HC Deb 28 October 1993 vol 230 cc975-89 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard)

With your permission, Madam Speaker, I would like to make a statement on behalf of the three Secretaries of State for the Home Departments on our decisions about police pay and conditions of service in the light of the Sheehy report.

The police are of unique and vital importance to everyone in the country. They are the front line in the fight against crime, and essential to maintaining public order and ensuring safe communities. As was demonstrated only too tragically in Clapham last week, policemen and women face lethal dangers, often quite unexpectedly. They have to cope with the many pressures of providing a service to the public 24 hours day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

The inquiry led by Sir Patrick Sheehy was appointed to consider afresh the rewards and responsibilities of that vital public service. I am grateful to Sir Patrick and the other members of his team for their valuable work in producing that wide-ranging report so quickly. The report was published at the end of June. Since then, we have consulted widely and have received many helpful responses, including, in particular, those of the police staff associations, police authorities and the local authority associations. Today I am setting out the Government's decisions about the best way forward for the police service. In deciding on those changes, I have been mindful at all times of the special nature of our police service and the work that it does.

We all want to create an up-to-date framework of arrangements which will encourage police officers to give of their best. Change is necessary to ensure that the British police remain the best in the world. In the police service, pay has too often been too dependent on length of service. Bureaucracy and chains of command have increased, leaving too many officers behind desks instead of on the streets. The present rank structure can act as a barrier to the rapid progress of more able officers. I want a modern and effective police service. That means less bureaucracy, rapid promotion for able officers, rewards for hard work and the highest priority for front-line duties.

This afternoon I am placing in the Library of the House copies of a letter which I am sending to all chief officers in England and Wales which sets out our proposals in detail. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Northern Ireland are also writing to their chief officers. I shall now explain those proposals to the House.

The Committee was expressly asked to consider the future of the ranks. It recommended that the ranks of deputy chief constable, chief superintendent and chief inspector should be abolished. That would eliminate the overlap between ranks at present. It will enable those with the greatest ability to move more quickly through them. Reducing the ranks would also give chief constables the opportunity to put more police constables on the beat. All the responses to our consultation agreed that some change in management structure was necessary.

We believe that this proposal is the key to the streamlining of middle management in the police service, which is essential to free up resources for front-line policing. We have therefore decided to accept it. Many forces have begun to reduce the number of chief superintendent and chief inspector posts to meet the changing needs of policing. That process will now be completed by 1 April 1995.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has decided to make a limited number of adjustments to the overall package to accommodate the special and different circumstance of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In particular, the rank of deputy chief constable will be retained to meet the unique operational demands of policing in Northern Ireland.

The report recommended that fixed-term appointments should be introduced for all ranks. We have decided to accept that recommendation, in so far as it applies to future appointments to chief officer ranks, for whom it was almost universally regarded as appropriate. We shall consider extending the appointments to the superintendent rank when we have monitored their effectiveness for chief officers.

Different considerations apply to other ranks. I have already announced new procedures for dealing with unsatisfactory performance and misconduct in England and Wales, and we shall legislate as soon as possible to allow for the consequences of restructuring. I want people entering the police service to see it as a career. The skills and knowledge of ordinary police officers, their experience and their accumulated wisdom form the backbone of British policing, which is admired throughout the world. We do not consider that fixed-term appointments are appropriate for ranks below superintendent, and so we have decided not to accept that recommendation.

The report recommended significant changes to police pension arrangements. Those were closely related to the proposals for fixed-term appointments and must therefore be reconsidered, so we shall undertake a full review of police pensions. One of its principal objectives will be to produce greater flexibility.

One aspect of the recommendations excited controversy: that officers of all ranks should be expected to serve for 40 years to receive a full pension at the age of 60. That would not help to encourage mature people with experience in other walks of life to join the police, as we wish. Patrol duties are not appropriate for people in their late 50s, and we do not think that it is reasonable for constables and sergeants, in particular, to be expected invariably to continue to serve until then. We have therefore decided not to accept that proposal.

On performance-related pay, the report suggested that that objective could best be met by the application of a matrix determining police pay according to the scope of the job and the level of responsibility, experience, skills and performance. The Government fully accept the principles behind that recommendation, but we do not think it practicable or desirable to examine each job in the way that the report suggests and have therefore decided not to use the matrix recommended in the report. Instead, we will introduce—as soon as they can be worked out—arrangements which depend on the overall appraisal of performance. That will take account of an officer's experience, skills and the circumstances in which they are exercised, and will determine progress up or down the pay scale.

