So it is not in the interests of those who wish to demonstrate for a cause peacefully to see violent people within their demonstration. I was concerned, however, and I mentioned this in the House yesterday, when I saw an interview with one of the individuals who had been a steward on the demonstration last Thursday, who, when challenged to condemn the violence of the protesters, refused to do so. That should not have been the attitude of those who were stewarding and were, therefore, there, I would have thought, to encourage peaceful protest. We all support peaceful protest, but violent protest is not acceptable.

Q27   Chair: Thank you, Home Secretary, for that. You understand why we needed to ask you these questions, as you were appearing before us. Let us move on to other areas of policy, but stay with the police. Yesterday, you announced a reduction in the police grant over the next four years. The House of Commons Library insists that this is 15% in the next two years. Can you tell us precisely what the Home Office figures are, in terms of how much less local police forces will be getting?

Mrs May: Yes. What we announced yesterday was not the fact that there was going to be a cut but the individual allocations to forces, which was the result of the overall cut that had been announced as part of the spending review.

Chair: Indeed, yes.

Mrs May: My understanding, and I am very happy to come back to you in more detail on this, Mr Chairman, is that the 15% figure that I believe has indeed been quoted by the shadow Home Secretary is wrong, and that that is an interpretation of the House of Commons Library figure rather than the House of Commons Library figure, but I will look at that particular issue. We were clear, in terms of the profiling of the real-terms cut that will take place, that it would lead to a 20% real-terms cut in the grant that is made available from central Government. Of course, for many forces, that does not equate to a 20% real-terms cut in the funding that is available to them because, although it varies from force to force, they also have precept income available to them.

Q28   Chair: And you are quite satisfied that, despite this cut, the police can perform all the functions they currently perform as efficiently as they perform them at the moment?

Mrs May: What I do believe is that the police can perform the functions that they should be performing. I hesitate to say "all of the functions", because some of the functions they are performing at the moment are filling in forms for the Home Office and others, which I don't think it is appropriate for them to be doing. One of the things we are doing at central Government is trying to free the police up from some of those functions that they are doing at the moment that we don't think are necessary for them to do. So I would not use the phrase that you used, Chairman, if I may, but I am confident. That is partly based, of course—because we have seen the HMIC report—on the ability of police forces to save 12% from their budgets by all forces becoming as efficient as the force that is currently the most efficient, let alone the most efficient force actually raising the bar in terms of efficiency. So I am confident that they can do this without affecting the services on which we all depend for our police.

Q29   Chair: To be clear on the funding of PCSOs, that remains, does it?

Mrs May: What we have done with the Neighbourhood Policing Fund, which is the funding for the PCSOs, is to say—and in due course this will be money that would be part of the settlement that was available to the police and crime commissioners—that for the next two years we will continue to ring-fence it for all forces apart from the Metropolitan Police. The Metropolitan Police, of course, already have their own equivalent of a police and crime commissioner in the Mayor. So they have a directly elected individual who is the person responsible for policing matters in the Metropolitan Police area. That will be their decision.

Q30   Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, you said yesterday that you were confident that you could make savings on the Olympic security budget. You were quite clear about that. I notice that you also have plans to cut the counter-terrorism budget by 10% in real terms over the next four years. I wondered why you were so confident that we could safely make a cut of that scale, given recent events.

Mrs May: If I may take both those points you have raised, on Olympic security we are absolutely clear. The last Government had set a £600 million figure for it. We are protecting that £600 million figure for Olympic security, but already, in terms of those who are expert at this and those who are dealing with on-the-ground decisions about what needs to be purchased and what needs to be done, in looking at Olympic security they currently expect that that will be an expenditure of £475 million. But we believe it is right that we continue to protect the £600 million for Olympic security.

  On counter-terrorism policing, yes, I do believe it is possible to make some efficiency savings there without affecting the service that is being delivered. This is looking at some of the issues such as removing the duplication of some of the functions. It is not necessarily front-line functions we are talking about here, but looking at how the counter-terrorism policing units were set up. It was absolutely right that they were set up at the time, but it is now possible, a few years on, to be able to look at that and make some efficiency savings which will not affect the crucial delivery of the service, which—you are right—is a very important part of our national security.

Q31   Steve McCabe: Is the 10% an estimate or is it based on something?

Mrs May: No. 10% is the figure that we have put into the budget and that is based on work that has been done.

Q32   Nicola Blackwood: Can I ask, in deciding the formula grant allocations to police authorities, how you took into account the fact that different forces have different reliance on Government grant versus police precept and the different impact that the same cut would have on different forces?

Mrs May: Yes. We spent some time looking at how we should allocate the cut across the police forces and how we should determine the allocation of individual force funding grants. We considered a variety of ways. As you know, the local authority settlement has been determined in a particular way. That is dealing with a particular set of issues with which local authorities are having to deal. We discussed the matter. We looked at what was the expectation in police forces. Their clear expectation was that we were going to be fair across the board, in terms of how we dealt with the allocation, and that was the decision that we came to—that we would have the average 5.1% cut across the board for everybody.

Q33   Mr Burley: In our recent report into police and crime commissioners, we looked into this issue of operational independence or operational responsibility. One of our recommendations was that the Home Office should develop a memorandum of understanding between yourself, Chief Constables and the new police and crime commissioners. Can you give us an update today on what the Home Office's latest thinking is in this area?

