§ 3.15 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the large number and variety of forms and returns in use by the Police; and whether they Will consider the appointment of a committee of experts to examine such forms and returns with a view to standardising some, eliminating others, and generally reducing the amount and volume of paper work required of a police officer.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD DERWENT)
My Lords, I am satisfied that chief officers of police generally do their utmost to see that the number of forms and returns is kept as small as possible. Increasing use is being made of organisation and method techniques in the Police Service, and my right honourable friend has recently directed that a study should be made, in conjunction with the Home Office Police Research and Planning Branch, of the feasibility of introducing automatic data processing for many types of police records. This study will cover part of the field in which the noble Lord is interested. The need for forms varies greatly according to the subject matter, and Her Majesty's Government do not consider that a committee would be the best method of reviewing their use.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that very satisfactory reply. The Question was put down because there has recently been, as I hope the noble Lord is aware, a great deal of investigation into this question by certain police forces. Is the noble Lord aware, for example, that an investigation was recently made in Gloucester where it was found that there were 279 different forms in use by the police, of which a large proportion were found never to 1093 have been used for years and simply cluttered up the shelves and confused the issue? They found themselves even in the position that the forms were becoming a master. Is the noble Lord also aware of, and, if so, would he consider studying, the situation that was revealed in the report of the Chief Constable at Leeds about the saving of 20,000 police man-hours per year by the introduction of some rationalisation of this and other matters?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am aware of both those points, and this examination of the use of forms, how they should be made out and the necessity for them, is under continuous discussion both by the Home Office and by chief constables generally. I would point out just one further matter. It sometimes saves a great deal of work to introduce a form—it saves correspondence. One cannot go by just the number of forms. The noble Lord is quite right that one wants to do away with those forms no longer needed, but it may be necessary to introduce other forms in order to save man-hours.
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that in fact a great deal of this difficulty arises from the verbiage which is used by Departments which issue the special orders in such terms as to make them extremely difficult to understand, and could not those Departments be urged to simplify their legislation?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that this is a matter which is carefully watched by the Home Office. But, of course, the noble Lord must remember that every time a new Statute is put on the Statute Book it may well affect the police, and they may need another form to save writing letters about the new Statute.