The report also recommended replacing the Edmund-Davies pay formula. In considering how police pay levels should be determined and on what basis pay should be uprated, the inquiry took account of the fact that police officers are often called upon to put their lives in danger and, moreover, they do not take industrial action. The inquiry recognised—as do the Government—that that type of dedication deserves a consistent and clearly defined way of setting policy pay.

The report recommended linking pay uprating to the median of non-manual, private sector pay settlements. That linkage recognises both the professionalism of the police service and its special nature, which justifies the comparison with settlements in the private sector. We accept that recommendation.

The report recommended that pay levels should also be linked to the median of pay levels in the private sector. Although we agree with the inquiry that there should be some private sector benchmark, the case has not been made out for it to be that particular one. We shall be carrying out further work to form the basis for our decision on the most appropriate benchmark for future police pay levels.

The report also made proposals on the whole range of allowances received by police officers. The most significant of those is housing allowance, which the report recommended should be abolished as police officers are no longer automatically required to live in a particular location. We accept that recommendation for new officers recruited after 1 September 1994. For those already in service, housing allowance will remain. It will be frozen at its present level but will not be removed or reduced.

The report suggested that, at present, starting pay is higher than is needed for the recruitment of able police officers. The recommendation was based on evidence about the starting pay of 18 to 22-year-olds. We believe that our police service benefits substantially from having older recruits with wider experience and that starting salaries should be pitched so as to continue to attract them as well as high calibre younger recruits. We have therefore decided not to accept that recommendation.

The report recommended that the range of other allowances received by police officers, which represent only a small proportion of take-home pay, should be a matter for local discretion. That is clearly in line with the proposals in the White Paper for police reform for allowing police authorities and chief officers greater discretion to match resources to needs locally. We accept that recommendation.

I have set out the decisions of principle that we have reached on the main recommendations of the Sheehy report. A great deal of further work remains to be done on their detailed implementation. I am therefore today inviting the independent chairman of the Police Negotiating Board, Professor Laurie Hunter, to convene the board to consider the details of implementation of the decisions of principle that I have announced. I have asked him to do so on the basis of the proposals put forward by the official side during the consultation period. The board will make recommendations which we can take into consideration before preparing the detailed regulations needed to give effect to changes in pay and conditions of service from September 1994.

I am glad to be able to end the uncertainty which the police service has, inevitably, faced while I consulted it and others on the Sheehy proposals. As our decisions show, we have listened carefully to what the police service had to say. Our objective must be to create the framework that will encourage our police service to be as effective as possible in the fight against crime. To be effective, it must be properly led, managed and rewarded. It must have the flexibility that it needs to deploy its resources as modern policing and local communities require.

The proposals that I have announced today will help achieve those objectives. By cutting down on middle management we shall allow chief constables to put more resources into fighting crime. That could mean more work on crime prevention; or more computers and modern technology to fight crime; or up to 3,000 more police officers on the front line, protecting the public. That is what the changes will do, and that is my blueprint for our police service for the future. I commend my proposals to the House.

Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)

I thank the Home Secretary for his statement. There has unquestionably been the great clamour of a Government retreat, but the direction in which they are retreating is still entirely unclear.

The Home Secretary said that the details of the proposals are set out in a letter that he has put in the Library. I have that letter now and can tell the House that the details are still far from clear. While the implications for ordinary officers, in pounds, shillings and pence, are not clear and uncertainty remains, so will the undermining of police morale which the Government have caused.

May I put six specific points on the details which have a direct implication on what an officer will get?

First, the Secretary of State is ending, is he not, the: Edmund-Davies pay formula. He said that he is accepting the principle of the Sheehy recommendation that there should be a private sector median formula. Will he confirm that under the Sheehy formula there will be pay cuts for the ordinary police constable of on average up to 33 per cent.? Will his formula mean pay cuts? We should be told.

Secondly, on performance-related pay, the Secretary of State presumably accepts the principles behind the Sheehy report. Is he keeping the present fixed pay scale but merely introducing an element of appraisal, or is he abandoning the present pay scale and putting a different pay scale in its place? If there is to be a change, what is the implication of that pay scale for officers? If the issue is to be dealt with by the Police Negotiating Board, is its decision binding or is it a recommendation? Is that board the new police negotiating board that Sheehy recommends or is it the board that exists?