Mrs May: Yes. We have been absolutely clear, and it was an issue that we discussed very early on with ACPO, on the whole question of how far you go in trying to define operational independence. They and we were clear that it would not be appropriate to try to define it in legislation. I think that would be a route down which it would not be sensible for any of us to go and would lead to significant problems in terms of interpretation and legal arguments and so forth. We are talking to them about the possibility of some sort of protocol being developed which sets a framework on operational independence, and that is certainly something we are working on and looking at at the moment.

Q34   Mr Burley: I will put a scenario to you that I put to two other witnesses who came to this Committee, Sir Hugh Orde and Sir David Normington, both of whom gave me completely opposite responses. In 18 months' time you will have, I would suggest, a number of police and crime commissioners elected in this country on a democratic mandate to put more police on the streets in their area. Day one, they sit down with their Chief Constable—the first day in the job—and they say, "Right. I want the police out of the cars and on to the streets. I don't want them patrolling in pairs. I want them patrolling individually on different sides of the road." Is that within their democratic mandate, or is that operational independence?

Mrs May: As you say, this is a point on which you have had two separate different answers already given in relation to this. My response to that is that on a number of issues like this, it isn't a question of saying that one is going to say to the other, "Thou shalt do this." "No, I shan't. I'll do this." The relationship between the police and crime commissioner and the Chief Constable is obviously going to be at the heart of what is being done in terms of policing, and I would expect that, yes, the Chief Constable does have an operational right to decide how his police forces are deployed at any point in time, but they need to have that conversation. The police and crime commissioner will have the ability to say, "My mandate is that we want to see more police on the streets." They will have that discussion about how that mandate can be delivered in an operational sense that meets the operational requirements that the Chief Constable is setting forward.

Q35   Alun Michael: Just on that point of language, one thing we said in our report as well was that it might be useful for a memorandum to define operational independence and also a separate concept of operational accountability. Is that something you are prepared to take up?

Mrs May: I am tempted to say that I think the further we get into trying to define all the various bits of this, the more we erode, in a sense, the whole point of this, which is that the police and crime commissioner does have a democratic mandate. They will be accountable, through the ballot box, to the people who have elected them, in terms of what they are doing, but they will hold the Chief Constable accountable for the operational deployment and putting into practice the strategic plan that the police and crime commissioner has developed.

Q36   Alun Michael: Surely the purpose was that that should be at the time when the crime commissioners are in place, so that there is a clear understanding, which is therefore clear to the public, about these different issues of independence and accountability. Can I go on to the question of the national crime agency? When do you hope to publish the Bill to set up the national crime agency, and can you tell us why you think that it will be an improvement on the current arrangements with the Serious Organised Crime Agency?

Mrs May: Yes. I'm still in discussion with the business managers in the House about the actual timetable for the Bill going through Parliament. We still expect to be able to publish the Bill, and to have the Bill going through Parliament, in time for us to make the NCA fully operational in 2013, albeit that I hope we would be able to have aspects of the NCA perhaps shadowing, if not starting to get going, before that particular time.

  Why do I think it is going to be a benefit? I think it is going to be an enormous benefit because what we lack at the moment is an ability to have that national tasking and co-ordination taking place. It will be possible. The National Crime Agency does two things. First of all, it puts a clearer focus on some aspects of crime on which we do need to spend more time focusing. Serious and organised crime is key within that, but border policing will be within that as well. Border security will be there, and we are looking at other issues that could also form part of the NCA.

The NCA will be able, as I say, to task and co-ordinate across the different elements. I am sure all members of this Committee will know that you cannot simply separate serious and organised crime from issues like border security, and, indeed, from some other aspects that we would be looking at as well, like, potentially, economic crime. It is that ability to task and co-ordinate across national policing issues that is going to be of enormous benefit.

Q37   Alun Michael: Taking the point in relation to tasking, there are two aspects. One is that the National Policing Improvement Agency is, effectively, going to be rolled in. Obviously there are some things you are determined to save money on in terms of the current work of the National Policing Improvement Agency, but there are other functions that will have to be done by somebody. Isn't it going to take the new National Crime Agency away from its clarity of purpose to have those functions rolled in with it?

Mrs May: What we are currently looking at, in fact, is not rolling those functions into the National Crime Agency, so that we can maintain the NCA's clear focus as a crime-fighting body.

Q38   Alun Michael: Who is going to do them then?

Mrs May: We are looking at a number of options. You are right to say that there are some functions that NPIA do that need to be done whatever the scenario and the structures, and we are looking at how those could be provided.

Q39   Alun Michael: Finally, a lot of us are quite concerned about the move of CEOP into the national crime agency, because it has a focus on child protection. Have you given any further thought to that and are you willing to reconsider moving from the independence of CEOP, which has been so widely praised and valued?

Mrs May: CEOP has done an excellent job. That must be absolutely clear. We really value the work that CEOP has done and we want to build on that work in the future. We will, of course, be making a final announcement about CEOP in due course and we have received a number of representations, but if I may respond to what you have said on two other aspects of CEOP, first of all, it is absolutely imperative that people realise that CEOP is not an independent body today. CEOP is part of SOCA. It is allied to SOCA.

Q40   Alun Michael: It's a partnership.

Mrs May: It comes under SOCA and it is important to recognise—

Q41   Alun Michael: But it's a very effective partnership, Home Secretary.