Thirdly, on fixed-term contracts, I have studied the letter in the Library. The objection of the police to fixed-term contracts was that they would make it possible to terminate contracts, not on grounds of misconduct or incapability, but on structural grounds—cost-saving grounds. Does the recommendation that there should be termination on structural grounds still stand? If that power remains, it has a vital impact on how the report will be viewed.

Fourthly, the Secretary of State did not mention overtime. Does he accept the Sheehy recommendation that incidental overtime should be banned? If he is banning it, will he confirm that the effect will be that, if an arrest is made at 11.30 on a Friday night and the officer ends his shift at 12 o'clock, the next four or five hours spent processing the arrest will be unpaid? Is that true, and, if so, will it be accepted?

Fifthly, Sheehy estimates that up to 5,000 officers will be removed as a result of the abolition of the ranks. Is that also the Secretary of State's estimate? Most important of all, has his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer guaranteed the £200 million severance package for those officers? Is that part of his proposals? The Secretary of State's letter says nothing about that. If that package is not forthcoming, the basis of the Sheehy report, which was that those officers would go and others would be put on to the beat, cannot be maintained. Will he answer that argument specifically?

Sixthly, on a matter of detail, there is an agreement about short-term contracts for chief constables. Will the Secretary of State accept that there is concern about the combination of the change—involving short-term contracts for chief constables—and the policing White Paper, which means that chief constables are now to be appointed by the Government through the police authority, not elected authorities, and are to operate under guidelines of finance from the Government? Will he accept that there is a legitimate concern that even if he has barred the Sheehy report from the front door—I do not think it is clear that he has—it may slip in through the back?

The test of any reform, whether the Secretary of State's or Sheehy's—and of the extra work that has to happen before we know the true outline of the proposals—is whether it will cut crime or is designed merely to cut costs. Will it put more police officers on the beat? Will it make our communities safer? While the confusion surrounding the Home Secretary's proposals remains, the undermining of police morale through what the Government have been doing in the past few months will continue and the fight against crime will be impaired.

Mr. Howard

The most extraordinary aspect of the tirade that we have heard from the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) is that he has not said a word about the attitude of the Labour party to the decisions that I have announced today. He talks of retreat. He decided to sit firmly on the fence on the day that he took his present job. He has been there ever since—he has never come off it.

We are still waiting to hear from the hon. Gentleman what his party's position is on the 27 announcements that I made in my speech at Blackpool and on those that I made today. All he can do is practise his soundbites in the Daily Mirror and fail to come to the House with any inkling of the attitude of his party on these proposals.

Let me deal now with the points that the hon. Gentleman raised. He suggested that using the Sheehy formula instead of the Edmund-Davies formula would lead to cuts in police pay. That just shows how little he understands these matters. We are talking about a different formula for uprating police pay. One cannot uprate police pay in order to cut police pay; the idea is nonsense. We are using the Sheehy formula: the median of private sector non-manual pay. That is what Sheehy recommended and it is what I said clearly in my statement. It deals with uprating. The formula will not cut any police officer's pay.

We will introduce an appraisal-based system of performance pay. Its precise relationship with the pay scales will be a matter on which I shall await proposals from the Police Negotiating Board. That will not be the board recommended by the Sheehy committee; it will be the board in its present form, operating under the Police Negotiating Board Act 1980. As the hon. Gentleman should know, under that Act the board makes recommendations to me. They are not binding recommendations, but I have every confidence that the board will come up with sensible answers.

This applies also to the extent to which the board will consider overtime arrangements. I accept the recommendation of the Sheehy report that overtime for inspectors should be abolished, and they will be compensated by the increase in salary. Overtime for other ranks will be changed; details will be worked out by the Police Negotiating Board on the basis of the official side proposals.

So the answers to all the hon. Gentleman's questions are clear. If I correctly understood him, he regretted—perhaps even deplored—the fact that we were remitting the details of these proposals to the Police Negotiating Board. He suggested that that might lead to continuing uncertainty and might have an impact on the morale of the police.

I thought that the hon. Gentleman might have talked to the police over the past few weeks. If he had talked to the staff associations, he would have realised that they were keen on having the details of these matters remitted to the Police Negotiating Board, which is the proper place for them to be resolved. Indeed, I have a legal obligation to listen to what that board says before reaching final decisions on these matters. I was therefore sorry to learn from the hon. Gentleman's response that he is completely unaware of how the staff associations wanted the detailed decisions to be implemented.

The truth of the matter is that, some weeks ago, the hon. Member for Sedgefield wrote an article about the Sheehy report. He said in it "If the Government got it right, we should not be reluctant to praise them." It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman did not have the guts today to live up to what he wrote several months ago. Instead, he came to the Dispatch Box with weasel words that did not include one sentence about the attitude of his party to these matters.

Mr. Kenneth Baker (Mole Valley)

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his sensible, practical and realistic response to the Sheehy proposals. It will be widely welcomed. The shadow Home Secretary owes it to the House to set out exactly what the Labour party's attitude is to the Sheehy proposals, not to disappear into a morass of footnote details.

I have two questions—first, on the appraisal of officers' performance. Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that during his career a police officer will be subject to appraisal at regular intervals and that there will be assessment of his performance? I trust that those who regularly do not come up to standard will be expected to leave the force.

Secondly, will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the proposals set out three years ago on community policing—smaller operational units, local police officers staying longer in their areas and being more visible on the beat—remain the chief principle behind the reform of the police service?

Mr. Howard

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for his support, and I can certainly give him the assurances that he seeks. Under arrangements that have already been announced police officers will be regularly appraised on performance. If performance is unsatisfactory over a period of time, there will be procedures to enable the chief constable to take the necessary action to terminate the appointment of that police officer.

I am as enthusiastic as I know my right hon. Friend is that community policing should occupy a most prominent place in the approach of chief constables to policing arrangements. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for the steps that he took when he held my office to encourage that development. Under our White Paper proposals, chief constables will have much greater discretion on the way in which they manage their forces than has been the case hitherto, and I know that they will continue to place the greatest value on community policing and that they will take it forward in a way that I know my right hon. Friend would welcome.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

I am relieved, and no doubt the police will feel relieved, that the Home Secretary has shown more wisdom than did his predecessor in setting up Sheehy by rejecting the core of the report's findings and disposing of almost all its significant recommendations, which were effectively demolished by the Touche Ross report on behalf of the Police Federation.

To ensure that performance appraisal makes a significant contribution to police efficiency and does not simply drown the police in a torrent of further paperwork, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ensure that forthcoming proposals are properly pilot tested?

On restructuring, will the Home Secretary make sure that his proposed changes do not result in increased costs being borne by a reduction in the number of police in the front line, even temporarily, as was proposed by Sir Patrick Sheehy?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman's response was a trifle more graceful than that of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair). I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion about pilot appraisal, although I am not convinced that that is necessarily the best way forward. It will take a little time to put effective appraisal arrangements in place, but we shall take his suggestion into account.

I have made it clear that, for my part, the object of the exercise is to improve the effectiveness of policing and, to achieve that objective, to increase the number of front-line officers on our streets. In my statement I said that I thought that the results of these changes could be to increase the number of such officers by about 3,000 in addition to the 2,300 who could be released by the changes in paperwork that I announced last week. That is at the forefront of our objectives, and we shall strive to make sure that everything possible is done to achieve it.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend totally reject the nonsense we have heard from the Opposition Front Bench? They have not the faintest idea of what their view is on Sheehy or what to do about crime generally. My right hon. and learned Friend should disregard them completely.

My right hon. and learned Friend has taken an extremely sensible line in accepting what is good in the Sheehy report and rejecting what is bad. He is particularly wise in his line on starting salaries and fixed-term contracts. Will he ensure that every encouragement is given to ex-servicemen who are so unhappily available as a result of "Options for Change" and who have great experience, a great deal of ability and a tremendous amount to contribute to the good of the police service?

Mr. Howard

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his words of welcome for my proposals. I entirely agree with him. As I said in my statement, mature recruits have a great deal to offer the police service. That applies especially to ex-servicemen who may wish to apply for positions in the police service in the circumstances to which my hon. Friend referred. That is one of the principal reasons why I have rejected the Sheehy recommendation on the levels of starting pay. I hope that the police service will continue to benefit from the entry of mature recruits such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Does the Home Secretary have any plans to deal with what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Mr. Paul Condon, defined as noble cause corruption in the police which has caused so much damage to public confidence in recent years? Does he have any plans to deal with the high incidence of freemasonry in the police force which is so deeply resented by officers who are not freemasons and so corrosive of public confidence in the police?