Mrs May: Yes. Mr Michael, if you will just wait, nobody is suggesting that CEOP is somehow going to be merged into the national crime agency, if it is part of the national crime agency, in a way that doesn't mean that CEOP can continue to exist in the form that it is at the moment. The whole point of the national crime agency is that it will have a number of commands within it. The second point is that, yes, there are child protection issues and obviously education and information provision issues that CEOP undertakes, but at its heart, CEOP is about preventing the undertaking of what is, in my view, very serious crime in terms of child abuse. It is about preventing it, but it is also about identifying where that is taking place and making sure that those who are perpetrating it are brought to justice.

Chair: Can I appeal to members of the Committee please to ask briefer questions, otherwise the Home Secretary will be here all day, and I am sure she has other things to do, as we have?

Q42   Mark Reckless: Home Secretary, could you tell us how you envisage the role of ACPO changing under the new policing landscape?

Mrs May: Yes, I'm happy to do that. We are talking to ACPO at the moment about their particular role. I see ACPO having a future as the body within policing which is establishing and setting real professional standards and professional leadership within the police force. I think this is a really exciting future for ACPO. I am pleased to say that we have had a piece of work done by Peter Neyroud, who, of course, has been heading up NPIA, in relation to leadership within the police force. That has now been completed and we will be able to look at that. Being a body which is able to lead in terms of professional standards, providing that leadership within the profession is going to be a very important role for ACPO in the future.

Q43   Mark Reckless: Currently, the exams to become a sergeant or, to a lesser degree, an inspector within the police are incredibly focused on fairly difficult legal points and precise knowledge of legislation. Do you think there could be a broader role for those exams, perhaps with ACPO involvement, in developing wider competencies for those levels of policing?

Mrs May: Part of the point of the work we have just had done on leadership is looking at what is appropriate in terms of developing careers within the police force and developing leadership within the police force in the future. I have not yet looked at that work. I don't know, but it may very well address the sort of issue that you are talking about. I am well aware that those exams require a significant amount of just learning of facts in order to be able to develop them, which is not about leadership.

Q44   Nicola Blackwood: On Saturday I visited my very impressive Youth Offending Service, and they have done some fantastic work around prevention and pre-court diversion. What are your plans for carrying on with reducing youth offending and, in particular, in light of Ken Clarke's Green Paper and the statements he has made there, how does the Home Office intend to respond?

Mrs May: This is something that is very important. In terms of the work on youth offending, there are a number of projects that have been developed in the past with the Home Office or under the aegis of the Home Office. We are looking at what projects we can continue in the future and where we have been most effective, collectively, across the board—both the MoJ and the Home Office—particularly in relation to some aspects around youths, like gangs and knife crime. We retain a clear focus on those particular issues.

  In relation to the Green Paper that was produced by Ken Clarke, it is absolutely right that, within it, it does have a focus on issues like restorative justice when that is appropriate. We must all recognise that, in looking at the wider issue of sentencing and prison, prison works, but prison must be made to work better. The key thing for most members of the public is they want criminals to be punished, they want them to be taken off the streets—they see prison as taking them off the streets—but they also want criminals who come out of prison to go straight. What our system is failing to do at the moment is to deliver that for the public. That is what we must be doing, but we also need to make sure that we have appropriate sentences and other means of providing, for example, through restorative justice, where that is going to be effective. What matters is what is going to work.

Q45   Nicola Blackwood: But do you agree that the best way to ensure that restorative justice is effective is early intervention?

Mrs May: If I may, Chairman, what is your definition of early intervention? The Government is doing quite a lot of work on what I might call very early intervention, in terms of children. I think we should all recognise that in terms of preventing young people from getting on to a life of crime, very early intervention is part of that. That is why it is right to put that sort of focus on to it, but there will be other points at which it is right to intervene where it is perceived that somebody is, perhaps, on the cusp of going down that sort of route, and these sorts of projects can have enormous value.

Q46   Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, there has been a bit of a dispute about what constitutes the numbers of officers on the street and the use of Sir Denis O'Connor's 11% figure. What is the measure by which we should judge you in terms of numbers of officers and availability on the street? Is it crime levels or is there some other measure by which you want to be judged?

Mrs May: I am aware, Mr McCabe, that there has been considerable discussion about the issues about numbers on the street. Sir Denis O'Connor's figure was very clear. It was about those who were visible and available. That was the 11% figure. I have given a very clear message to police forces across the country—and I think this is what people expect from a Home Secretary and from police forces—that the clear focus has got to be on cutting crime.

Q47   Steve McCabe: So if crime rises, that would be a fair way to judge you. Is that right?

Mrs May: I suspect, while I am tempted to say that, of course, the Home Secretary has responsibilities other than policing and crime, Home Secretaries normally probably are judged on what has happened on crime.

Chair: You will be back next Christmas, so we will be able to test that.

Q48   Bridget Phillipson: Home Secretary, Police Community Support Officers are hugely valued. I have spoken to lots of constituents who think they play an important role. What do you think best practice is in terms of the use of Police Community Support Officers?

Mrs May: There are a number of examples. If you look at the way a number of forces do it, it is Police Community Support Officers working within a Neighbourhood Policing Team as part of that team, often being an important link with the members of the public; sometimes members of the public feel more comfortable with that link than with a warranted officer. It can provide a different individual within that team. How both warranted officers and PCSOs are used at that grass-roots level is a matter for the Chief Constable. It is an operational decision as to how they are used. Obviously they have been used. I have visited and spoken to a number of Neighbourhood Policing Teams or Safer Neighbourhood Teams, as they are referred to in the Met, and talked to them about how they develop their work and how they do that work. Obviously many of them are doing an excellent job out there on the streets, but how they are put together and what they do is a matter for the force.