Mr. Howard

The law applies to police officers as it does to everyone, and it is to the law that we have to look for safeguards against corruption. The police are as enthusiastic as anyone—indeed, rather more so than anyone else—to root out corruption where it exists in the police service; I know that the commissioner and other police officers are determined to leave no stone unturned to get to the root of such matters where there is evidence. Freemasonry is not a crime.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Since the Sheehy committee was totally independent of Government, and since my right hon. and learned Friend has never from start to finish identified himself with any of its provisions until today, does not the Opposition make itself look foolish by calling for him to retreat? Did not the BBC announcers make themselves look foolish and perverse by calling it a climb-down? Is not my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the police want their force to be efficient and effective? They want more young men and women to join it as a career and they want more policemen on the beat. Is he aware that his proposals will achieve that end and should be widely welcomed by the police?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. He is right in the strictures that he passes on the BBC announcer this morning, but, to be fair to the BBC, its home affairs correspondent immediately pointed out that, as the Government were not in any sense and had never been committed to the proposals in the Sheehy report, there could be no question of climb-down or retreat. The response of the hon. Member for Sedgefield to that point was absolutely pathetic. The hon. Gentleman is in danger of elevating indecision to the level of a constitutional principle.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

The Ulster Unionist party, with the majority of law-abiding citizens in the United Kingdom, will be pleased and relieved to hear that the Government have met the legitimate concerns of the police. The realistic and objective approach to Sheehy that the Home Secretary has brought to the House today should not cloak the reality that the police are open to reasonable change, as is required. They recognise that they must endeavour to open up proper channels of communication with the general public if the ills of society are to be overcome. However, we all recognise that any drop in the morale of the police would be totally unacceptable to that end.

The special and different role of the RUC that has been mentioned today is acknowledged, but as the parliamentary adviser to the RUC federation, let me say that the RUC would not set themselves on a different plain from their colleagues throughout the United Kingdom and will be deeply relieved that their work will not be hindered by some of the less acceptable aspects of the Sheehy report.

Mr. Howard

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his words of welcome. In responding to him, let me pay tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a force which carries out its duties in such difficult circumstances in an exemplary fashion.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his wise and statesmanlike decision this afternoon will go a long way towards alleviating the understandable concerns of the police during the past few months while the Sheehy report has been considered? In particular, his decision to refer points of detail to the Police Negotiating Board will be warmly welcomed by the Police Federation and other staff associations. I believe that the police know that today they have a listening Home Secretary whom they can trust and with whom they can work, and that he will have their full support.

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I pay tribute to the part that he played in my discussions with the Police Federation during the months of the consultation period. It responded most positively to the consultation exercise, recognised the need for change and came forward with proposals of its own. I have by no means been able to accept all the federation's proposals, but I am absolutely clear that we now have a basis on which to move forward together in order to give this country the improved policing that it wants and deserves.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

Does the Home Secretary now regret that his predecessor embarked on this sad, sorry and disturbing process? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not like the word "retreat", does he accept that his tactical withdrawal will be widely welcomed? An even bigger welcome will follow the Home Secretary's decision to ensure that the centralisation process promised in the White Paper does not proceed.

Mr. Howard

There is no question of retreat or of withdrawal. I have consistently said that the Government never previously declared their views on the Sheehy recommendations.

I will certainly directly answer the first of the hon. Gentleman's questions. I do not regret for one moment the committee's establishment. It did extremely valuable work and helped to promote general recognition, not least in the police service itself, of the need for change. I have accepted many of its recommendations, and I pay tribute to the work of Sir Patrick and his committee.

Sir George Gardiner (Reigate)

My right hon. and learned Friend will know of my connection with the National Association of Retired Police Officers, all of whom will surely welcome the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend has consigned Sheehy's proposals on police retirement and pensions to the waste paper basket, where they belong.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend elaborate on his proposed review of the exit arrangements for police officers? Will it be an internal review, how long will it take, and how will it relate to the other discussions that he outlined this afternoon?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks. The review will be internal, and it will be completed as soon as possible. We would like the new arrangements to be in place as soon as practicable. When we have particular proposals, we shall want to consult upon them.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the Home Secretary aware that, instead of spending all that time trotting out that long-winded retreat, he needed only to say, "It wasn't me, guv'nor—it was that Ken Clarke wot done it"? Better still, the Home Secretary did not need to come here at all: he could have demanded the right to remain silent.