Q49   Bridget Phillipson: There is likely to be a reduction in the number of PCSOs, and I have had correspondence with numerous constituents who are really concerned about what that means. What would you say to that? Who will take up those important roles in liaising with residents' groups, in providing a visible presence and in tackling anti-social behaviour? Will that job simply go undone when they are no longer in position?

Mrs May: No. I answered a question earlier in relation to the Neighbourhood Policing Fund. We have continued to ring-fence that grant for all except the Met, as I say, because we have an elected individual—the Mayor, in conjunction with the Commissioner, has the responsibility for policing in London. It is appropriate, therefore, that that decision is handed over to that body. Elsewhere, we are ring-fencing funding for the Neighbourhood Policing Fund. So decisions about how to configure will now be taken by Chief Constables. They will make a decision as to what they feel is appropriate at that grass-roots level in order to ensure the service is provided. What I am very pleased about is the emphasis that many Chief Constables have now openly said they are putting, in making decisions overall about their budgets, on ensuring that that very much front-line policing, visible to members of the public, is maintained.

Q50   Mr Burley: I think there is widespread consensus on having a mixed work force in the police between police officers, PCSOs and police staff, but there is currently a big inconsistency, as regards terms and conditions, between the office of constable, where you can't make that person redundant for 30 years, and PCSOs and police staff, who can be made redundant. If Tom Winsor doesn't recommend changing that anomaly, will you recommend it yourself?

Mrs May: The whole point of having Tom Winsor's review is to have somebody who is clearly independent and who is able to go and discuss with those who are involved at all levels, within and outside the police, what should be done in relation to terms and conditions within the police force. I await that review with interest, obviously, as to what he is going to come back with. The one thing I would say is that, of course, we have made clear to Tom Winsor that, in looking at his review, he must have regard to the fact that the police do not have the right to strike. That sets a scene for what he is looking at within that review. But the point of having an independent person to have the review is that I am not sitting here as Home Secretary saying, "I think we should do A, B and C."

Q51   Alun Michael: If things like graffiti, litter and fly-posting aren't tackled, places feel less safe and things go from bad to worse. It is normally described as the "broken windows theory", although that is a bit of an over-simplification. Do you accept that that is important, and will you make sure that it doesn't get lost and that the legislative framework under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act is still kept to the fore?

Mrs May: I do believe that it is important that we consider those sort of quality-of-life issues, which do potentially have an impact and, if they are not dealt with, can lead to deterioration in an area and can lead to criminality. So I think it is important. There is much to be said in relation to the "broken windows theory", as it is often referred to. In relation to the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, I may have to come back to you on that particular issue. I have to say it has not been my bedtime reading—

Alun Michael: It should be.

Mrs May: I was going to say "recently" but I have to say, Chairman, it has never been my bedtime reading, I am sorry to say.

Chair: Mr Michael probably brought in that legislation himself.

Mrs May: I am sure he probably did, which is why—

Alun Michael: I wrote it. I will offer you a note, Home Secretary.

Mrs May: I was going to say: that is why I hesitate to make any comment on it without having actually looked at it.

Chair: Very wise. He will send it to you for Christmas.

Q52   Mr Winnick: The counter-terrorism review, Home Secretary, was due to be published, I believe, after the summer recess. What is the latest situation?

Mrs May: We are going to be publishing it in the new year.

Q53   Mr Winnick: Thank you. Early in the new year?

Mrs May: I would hope it will be early in the new year, yes. There are some decisions that we will be taking. As you will be aware, Mr Winnick, there is a certain piece of legislation, notably around pre-charge detention, which has a timetable to it.

Q54   Mr Winnick: No one disputes the fact that Britain faces an acute terrorist danger. As far as the situation which occurred in Sweden over the weekend is concerned, allegations have been made by the parents of the person who blew himself up, and fortunately did not murder anyone, which he intended to do, that his arrival or stay in Britain had led to his being indoctrinated into what we all must condemn as outright evil. What do you say to those allegations, Home Secretary?

Mrs May: I am not in a position to comment on the allegations about a particular individual at this point in time. Obviously, these are matters that will be considered. There is a concern we have about the issue of radicalisation and we are looking at that whole question. As you and the members of the Committee will know, Chairman, the last Government put into place the Prevent strategy. We are reviewing that strategy. I think it is right we do that because I am concerned about the purpose of that strategy. It was trying to do two different things. One was about community cohesion and one was about, if you like, very specific counter-terrorism issues and issues around individuals and radicalisation. I am afraid that all too often, the work of that Prevent strategy was simply seen by communities with whom the Home Office and others were working as being about the counter-terrorism strategy rather than about the community cohesion, where that was the intent. So I think it is absolutely right that we review this strategy because we don't think it was getting it right.

Q55   Mr Winnick: I know you were asked about the 10% reduction in counter-terrorism over the next four years. Many people are puzzled: if, indeed, as you, first and foremost, accept as Home Secretary that Britain faces an acute terrorist danger, with the possibility of future 7/7s—and obviously, none of that can be dismissed out of hand; far from it, bearing in mind what occurred in Sweden—why on earth reduce the amount of money spent on counter-terrorism?

Mrs May: First of all, you are absolutely right that the threat level in the UK remains at severe—i.e. an attack is highly likely. So it is absolutely right that we recognise the seriousness of the threat that does face the United Kingdom, and from a more diverse range of sources of threat now than, perhaps, has been the case in the past. If you look at the National Security Strategy that we published some weeks ago as a Government, we identified not only the threat from international terrorism but growing concern around what has been happening in Northern Ireland.

Q56   Mr Winnick: But the main danger is Islamic terrorism, obviously, isn't it?

Mrs May: As I said, we have identified a clear threat from international terrorism but we cannot ignore what has been happening in Northern Ireland recently.

Q57   Dr Huppert: Home Secretary, if I could look at the progress of control orders, which is something I am very concerned about, first, we had Lord Macdonald here earlier and he spoke about the process that was happening and how people were coming at it with an open mind. I hope you can give this Committee reassurance that the security services are also coming at the issue of control orders with an open mind rather than seeking to defend their previous decisions. Can you also let us know how that decision is being taken? Is it a matter that you will ultimately decide? Is it being taken to the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister? How will that ultimately resolve itself?

Mrs May: There are obviously a number of matters to consider around the issue of control orders. I can assure the Committee that all aspects of the counter-terrorism legislation review are being looked at very widely. Evidence has been taken and input has been taken from a wide variety of groups and individuals and that is being properly considered. Ultimately the decision is not one for me as an individual. Obviously, the review is being undertaken by the Home Office with, of course, Lord Macdonald reviewing that process, but ultimately the decision as to what takes place will be a matter for the Government as a whole.

I said earlier that the counter-terrorism review was now going to be reporting in the New Year. There are a number of aspects of that review where we have been doing some very detailed work to make sure that we do get it right and to take account of all considerations. For example, on section 44, when I made the statement on the counter-terrorism review, a number of Parliamentary colleagues from Northern Ireland raised the issue about its use in Northern Ireland. We do need to make sure we are getting this right so that we have the capabilities we need.

Q58   Nicola Blackwood: Could you explain why the use of intercept evidence in criminal proceedings was excluded from the terms of reference of the counter-terrorism review?

Mrs May: Yes. We will be doing a separate piece of work on intercept as evidence. There has been a Privy Council Committee looking at this issue, which was set up by the previous Government on a cross-party basis. That did report and raised some issues about the ability to use intercept evidence, but we will be doing some further work on that. The timetable is slightly lengthier than the CT review.

Q59   Chair: On extradition, you will not be surprised that I am going to raise the case of Gary McKinnon with you, because this is one of the first things you said you would look at again. Why is it taking so long to make a decision?

Mrs May: The process that we have been going through is entirely right and proper. As you will know, Chairman, and as members of the Committee know, there is one role for the Home Secretary in terms of deciding whether it is right to agree to an extradition or not, which is in relation to the impact on an individual's human rights, and that is clearly defined as the role of the Home Secretary. When I came into this office, as you know, there was due to be a judicial review. It had been suggested to me that that should be postponed. I asked for that to be postponed so that I could take some further evidence from Mr McKinnon's legal advisers on that matter. That evidence was produced to the Home Office. It did include medical evidence and I have asked—and I think it is entirely appropriate that I, as Home Secretary, ask—that there be some further independent medical advice provided to me. That is what we have been trying to do. I have asked the Chief Medical Officer to suggest individuals, and we are hoping that we can come to an agreement with Mr McKinnon's legal advisers as to who would be appropriate to conduct that medical.

Q60   Chair: One of the problems is that you have not asked someone who knows about Asperger's Syndrome. That is the problem. The National Autistic Society wrote to you on 26 November offering their assistance. It is now just a question of agreeing an expert, and it has to be someone who knows about these things because the concern of Janis Sharp, and indeed this Committee, is that perhaps those who have examined him so far on behalf of the Home Office do not have the expertise.

Mrs May: I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed, and that is why I don't think it is appropriate for me, as an individual, simply to judge who should be doing this; the Chief Medical Officer should be asked for their advice as to who should be undertaking this. That is what we have been doing.

Q61   Chair: You made it very clear that there are certain parameters that you cannot go beyond in your role as Home Secretary. There are legal issues. Were you surprised, therefore, that Gordon Brown had a meeting, when he was Prime Minister, with Louis Susman, obviously a political meeting—this was not a set of legal discussions—and that Prime Minister Cameron met with President Obama to make political representations over what you have maintained, and your predecessor has maintained, is a legal process?

Mrs May: There is a legal process, and what I and my predecessor have clearly maintained is where the role of the Home Secretary is in this matter.

Q62   Chair: So Prime Ministers can make representations?

Mrs May: I am tempted to say, but it might be considered to be flippant, that it is beyond the pay grade of a Home Secretary even to tell a Prime Minister which representations they may or may not make. I am clear about the role of the Home Secretary. I think it is very important that, as Home Secretary, I maintain that role and the judgment within the parameters that are clearly available to the Home Secretary.

Q63   Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, in October this year you announced a review of extradition by a panel headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker. The panel is expected to report to the Government by late summer next year. This is seen by some as a long period of time. Please can you comment to the Committee on this view?