Mr. Howard

That was not up to the hon. Gentleman's usual standard, but no doubt we shall hear better from him in due course. In an earlier answer, I paid tribute to the work of the committee, which provided a valuable service. I do not believe that we would have reached today's position, with widespread recognition of the need for change, had it not been for the committee's work.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

My right hon. and learned Friend will have noted the importance that official Opposition Members attach to his significant statement this afternoon, demonstrated by the fact that barely 20 of them are present.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that appraisal is not new to the police force and that the best forces already appraise their men on their performance? The tie-up with pay is novel, but by failing to fall into the trap of the matrix system, my right hon. and learned Friend will not negate all the people that he has taken off paperwork duties and put back on the force. It is good news that we are not to have the highly bureaucratic scheme recommended by Sheehy.

Mr. Howard

I think that my hon. Friend was a bit hard on Opposition Back Benchers. After all, if their spokesman is not prepared to say a word about his party's attitude to the proposals, how can he expect them to turn up? Were I in their position, I would not have bothered to come and listen to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair).

I agree with my hon. Friend about appraisal. One of the criticisms of the Sheehy matrix was that it might have led to excessive bureaucracy. We want to cut the amount of paperwork that deflects and diverts the police from the work that we want them to do, rather than add to it.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

When exactly will we see the extra policemen and policewomen on the beat? The rank restructuring of which the Home Secretary spoke will cost money. Will he implement the severance package proposed by Sheehy? Will he put the extra resources into carrying out that restructuring, and will he also put extra resources into putting more policemen and policewomen on the beat?

Mr. Howard

That last observation was a bit rich, coming from a Labour Member. It is a bit rich for Labour to talk about putting more policemen on the beat when the Government have put nearly 17,000 more people into the police service—in addition to the 16,000 more civilians who are now working for the service—and nearly doubled the amount that we spend on it, in real terms. We will take no lectures from the Labour party about police officers on the beat or money for the police service.

Restructuring will be a matter for chief constables. We believe in devolved management: we believe that chief constables are the best people to decide the pace at which they introduce changes to their force. As the middle-management posts disappear, they will be able to recruit the extra front-line constables to whom I referred in my statement.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

Is it not clear from what we have heard today that the single event that would do most to undermine police morale would be the election of a Labour Government, given Labour's record of failure to support the police in the 1960s and 1970s? Is it not equally clear that what the public want is a consistent, continuing and abiding relationship with their local police officers? Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that the new arrangements that he has outlined will provide a career structure in front-line policing for new policemen?

Mr. Howard

Given his experience of these matters, my hon. Friend is entirely right to emphasise the importance of a career structure—and, in particular, the importance of a career structure for front-line officers. That is one of the great advantages of the changes that I have announced today they will enable a police constable who is excellent at his job, but has no desire to be promoted to any other rank, to gain the recognition that his good performance demands. That has not always been possible under the existing arrangements; it will be possible to a much greater extent under the new arrangements that I propose. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for identifying and recognising their benefits.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

I warmly welcome the Home Secretary's rejection of the more contentious parts of the Sheehy report. Will he ensure that any future discussion of pay and structure genuinely includes all staff associations at an early stage? The Sheehy process has undermined morale for several months in many of our constituencies.

May I ask the Home Secretary a specific question about pay? He referred to the private sector. Will comparison be at national level, or will it be at local or regional level? That is a matter of concern in many areas. May I also ask whether the islands allowance in Scotland will continue?

Mr. Howard

Comparison will be at national level, as it is now. It will be based on a different formula—the formula recommended by the Sheehy committee.

As I said in my statement, we are abolishing central payment of allowances other than housing allowance for currently serving officers; but the future of those allowances will be at the discretion of local chief officers. If a local chief officer decides that the islands allowance would be appropriate, it will be perfectly possible for that allowance to continue to be paid. Those matters and others will be considered by the Police Negotiating Board.