Mrs May: I don't consider it to be a long period of time. If we are going to do what the panel will be doing, which is a proper and thorough examination of our extradition arrangements—and that will include the European arrest warrant as well as extradition arrangements with other countries outside the European Union—it is right that they have the appropriate time to do that. As everybody will be aware, there have been a number of concerns expressed about current extradition arrangements, including some colleagues raising issues about a European arrest warrant, and it is appropriate that we allow those experts who have agreed to undertake this—and I am very pleased that Lord Justice Scott Baker has agreed to undertake this with two others—the appropriate length of time to be able to consider this properly, so that we ensure that the decisions we take coming out of this are the right ones.

Q64   Nicola Blackwood: One of the main problems, as I understand it, with the current extradition arrangements is that of forum. Obviously, we have a situation where we have a rise of cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism, where someone can sit at a laptop in the UK and actually commit crimes in other countries. The question is where they should be tried. We were told by NGOs that this could be dealt with relatively easily by enforcing, I think it is, paragraphs 4 and 5 of schedule 13 of the Police and Justice Act 2006. Do you have any intention of bringing that into force?

Mrs May: That is a subject which is part of the review that the panel are doing on extradition. We have asked them to look across the range on our extradition arrangements and the issue with the forum bar is one of the things they will be reviewing.

Q65   Nicola Blackwood: Will that specifically take into account the increase of international crime, whether it is cyber or international organised crime?

Mrs May: I would expect them to be well aware of the increase that has taken place in cyber-crime. Indeed, of course, as a general point, the Government are putting much more of a focus on cyber-crime and cyber-security than has been done in the past.

Q66   Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, the most widely reported problem in practice with the European arrest warrant has been the issue of proportionality. This is recognised as a problem by other member states, as well as the United Kingdom, but the Council of Ministers has not followed this up as rigorously as one would hope. Will you be prepared to raise this and pursue this issue with our European partners, and will you report on the results to the House and to this Committee?

Mrs May: The UK has already been raising this in discussions with other Member States. Indeed, there has been some change to the guidance that has been issued in relation to proportionality as a result of interventions that have been made by the UK.   This wider issue of the European arrest warrant, as I say, is part of the review that is going to take place. So I would expect, if there are any further changes that are needed, that that would be part of any recommendations that come out from the review panel. Certainly it isn't the case that, simply because it hasn't been raised at the Council of Ministers, the UK hasn't been acting on this. We have both been looking at this issue more widely within the European Union, as I say, getting some change to the guidance on proportionality, and have been discussing our concerns about this with at least one member state in relation to the numbers of people being extradited.

Q67   Chair: You have made it very clear that your role is a legal one and therefore you will resist political pressure. Have there been any representations from the American Government concerning the case of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, asking that he be returned to the United States? If there were, would you be able to resist that, because that would be political pressure?

Mrs May: First of all, Chairman, I have not received any representations on that case. As you know, there is a case going through the courts at the moment in relation to extradition to Sweden on charges and allegations that are not about the WikiLeaks episode but are about other matters. That will be going through its proper legal process.

Q68   Chair: But should there be representations in the American Government, you would resist them, if they were political?

Mrs May: Precisely because, as I have said in the past, I have a legal role in this, what I would say to you is that you have made an assumption that the only representations that could be made would be political. I am not going to give a categoric answer because, of course, it is perfectly possible there may be some legal representations that are made. The current case is in relation to extradition between the United Kingdom and Sweden.

Q69   Chair: Were you surprised that a spy was able to penetrate the House of Commons and work here as a research assistant? I understand you have signed the deportation order in respect of this matter.

Mrs May: Of course, one of the powers of the Home Secretary is to be able to do such things. However, Mr Chairman, in an open session of this Committee, I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on an individual case.

Q70   Steve McCabe: Can I just quickly go back to Gary McKinnon? When Gary McKinnon's mother gave evidence to the Committee very recently, she told us that several members of the present Government, including the current Attorney-General and Deputy Prime Minister, told her, pre-election, that if elected, they would make sure her son was not extradited. Do you expect those promises to be honoured?

Mrs May: Mr McCabe, I have to say that that is not an appropriate question for me in the sense that, as I have made absolutely clear, I have a particular role in this issue. I have been doing my best to be as clear as possible that that is a legal role. There is a legal function there, if you like, that I have to follow, and I think it is appropriate that I follow that process.

Chair: Fortunately you did not make a promise, because you did not know you were going to be Home Secretary.

Q71   Bridget Phillipson: Home Secretary, if I could turn to the issue of domestic violence, last week the IPCC reported a catalogue of failures in the way that Essex Police had responded to Maria Stubbings prior to her murder by a former partner. Can you tell us what action the Government are taking to make sure that those findings will be widely disseminated to other forces, so that lessons can be learned across the country from what is not an isolated case?

Mrs May: This touches, in one sense, on a very difficult issue but also a very important issue, which is how we disseminate good practice but also raise concerns when issues have been identified as being problematic, in the way that they have been. It has happened in a number of cases in the past in relation to issues around, for example, stalking and other matters. We have published a domestic violence strategy very recently, and my inter-ministerial group on violence against women will be looking at this whole question of how we make sure that forces both recognise good practice but also understand when there has not been good practice put in place. That's a task that we will be undertaking. There is a role for central Government in just making that information available to forces. There is then, obviously, a question about ensuring that that information is dealt with.

Q72   Bridget Phillipson: The refreshed strategy you referred to said that the previous Government's approach had been over-centralised and top-down, with rigid indicators and central directives, and that prevented innovative local solutions. Clearly, as there are still massive challenges facing police forces, is it simply the case that local forces should be allowed to get on with it, without central Government direction, where it is needed?

Mrs May: It is always a balance between what it is right for central Government to do and what it is right to leave to the local level. My concern with the approach that was taken by the previous Government in this area was twofold. First, it was largely predicated on the view that the criminal justice system was where changes needed to be made but the focus was largely just on the criminal justice system. Whereas it was right that some changes were made there, I think there were other aspects of this issue that we need to deal with, prevention being one of the key areas.

It was attempted to impose a one-size-fits-all model on local areas and, by definition, in local areas, dealing with this will be done in different ways. I can give you two examples of that. The Family Justice Centre in Croydon has been a very interesting model, developed partly on what was done in the United States. I think that was a very interesting model, but in more rural parts of the country, that physical one-stop shop doesn't work, purely by definition, because of the distances. So they have to address different models to deal with this. It is right that central Government ensure that people are aware of practice and when good practice is taking place. We can encourage that, but at the end of the day the police force must decide what its operational capabilities are and how it is dealing with issues.

Q73   Bridget Phillipson: The previous Government had brought forward proposals for domestic violence orders to potentially bar, under certain circumstances, the partner or former partner of a woman from the home. The new Government had initially said they weren't going to press ahead with that, but I know there has been a change in that regard—or a last-minute change.

Mrs May: We didn't say we weren't going to press ahead with it. We said that we were deferring it because we had some issues to look at around it. There were some practical issues about how the orders were going to operate. There was also the small matter that, although the previous Government had said they would go down this road and had said they would fund it, they had not actually identified the funding for it. So we had to do that. We have done that and we have identified three pilot areas where the domestic violence protection orders will be being piloted for a year and then, obviously, we will assess how those have operated.

Q74   Mr Burley: There have been reports in the papers recently about the removal of scientists from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Would you be able to update the Committee on the latest position on this issue?

Chair: As briefly as you can.

Mrs May: Yes. It is not the case that we are going to remove scientists from the ACMD. We continue to value scientific advice and it is important in this area that we have that scientific advice. What we want to do is to make the membership of the ACMD more flexible so that we don't find the situation, as happened earlier this year, when there was a requirement, and currently still is, to have a vet on that committee, for example. The vet had resigned, no vet was appointed to the committee for two months, and technically the committee could not operate unless it had a vet on the committee. We think that is inflexible. We want flexibility, but we certainly want scientists still on that committee.

Chair: We are looking for a vet for our Committee as well.

Q75   Mark Reckless: The Committee held a seminar on student visas yesterday in Oxford, very ably organised by Nicola Blackwood. There was recognition that there is going to be significant restriction on post-work study, but there were real concerns from respectable student providers and colleges that efforts properly to crack down on the bogus colleges were tying them up in a great deal of bureaucracy but also sending out a message that was making it more difficult to recruit students to the most competitive courses from overseas. Can you offer those people any reassurance on the issue?

Mrs May: Yes, I hope I can. First of all, I am bound to say that, in looking at student visas at the moment, we have a consultation exercise being undertaken. It is open to colleges and others to put in their views on this. So it is not the case that we have decided a system. You mentioned the bureaucracy they were concerned about. We don't have a model of a system that they can see is going to increase their bureaucracy. They may be concerned to ensure one doesn't, in which case, put in the evidence about how we might deal with this.

  It is very important for the UK that we ensure that when people come here to study, they come here to an organisation that is going to provide them with the education and the study that they are expecting. I would say there is also a potential negative message, and I have been told anecdotally of circumstances where individuals have come to the UK believing that they were going to be able to study on a course and gain a qualification and discovered, when they came here, that the college they had signed up for either didn't exist or certainly did not provide them with those sorts of qualifications. That gives a negative message for the UK as well.

Q76   Mark Reckless: Were we to be assessed under the points-based system currently, I would get twice as many points for my MBA as Dr Huppert would get for his PhD. Do you think that is appropriate?

Mrs May: I would certainly not wish to comment on the relative academic qualifications of you, Mr Reckless, and Dr Huppert. What I would say is that the system that you are referring to, in relation to the number of points given to an MBA, was a transitional system put in place when moving from the highly skilled migrant workers' programme to the current points-based system programme. As I understand it, currently, it is not the case that you would get quite so many points for your MBA.

Q77   Mr Clappison: Shortly after coming into office, you stated that it was the Government's aim to reduce the level of net migration back down to the levels of the 1990s—to the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands which we have seen in recent years. What reflections do you have on your work towards achieving that end?

Mrs May: That is still the aim we have, but my reflection is that this is not a one-stop-shop process, in the sense that you cannot simply do that through one part of the immigration system. It is important that we look across the whole of the immigration system, and that is why, yes, we have announced the limit on non-EU economic migrants and the changes to the Tier 1 and Tier 2 definitions within that, but it is also important that we do look at student visas—a significant number of student visas are issued for the UK—and we will also look at family arrangements and at settlement arrangements. We have to look across the board at how we deal with immigration in order to achieve our aim of bringing that migration down to the tens of thousands.

Chair: We are nearly finished.