I can give the hon. Lady the assurance that I think she is seeking. The staff associations are fully represented on the Police Negotiating Board at the moment, and I do not envisage any changes to those arrangements while these matters are being sorted out. The Police Negotiating Board has its own plans for restructuring itself in due course.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

My right hon. and learned Friend is to be congratulated. When the Sheehy report first came out, it was met with horror by most on the Tory Back Benches, and throughout, certainly, the Hampshire police service. If we had not moved directly against some of the worst aspects of the Sheehy report, we would not have been able to call on the police to defend us from anarchy in the future—it is as serious as that—and we would have moved away from the close bond that politicians have always had with the police. The police would have seen the Sheehy report as some sort of retail commercial project and would not have understood what was in the mind of the Sheehy committee. My right hon. and learned Friend has performed a very worthy service for the House and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Howard

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. Views on the Sheehy report recommendations have varied widely. What I have announced today are not the Sheehy recommendations, or some version of them, but the Government's decisions on the way forward for the police service.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

What the police will learn from this report is that the Edmund-Davies formula, which was established by the Labour Government in 1978, is to be abandoned. Is there not a hidden agenda, where the Home Office mission to extend control has been achieved at the expense of community policing? The police consider the elimination of some ranks to be crude and unproductive. How many extra police will be put on the beat, and how will crime be affected by that? Is it not the case that the Home Secretary is doing something for the police but nothing about crime?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is the first Opposition Member to have expressed a view on any of the decisions that I have announced. At last we have a voice from the Labour party that is prepared to express a view on these matters. As far as I can tell, that view is one of total opposition, which is typical of the Labour party. It harks back to a decision of the last Labour Government —which was not honoured—and totally ignores the changes that have taken place in the world ever since. Truly, the hon. Gentleman spoke for the antediluvian tendency of the Labour party.

The hon. Gentleman said that none of the decisions that I have announced will have any effect on fighting crime. I do not know what sort of world the hon. Gentleman lives in if he believes that 3,000 more officers on the front line will not have any effect on combating crime. That is the kind of dream world of fiction in which the Labour party lives. We will see a thinning of middle managment ranks, which will make more resources available to chief officers to recruit constables for front-line duties. That is something that the people of this country will warmly welcome, whatever the curmudgeonly antics of the Labour party.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his balanced and pragmatic package will help to restore not only the morale of the police but that of people in the communities that have been victimised by a rising crime wave? In rural Norfolk, people particularly welcome his plan to put more bobbies on the beat and his scheme for the introduction of parish constables. Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House what plans he has for reviewing police force boundaries, which often inhibit efficient policing?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome for the proposals, particularly on parish constables, who I believe could play a significant part in helping to combat crime in rural areas. I have no plans at present to review the boundaries of police areas, but if any local police authority wishes to put forward proposals to me, including the Norfolk police authority, I shall study them with great interest and care.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Can the Minister give some balanced and pragmatic details about the overtime payments, which will relate to the number of officers who are available? For instance, in the Royal Ulster Constabulary a great deal of overtime must be worked because of terrorism and that force would require another 3,000 officers to cover the overtime that is required now. What does the right hon. and learned Gentleman propose to do about overtime?

Mr. Howard

I repeat to the hon. Gentleman what I said earlier: overtime for inspectors will be abolished and inspectors will be compensated for that by an addition to their salaries. The basis of overtime for other ranks will be changed, but the details of those changes will be worked out by the Police Negotiating Board. On the official side, detailed proposals have been put forward relating to changes to overtime and they will be a starting point for negotiations in the PNB.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in congratulating Mr. Barjat Singh of Leicestershire who has recently joined Leicestershire constabulary as a mature entrant at the age of 33 and has been accepted on to the accelerated promotion scheme? My right hon. and learned Friend should particularly congratulate Mr. Singh because, until last week, he was the chairman of the Labour-controlled Leicestershire police authority. Does not his decision to join the police prove how successful the Government's policies have been in advancing better policing in this country?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. It is proof of their success and perhaps it is some indication of the extent to which people in such positions are thoroughly fed up with left-wing Labour politics.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

Given the benefit of the experience that the Home Secretary has gained in the past few weeks, does he agree with two propositions? First, many of the difficulties that have been encountered in the past few weeks and, in particular, the uncertainty felt by the police would have been eased if, given we are dealing with a professional service, consultations could have taken place at an earlier stage, perhaps before the terms of reference were stated.