Q78   Dr Huppert: In response to Mr Reckless MBA's question, I am grateful that there was a comment from the Immigration Minister that priority and extra weight will be given to research vacancies requiring a PhD; that is much appreciated. Can I turn, perhaps, to the issue of detention? There are two areas I wish to explore. The first of these is general detention for immigration purposes. In response to a written question I submitted, we found that over a third of those people who are detained are currently released. I have the figures if you need them. For example, of the 36 people who were detained for over two years, 21 were ultimately released. Does that seem like a sensible use of either our money or their time, and does that suggest that we are using detention as a last resort, or as a holding pattern for people we don't know what to do with?

Mrs May: I am aware that you had been asking a question, as you say, in relation to detention. I would be happy, Mr Chairman, if this was of help to you, perhaps to provide some more information to the Committee on numbers of people being detained and perhaps some evidence of some of the sorts of cases. A lot of the people are actually foreign national prisoners, and are being detained for a significant period of time because of the problems of ensuring that we can remove them elsewhere. So, if you would like, I would be very happy to provide some more information on this. That would perhaps be easier than a single answer to a question.

Chair: That would be very helpful, if you could.

Q79   Dr Huppert: Can I then move on to two questions on child detention, which I expect is a question you anticipated? You will know the background. We were expecting this to have been resolved by Christmas, and there is some uncertainty about when there will be a statement, but also about when child detention will finally end. First, can you let us know what the current position on that is?

Mrs May: Yes. I have to point out that Christmas has not yet arrived.

Dr Huppert: Indeed.

Mrs May: And I would expect that we would be able to make an announcement before Christmas.

Q80   Dr Huppert: An announcement before Christmas to take effect after Christmas?

Mrs May: The number of children being detained has significantly reduced in recent months because of the new arrangements that we have put in place. We are not detaining children in Yarl's Wood, which has been one of the issues of concern to a number of Members. As to exactly what the arrangements might be, which I will set out in any announcement, and the timetable for those coming into place, I think it would be inappropriate for me to say anything before we are able to make that announcement.

Q81   Dr Huppert: The Immigration Minister said to this Committee that he was prepared to dress up as Father Christmas if there were any children in detention over Christmas. I am sure he will stick to his pledge. Would you be prepared to join him and help him out in that?

Mrs May: It has been at the back of my mind, of course, that the Immigration Minister had made that comment. I think he actually said he would dress up as Father Christmas and stand outside Yarl's Wood; I think that was the comment he made. You will be able to judge how the Immigration Minister will be spending his Christmas when the announcement is made.

Chair: When you see my Christmas card you will see what we have asked him to do.

Q82   Bridget Phillipson: Home Secretary, just to return, briefly, to adult detention of asylum seekers, I have been made aware of a number of concerns there are around the inappropriate use of fast-track detention when it comes to women asylum seekers and about the fact that they may be inappropriately placed in fast-track detention. Once you are in it, it is quite difficult to get out of it. Are you aware of those concerns and are you looking at some of these issues?

Mrs May: Mr Chairman, I would prefer to come back on that particular issue, if I may.

Chair: If you could write to me, that would be very helpful.

Mrs May: If the Member, or the Committee, would like to let me know of any specific concerns, then I would be very happy to write back to them.

Q83   Nicola Blackwood: During the seminar that we had yesterday, we had representatives from various universities, English language schools, et cetera. They expressed various concerns with the consultation. One was your proposal to raise the quality of accredited education providers. Those who were there actually welcomed that proposal, but they anecdotally gave us evidence that, in fact, there are schools that have been refused accreditation by one accreditation organisation and then given it by another, so there are actually two standards operating at the moment. Are you going to bring in measures to try and deal with that?

Mrs May: We would certainly intend accreditation to be of the same level and the same sort of criteria to be operating. If there are organisations that you are in contact with who have concerns about that at the moment, I would suggest if they could put those concerns in as part of the consultation, that would be very helpful.

Q84   Chair: Home Secretary, this is the first time, I think, in history that we have a woman Home Secretary and a woman Permanent Secretary. Your new Permanent Secretary is, of course, Helen Ghosh. We were concerned that Home Office funds had been used to help the previous Permanent Secretary with his chairing skills. Are you going to assure us that no such use of funds will be made in order to help civil servants learn how to chair meetings?

Mrs May: I am aware that the Committee went into some detail with Sir David Normington in relation to training and development. I can assure you, Chairman, that the Home Office is looking very carefully at any expenditure that it has across the board, because we have, at the Home Office, to reduce our central budget by 33% over the next four years. But what I would say on training and development is that I hope you would also accept that sometimes training and development of staff is appropriate, and that is what a good employer would expect to do.

Q85   Chair: And on the issue of bonuses? We don't expect any this year. Not for the politicians; I'm talking about the civil servants.

Mrs May: I hesitate always to answer some of these questions which involve individuals, in a way. We are being very careful in relation to the issue of bonuses. It is a word that conjures up all sorts of concerns for people across the board.

Q86   Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, I would like to ask this: any training that is given would be given to gentlemen as well as ladies, wouldn't it?

Mrs May: I can assure you of that and, indeed, it might be that some of the gentlemen might need more training than the ladies.

Chair: I asked you at the start whether you enjoyed being Home Secretary. I hope that still remains the case after an hour and a half with the Select Committee. Thank you very much for coming in. May we wish you a very happy and crisis-free Christmas? Thank you very much.

Mrs May: Thank you, Chairman.

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