Secondly, since the Home Secretary has accepted relatively few of Sheehy's major proposals, does he agree that perhaps it is not such a good idea for business men to study that public service? Perhaps it would be a good idea if the right hon. and learned Gentleman were to abandon his proposals to appoint business men as chairmen of police authorities.

Mr. Howard

On the hon. Gentleman's final point, no, I certainly do not accept his strictures on the role of business men in this matter. I have said on many occasions that I believe that Sir Patrick Sheehy's committee has performed a valuable service. Those whom I shall appoint to police authorities will by no means necessarily be business men. I am sorry if behind the hon. Gentleman's question there existed that prejudice against business men which still infests the Opposition.

On the hon. Gentleman's first question, I do not believe that anyone could accuse the Government of lack of consultation in relation to this exercise. There were extensive consultations while the Sheehy committee was at work and I announced that there would be a further consultation period after it reported. That consultation period ended on 30 September. I came to the House as soon as possible thereafter with my decisions in order to keep to the absolute minimum the period of uncertainty to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will ignore the carping criticism from the Opposition because he should be aware that his statement will be warmly welcomed by the overwhelming majority of police officers who were horrified by some of the controversial proposals in the Sheehy report. Before he brings in any legislation, may I have an assurance that there will be meaningful consultation with our police forces because they represent the people who do the job and they therefore know far more about it than anyone else?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. As I have said, there has been extensive consultation with the police and others since the report was published and, of course, the staff associations will be directly involved with the Police Negotiating Board in working out the details of the decisions and principles that I have announced.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

I am also pleased that most of the far-fetched suggestions of the Sheehy report have been rejected by the Government, but since it appears that 90 per cent. of the report has been rejected, I must ask the Home Secretary how much has Sir Patrick Sheehy been paid? If his pay is performance-related, he does not deserve anything at all. I am pleased that the Government have listened to common sense over the report, but I draw the House's attention to the fact that the White Paper is far more dangerous and insidious and I hope that the Government will listen to common sense over that too.

Everybody knows the benefits of community policing, but it is an expensive form of policing. In the past year in north Wales we were 70 members under-manned and were refused one extra policeman. How will the chief constable allow for community policing?

Mr. Howard

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his especially churlish and ungenerous observation about Sir Patrick and his committee in view of the fact that they were all offered payment for their work and all refused payment. It may be inconceivable to Opposition Members that anybody should undertake public service of that kind without payment, but it happens and the hon. Gentleman ought to be ashamed of himself for what lay behind his question.

Community policing is entirely at the discretion of chief constables. We are devolving management of the police service to chief constables and it is for them to decide what emphasis to place on community policing. I know, however, that they recognise its value, to which they will attach a high priority.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

May I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on consigning the majority of the Sheehy report to the waste bin? As the father of a police officer serving in Warwickshire, I know that his statement will give a lot of pleasure to the Pawsey household.

In his statement, my right hon. and learned Friend referred to the lethal and dangerous job of police officers. Will he seek to make that job a little less dangerous by making body armour more readily available and by speeding up the evaluation of the side-handled baton?

Mr. Howard

I am always happy to bring pleasure to the Pawsey household and happy that today's announcement has done that. My hon. Friend was not quite right in his characterisation of my response to the Sheehy recommendations. I have already said that the committee did valuable work, I have accepted many of the recommendations, and on some others I sought to achieve the same objectives in different ways.

The question of body armour is under constant evaluation. Its deployment is a matter for chief constables. As my hon. Friend will know, side-handled batons are presently being evaluated and I hope that that evaluation and the trials of the batons will be completed as soon as possible so that we can make them available to the police as soon as possible.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that those who hold the ranks that are to be abolished will be moved into other posts and on moving that their pay will not be reduced?

Mr. Howard

What happens to officers of those ranks will be a matter for the chief constables. I can assure my hon. Friend that if they are regraded, they will not suffer any loss of pay.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

May I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for the sensitive and helpful way in which he responded to the concerns of the Cleveland constabulary and for withdrawing three aspects of the Sheehy proposals that especially vexed them—the matrix, the retirement age and the pay isssues? Those aspects would have demoralised the officers in Cleveland, who have managed significantly to reduce crime over recent years and who, I am sure, will warmly welcome what he has said today.

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend has correctly identified the three aspects of the proposals which caused most concern to police officers, not only in Cleveland but elsewhere. I met many officers from all parts of the country and discussed their concerns in great detail, so I am especially grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments.