Meeting date: Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Justice Committee 01 May 2018
Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, British Transport Police
British Transport Police
Agenda item 2 is evidence on the proposed integration of the British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland. I refer members to paper 1, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 2, which is a private paper.
We will have two panels of witnesses today. I welcome the first panel, who are: Chief Constable Paul Crowther from the British Transport Police; Nigel Goodband, who is the national chairman of the British Transport Police Federation; Tom McMahon, who is the director of business integration at Police Scotland; and Calum Steele, who is the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation. I thank the witnesses for their written submissions. It is always immensely helpful to the committee to receive written submissions prior to asking questions.
Before we go to questions from other members, I would like to pose a question to all the panellists. Given that full integration has not yet started, and given the escalating costs that are yet to be quantified and the risks that have been identified, what do the panellists think about the suggestion that was made by Kath Murray in her submission, which is that a general rethink is needed and that the commissioned service model—option 2—should be considered at this stage?
Nigel Goodband (British Transport Police Federation)
First, I thank you for allowing us the opportunity to attend the Justice Committee and to provide evidence on the integration of the British Transport Police with Police Scotland.
As the committee will be aware, we have suggested that the welcome pause is the right time to consider the benefits and disadvantages of alternatives. We encourage the Scottish Government and the joint programme board to give consideration to the commissioned service model. We know more detail than we did when the plan was originally proposed; it is important that we take that detail and assess it in order to evaluate whether there are alternative methods to achieve devolution.
I assure the committee that the British Transport Police Federation’s stance is not against devolution. Our position is simply that we do not believe that full integration is the way to achieve that.
Chief Constable Paul Crowther (British Transport Police)
The British Transport Police and the British Transport Police Authority have submitted papers in the past; the debate has gone on for some time. My position is that the Smith commission recommendation that was converted into law in the Scotland Act 2016 gives the Scottish Parliament the decision on how the function of the British Transport Police will be devolved, and that it is for the Scottish Government to decide how that is carried out. People have put forward various options, but the decision on how devolution is to be implemented is a matter for the Government.
Tom McMahon (Police Scotland)
Police Scotland’s simple position is that we respect the will of the Parliament. We work through the joint programme board, which is overseeing development of the subordinate legislation for the move towards full integration. We respect that. That is the basis on which we are progressing.
Calum Steele (Scottish Police Federation)
The SPF position is the same as that of Mr Crowther and Mr McMahon. Simply, it is that we have to respect the will of Parliament.
That is helpful.
I have a supplementary question on what Mr Goodband said. Have you been in contact with the United Kingdom Government about the Conservative manifesto pledge to integrate the BTP into an infrastructure policing model?
I have, indeed, been party to discussions with Home Office civil servants regarding infrastructure policing. The last instruction that we got was that the UK Government is not currently considering that model because of other priorities. I have since made inquiries because, as we all know, that appeared in the Conservative Party manifesto. However, as quickly as it appeared, it was removed from the final draft of the Queen’s speech.
I am informed that the UK Government is conducting no work on infrastructure policing. It was alarming to hear Michael Matheson suggest in the Scottish Parliament that it is the Conservative Party’s will to abolish the British Transport Police. Even if infrastructure policing was on the table, the suggestion was never to abolish the British Transport Police but to merge three forces and enhance a national policing service. The BTP was going to remain the force that polices the railway infrastructure.
My understanding of what the Home Office has told us is that there was never, even in the suggested plan, a proposal to abolish the British Transport Police. Since that meeting, we have been told that the UK Government has no current plans to consider infrastructure policing.
Thank you. That is helpful.
I have a question for Mr Goodband and Mr Crowther on their responses to the convener’s question. We had the debate about options, we consulted on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill and the Parliament supported full integration. The date of full integration has been delayed because a number of issues have arisen, so rather than use the time to consider alternatives, surely it should be spent trying to iron out the problems that have been identified, so that the transition is as smooth as possible. It concerns me that the responses from Mr Goodband and Mr Crowther indicated that they think that the time should be spent considering alternatives when Parliament has decided to move towards full integration.
I totally accept that. However, from our perspective, the reason for the pause is that there was a view that integration could not be achieved effectively and safely by April 2019. I am not suggesting for a moment that full integration should be totally ignored. However, there are concerns about the risk to, and the safety of, the public. Is it, therefore, the Scottish Government’s will to try to manage the risks and continue with the high cost that is associated with trying to achieve full integration? Is there, on the other hand, an opportunity to find out whether devolution can be achieved in another way that might eliminate some of the risks that the mobilisation, transition and transformation project—MTT—and the joint programme board have identified?
You said that the Tory manifesto initially included a commitment to an infrastructure policing model. Incidentally, the Scottish Tory manifesto had it as well, so it might have been cut and pasted into that. You also said that you believe that the UK Government is not moving towards infrastructure policing because it was not in the Queen’s speech. However, quite a lot that was in the manifesto was not in the Queen’s speech so, if I were you, I would be thinking that there might be something else.
You also made the point that the original idea behind the merger of the three services was that the BTP would continue with business as usual. Surely that is hugely naive.
I did not use the term “business as usual”; I said that BTP would keep the responsibility for policing the infrastructure.
So, the service would change, obviously.
Yes—the service would change. There would not be three different forces with three different names. In essence, we were told that the new name would be something like “national infrastructure police force”. Within the plan, we suggested that the officers, specialism and experience of the BTP would remain within the railways infrastructure.
To me, that sounds similar to the Scottish Government’s idea for Police Scotland
No. With regard to the national infrastructure, it was envisioned that there would be a national police force throughout England and Wales and Scotland. I believe that the Scottish Government’s will is to dismantle the BTP in its current form—
—but to keep its expertise, as you said.
Well, the Scottish Government wants to create a national force within Scotland alone—
—and to keep BTP expertise.
Within Scotland. Yes.
I will follow on from that line of questioning. I understand that, according to the BTPF and Police Scotland, the reason for the pause in the integration programme concerned public safety; there was a belief that integration could not be delivered safely by the set date. Can members of the panel bring to life what those safety concerns and risks are?
I can comment only from the point of view of the staff association. We were concerned about the loss of specialist railway policing skills and expertise.
I have already told the committee that there was a fear that a number of officers would leave the BTP if they were forced to transfer to Police Scotland, because of concerns around financial detriment, particularly in relation to pensions. We are now seeing that officers are, indeed, leaving. About 51 officers have left in the past three years, and 20 officers and staff have left in the past eight months since royal assent was achieved. Some 70 per cent of those who have left have cited the merger as the reason for their leaving.
I am not decrying the services of Police Scotland, because it provides an excellent service in the jurisdiction that it currently polices, but it has no knowledge or experience of policing the dangerous environment that is the railways infrastructure. To suggest that it will come on to the railway infrastructure and provide an enhanced level of policing service is somewhat naive and misleading. I suggest that, without the expertise and experience of BTP staff, there could be problems for public safety. One misunderstanding or miscommunication could create a fatality, and one fatality is one too many. That is why we have concerns.
Do the other members of the panel agree with that characterisation of the risk that needs to be addressed before integration proceeds?
Chief Constable Crowther
Nigel Goodband has made good points about retention of staff, which is a significant issue. From my perspective, the primary issue around safety in relation to the decision to pause related to command and control systems and information technology.
In the latter half of last year, a proposal emerged that there would be a partial integration rather than a full integration. We had been working exclusively on a full integration model and nothing less. As we delved into the realities of command and control, and of managing incidents with disparate information technology systems within Police Scotland, we became very concerned—I think that Police Scotland shares our concern—that that poses a safety risk.10:15
Railway policing is a national function. At the moment it is a Great Britain national function; under the proposals, it will be a Scotland national function. It has to be managed nationally, which means that the command and control structures need to have a national perspective. The way that crimes are recorded, including how incidents are considered in respect of repeat victims, for example, needs to be looked at at national level.
Currently, Police Scotland IT systems cannot do that, so it was suggested that BTP would provide IT systems that could. However, when we delved into the detail, it was found that the connection between Police Scotland’s command and control system, which is called STORM, and our command and control system, which is called ControlWorks—ours is integrated with all the systems within BTP and STORM is not—presents significant risks that vulnerable and repeat victims would be missed. Indeed, the systems that are absolutely necessary to communicate with drivers of trains and with the important infrastructure within the railway cannot be guaranteed with the current Police Scotland information and communications technology systems. That led me and others to the view that it would be unsafe to proceed until such time as the IT systems in Police Scotland can deal with those things.
That is useful. Mr McMahon, do you agree with that characterisation of the risk?
I emphasise that the conclusion that we reached in February—that integration in April 2019 is unachievable—is a shared view. Both Chief Constable Crowther and Mr Goodband have given some flavour of that. It is important to refer to my submission to the committee, which states that Police Scotland’s “risk appetite” around this work “is low”.
What we are discussing—what has been legislated for—is a stand-alone railway policing function. We are ready to set that up. When we stood up the MTT that I referred to in my submission, we looked in some detail across the workstreams and assessed how much further work was required. What became clear—it was a shared conclusion—was that in having to develop systems and integrate them properly, in partnership, insufficient progress had been made, and that, bearing in mind the low risk appetite, it would not be sensible to progress on the basis of integration happening in April 2019. That became an immediate issue because, as of April 2018, the BTPA was proposing to cease contracts and to progress its strategy to make it clear that it would have no further functions within Scotland.
In the light of that, our view was that more time and joint effort needed to be put into the work, and it had to be properly programme managed. We had brought in a strong element of that through the MTT, but it needed to be stepped up. We needed to dedicate enough extra resources to do the work.
I do not think that any of the issues that have been highlighted are insurmountable. They just require more time to get them right.
There are a couple of supplementaries on the safety issue.
My question is on staff numbers, which Mr Goodband mentioned.
In case we do not cover that later, by all means ask your question now.
Mr Goodband, on the numbers that you quoted, what is the natural turnover of your staff? There will be an expected percentage. All the people who left in previous years will have been replaced by people who had to be trained up.
The information that I have received is that, on average, turnover in BTP Scotland is 13 officers per year. Since the Railway Policing (Scotland) Act 2017 received royal assent, it has equated to, potentially, 21 officers per year, so there has been an increase.
Sticking with that point, one would theorise that the longer the time that is taken to put this through, the more disruptive it might be and the more impact there might be on morale, and in turn the more likely it might be that people will leave and not transfer across. What does Police Scotland plan to do if, whenever the transfer date is, there simply are not enough people to transfer over to resource the function? Where will the resource come from?
We are confident that we can dedicate the resources across more than 17,000 police officers. With a positive partnership in the replan period and a journey towards full integration, we are confident that we can upskill our people. The training-needs analysis that I know that the committee took an interest in previously has been undertaken.
Again, much will rely on partnership. We are moving towards a stand-alone model for Police Scotland, but we recognise that the journey towards that will have to be based on continued partnership. Our working relationship with our BTP and BTPA colleagues is very positive, which itself underpinned the commitment to a replan. There was a joint conclusion and an acknowledgment that better joint working had to be progressed.
Forgive me, Tom. I did not quite understand that. Just to be absolutely clear, are you saying that if not enough people have come across from the BTP at the date of transfer, Police Scotland will draw people in from other departments, badge them up, train them and assign them as BTP officers? Is that correct?
I would expect there to be a period of shadow running. As part of our strategic workforce plan, we would need to assess what the likely drop-off of legacy BTP officers in D division would be. This is day-to-day business for Police Scotland: we plan the workforce and look at where resources are currently allocated, what likely retirement dates are and so forth. I am confident that we will deliver a plan that would enable us to ensure that staffing levels are maintained, which is obviously what the rail industry would expect.
The SPF’s greatest interest in the issue is in the people element. Up till now, our involvement has been remarkably limited—for a whole variety of understandable reasons, not the least of which is that BTP officers are not our members. While the issues of the merger—or the takeover, depending on which side of the fence someone is sitting on—have been developed, so far they have tended to ignore the human part of it, which is the element that is of the greatest interest to me and particularly to Nigel Goodband,
To answer Mr Kerr’s question, I do not see the number of officers as being a particularly difficult issue, not least because I do not think for a minute that Mr Crowther will allow the BTP in Scotland to have a diminished number of police officers up to the date on which they transfer to Police Scotland. There have already been assurances from the service that, at the appointed day that they transfer, they will come into an integrated transport division in Police Scotland. The number of police officers on the appointed day will have been in BTP Scotland on the day before transfer and will be in the transport division of Police Scotland on the transfer day and on the day after. Unless Mr Crowther is about to disabuse me of my notion, I think that the element of how many will transfer will therefore be dealt with by the BTP service in its own right, in that it will not allow an unacceptably low level of police officers to be available to deliver a policing function in Scotland.
While I understand the concerns about the options, the simple fact is that the legislation makes it clear that, on one day, officers will be in the BTP and, on the next, they will be in Police Scotland. I do not think that it will be as much of an issue, and that the reality will bear that out.
Chief Constable Crowther
I do not disagree with the totality of what has been said, but there are some practical issues that we will have to work through. We will have a very close working relationship as we approach the date of integration. I will be responsible for policing the railways in Scotland until the day that the chief constable of Police Scotland takes over, and I will need to make sure that that policing is effective.
I have quite an interesting challenge ahead, because it is true to say that some people in D division BTP wish to transfer to England and Wales BTP. I will want to see how we could work with colleagues to make sure that we look after everybody’s interests, while maintaining our service. There will come a time when it might be impractical—and probably improper—to recruit new BTP officers when we should second Police Scotland officers to the BTP to work in transition and start to build up. That would probably be the most sensible way of approaching things nearer the time.
I do not think that numbers are the issue: the right number will be there on the day on which they transfer. For me, it is more about skills, expertise and outlook. We will work on all of those things. I am not shroud waving or anything like that—I am just talking through some of the practicalities.
Nigel Goodband talked about normal turnover and the slightly accelerated turnover that we have seen. We need to consider the reality of how many people will retire between now and whenever the date will be. In a two-year period, for example, approximately 54 people will reach the age of 50 and may retire. Across the spread of resources, around 30 per cent of constables, 25 per cent of sergeants, 50 per cent of inspectors and all the chief inspectors could retire in that period. Chief Superintendent McBride will retire later this year.
The challenge for me is to maintain the specialist focus that exists among BTP officers, which—as we have been saying all along—is the most difficult thing to replicate. The numbers will transfer over, but the task for us all is to ensure that the people who end up policing the railway as we move forward have the skills, attributes and attitudes that are needed to carry out the specialist policing function.
I want to look at how the programme is being managed. In one of the latest developments, EY has been brought in to head up the programme management office. Does the MTT board still exist or has it been disbanded and replaced by the PMO? How does the governance for the PMO function work?
Our briefing note describes EY as a member of the team, along with Police Scotland, the BTP, the BTPA and the Scottish Government. That sounds like a bit of a mix of function and governance. I would like some clarification around how it all fits together.
We have had a number of positive discussions with the Scottish Government, and we support the move for the overall programme within which we sit to effectively stand its height and to set up a fit-for-purpose PMO. The MTT project served a purpose: it brought both sides—Police Scotland and the BTP—together effectively, and we came to a solid conclusion based on April 2019.
With regard to the roles in the PMO as we move forward, I do not want to pre-empt the evidence that the committee will hear from the next panel. The Scottish Government has appointed a programme director who will lead the PMO—it is not an EY person. EY was already involved under a contract that we, along with the BTPA, had signed with the MTT’s programme governance. We have suggested that the PMO, working underneath the Scottish Government’s programme director, would benefit from EY’s input, but I would defer to Donna Bell, as the senior responsible owner, who can explain to you in a bit more detail how that will work.
What is the scope and remit of the PMO’s work? Does it extend to formulating a business case, for example?
Not as far as I am aware. The PMO’s purpose is to oversee the journey towards full integration, to lead the work on the replan and to address the weaknesses that were identified and called out in February, some of which related—as we have discussed—to staff engagement and so on. We look to support the work that the PMO will lead in that space.
Does that reflect a lack of the required expertise in integration planning and engagement? Is that why EY was brought in?
Our view relates to the point at which the MTT was stood up. As you will recall, it was based on advice—as I say in my written submission—from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland. Late last summer, we were given notice that HMICS felt that, with regard to internal governance in Police Scotland, the gold group that Assistant Chief Constable Higgins had convened should move across and become a more formalised, programmatic structure, and we took that on board. HMICS also advised us that we should work more closely with our BTP counterparts. I was brought into my current role in August last year, and my first task was to take that advice, stand up the MTT programme and take a realistic, clear-eyed view as to the deliverability of the April 2019 date. As well as that, there was a need to reorganise workstreams and put sufficient resources behind them. What we acknowledged in February was that that needed more time, as I said.10:30
If EY is being brought in because there were not sufficient skills and expertise to deliver the transformation and integration programme such as it was, how confident are you that you will be able to continue the integration programme beyond the point of transfer?
I am confident that with continued specialist help—and again, I look to the PMO to brief you on its views about that—the work can be taken forward. I refer again to the evidence that was provided to the committee on the creation of Police Scotland. I absolutely recognise that what we are talking about is more specialist and involves a different skill set. We know that there are different processes that we will have to go through to ensure that Police Scotland has the capability. However, I am confident that we have the ability to integrate what is currently D division and create the railway policing division in Police Scotland.
Has the integration of all the legacy ICT systems concluded in Police Scotland?
No. That work is still going on.
It is still under way. Five years on from the creation of Police Scotland, the legacy ICT systems are still not integrated, but you are confident that you can integrate yet another system and a very different form of policing. Why does your experience of integration in Police Scotland lead you to that conclusion?
Another member will ask about that, Daniel; you have had a fair shot. I ask Mr McMahon to give a very brief answer.
Police Scotland polices Scotland and keeps people safe 24/7, 365 days a year—
I am not questioning that.
Yes, there are legacy systems, and the i6 failure and so on have been played out in the Parliament. That is being addressed and we are developing our ICT strategy, with work on core systems and so on. I can come on to speak about that.
Police Scotland and the British Transport Police Authority shared the MTT board. Who is the accountable officer for the work of the programme management office?
The work of the programme management office reports to the SRO, which is a shared role between Dan Moore and Donna Bell.
They are the accountable officers.
They will be accountable, yes.
Does the new arrangement provide for sufficient independent governance and financial oversight, in your view?
As part of the replan, we will consider options about the assurance that we seek about the policing model that we seek to stand up.
Have any of the lead organisations for the joint programme board projects changed?
Not to my knowledge. As I said, the replan gives us the opportunity to review that.
As director, are you looking to make changes?
No. We want to work within the framework on top of which the PMO will sit.
In its submission, Police Scotland said that there is an accountable officer with
“delegated lead strategic responsibility for all aspects of railways policing integration”.
Can the panel tell me who that is?
Let me clarify. In my submission to the Parliament I said that last summer the Scottish Police Authority asked Police Scotland to oversee all aspects of railways policing integration, in effect delegating that responsibility to David Page, the deputy chief officer, who is my boss. That, along with HMI recommendations, is what prompted the establishment of the MTT.
There will of course be operational accountability, which will sit with ACC Mark Williams on the Police Scotland side. Our engagement at the joint programme board gives us, in effect, a level of shared accountability.
Does anyone else want to comment? If not, thank you.
The impact of integration on pensions has been mentioned. Mr McMahon, can you give us an update on progress regarding the Scottish Government’s proposal to put relevant scheme members into a separate pot of the BTP force superannuation fund?
Yes. The proposal that a segregated fund be established has progressed to the point where the SPA, through its accountable officer, Kenneth Hogg, has written to the Scottish Government looking for what is technically badged as the employer covenant, which is about seeking indemnification for any future liabilities that might arise around the fund.
Progress is being made on setting up the new defined benefit scheme for the relevant scheme members.
We are certainly in regular contact with the trustees. At the moment, we await the response from the Scottish Government around indemnification.
Thank you. Mr Goodband, you raised a number of points about pensions in your written submission and highlighted your concerns around the pension fund regarding a financial impact on officers serving in the BTP in Scotland and BTP officers serving elsewhere in the UK. You referred to anxiety and emotional impact, which are obviously quite nebulous, but what I am interested in is the evidence. We know from actuarial advice in 2017 that the pension scheme is fully funded, which is a healthy and positive scenario, and that the pension liabilities of £97 million are balanced by about £99 million of pension fund assets. I know that you are on the management committee for the scheme, so perhaps you can talk about the health of the scheme. There seems to be a disconnect between the health of the scheme and the concerns that you have raised.
If I can, I will clarify the position. The scheme is, indeed, healthy. It sits at 102 per cent, in that if everything went wrong, every member could be paid. What is being proposed refers to some of those assets. I do not know where the figure of £99 million that you quoted has come from. We have not seen any advice from the actuaries, but we have been in contact with the trustees of our pension scheme and they do not recognise that £99 million figure. I am sure that Tom McMahon could update you regarding what advice Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority have had on that. However, from our perspective, we are not sure what the proposal is suggesting. There are currently serving officers who will become members of what is a closed scheme and, as they retire, the scheme membership will reduce. There is an acknowledgement in the proposal that members’ contributions could increase because of the age of the membership.
Is not that the case with every pension scheme, though?
No. Ours is not a closed scheme but an open one, and it will continue to be open while officers join the British Transport Police. The scheme in the Scottish Government’s proposal is a closed scheme and, with regard to the Police Scotland railway division, no new members can join the scheme. The membership will therefore fade away and the contributions will undoubtedly increase, but there is no suggestion in the proposal about who will cover the liabilities. The suggestion is that the Scottish Government can come along and take £99 million from a current pension scheme that—to be frank—it has not paid one penny into and put it into a segregated scheme. That is something that neither I nor my members fully understand.
But are not those the liabilities for active BTP officers based in Scotland? If a separate, defined benefit scheme was created for active BTP officers based in Scotland, surely it would be right and proper for those assets to pass into such a new scheme.
We would have to seek legal advice on that. In a way, the scheme is being forced on members who do not want it. Members do not want to transfer into a closed, segregated scheme because the pot will be weakened in comparison with the main pot.
Along with the assets, the transfer will have to include the retired officers who have already paid into the scheme. Who will identify those officers? There are officers from Scotland—proud Scots—who served in England but have now retired and reside in Scotland. Will they become part of the assets in the segregated pot? There are also officers who served in Scotland and have now retired and are living in England. There is confusion around how those assets can simply be picked out of our main scheme and transferred into a segregated scheme. First, can that be done legally? Is it lawful to make that transfer?
Secondly, who has actually agreed on a value of £99 million for the assets? We have not seen that advice, and neither have the trustees, as was confirmed to me only this week. I can assure Michael Matheson that, when he mentioned the £99 million, members of the British Transport Police Federation were on the phone to me to say, “Are they suggesting that they’re going to take some assets out of our main pot? Will that have an impact on officers in England and Wales?” I had to say, “Well, I don’t know”, because I have not seen that advice, nor—unfortunately—am I a lawyer.
The scheme is fully funded—I think that you mentioned the figure of 102 per cent.
It would, therefore, surely be in the interests of both parties if, under the agreement that was based on the democratic decision of this Parliament, there were constructive negotiations on taking the scheme forward to make sure that, when the transition takes place, employees who are members of the scheme will still benefit. Surely, it is to everyone’s benefit to ensure that the assets that are relevant to Scottish scheme members are passed on in order that the scheme is healthy—
I ask members to keep their questions a little more succinct.
It is a complicated matter, convener, and I am trying to get to the point. As things move forward, it is extremely important, in order that members who are transferring will continue to benefit from the pensions that they deserve under the agreement that has been reached, that everyone approaches the matter constructively. The assets that apply to Scotland should surely be passed on to Scotland.
I do not disagree. You hit the nail on the head in saying that it is about negotiation, but that negotiation has not taken place. There has been no negotiation with the scheme’s members to discuss where the assets will come from. Who makes those decisions? Ultimately, it is the trustees, but it is a membership scheme into which members pay—it is not a Government-run scheme.
Those officers have not been consulted, and there has been no engagement on pensions or even on terms and conditions. Those officers are sitting in the shadows, waiting for the decision to be written down on paper so that they can make a decision on whether they should retire, which is another issue relating to the segregated pot. We heard from the chief constable that, within two years, 54 officers will be able to retire. If 230 British Transport Police officers are transferred to the segregated pot, 54 of them will, potentially, immediately take their lump sum from the pot, which will have a massive impact. There will be £99 million in assets on day 1, but there could subsequently be a massive impact. We not only have to think about day 1; we have to consider those officers who are young, who have 30 or 35 years of service remaining, and the liabilities that are needed to cover their fund. According to the information that we currently possess, that aspect has simply not been considered.
One of the biggest frailties in what has been undertaken so far is that some of the human elements are being dealt with last. Most of the legislative stuff has been dealt with and the technical stuff has been thrashed out, but some of that will have an impact on the human side. I think everyone would agree that, if we were to turn that around and make sure that the human side was taken care of first, the technical stuff would work around it.10:45
I have nothing but the highest degree of sympathy for the position that the British Transport Police officers find themselves in. At the moment, they just do not know what their situation is, which is a failure on the part of all the parties that have been involved in the process. If the SPF had been involved at an earlier stage—we have had a good series of bilateral discussions with the British Transport Police Federation—we would have made sure that those officers were front and centre in the process.
The fact that there are doubts about the pensions position of British Transport Police officers is understandable, because no one has done a like-for-like comparison, but I cannot believe that that was not high on the list of things to be considered. It is assumed—and it might well be the case—that the pension arrangements for BTP officers are superior to those of, for want of a better term, Home Office police forces, but only an actuarial comparison would provide a definitive answer.
The issue of pensions is absolutely germane to the other issues that are associated with the status of the BTP officers when they transfer over to the Police Service of Scotland. Because of the position that police officers hold as office-holders, the occupational pension scheme is the only scheme that is available to police officers in Scotland. I should probably have refreshed my memory on the provisions, but I know that there are provisions that allow for the transfer of cash-equivalent values between the respective pension schemes of the Home Office forces and the British Transport Police service. I would need to remind myself of exactly what limitations apply to that, but it is certainly not unknown for officers to have transferred between schemes in the past.
With the pause in the process, my biggest plea is that we look at the human side to see what can be done to address many of the concerns. We need to look at what is known in the police service as the 1987 police pension scheme, which I understand is the most comparable scheme, in broad, headline terms, to the British Transport Police pension scheme, and to have engagement with officials—Whitehall officials rather than officials on the Scottish side—to find out whether there would be a willingness to open the 1987 pension scheme to allow transfer, were that to be deemed desirable by the officers who will be affected. If such proper options can be presented to officers so that they know what they are looking at instead of facing uncertainty, we will be in a much better position to deal with some of the technical issues afterwards. At the moment, an effort is being made to solve technical issues without understanding whether that will be best for the officers concerned.
If I was a British Transport Police officer, I would be thinking, “I know what I have just now, but I don’t know what I’ll have in the future.” I understand the importance of a triple-lock guarantee to many in the BTP service, but “no detriment” does not mean “no betterment”; nor does it mean that, if individual officers volunteer to seek betterment of some conditions, that betterment should come as a consequence of a willingness to accept perceived detriment to others.
In my view, the logical thing to do is to get the staff associations involved. I am optimistic that my colleagues from the British Transport Police Federation would agree that allowing officers to do a compare-and-contrast exercise so that they know exactly what they could be looking at would help to resolve a huge number of the human issues that have been raised by those who have concerns.
The legislative stuff will take care of itself, and the technical stuff will follow on from the agreements that can be reached between the parties.
Mr McMahon, you were nodding. Do you concur?
I agree absolutely with the view that the human element of the process has been neglected. That is part of the rationale for a replan. The issue of pensions is difficult to understand and engage with, but it has a bottom-line impact on people that needs to be taken seriously. That work has been done as part of the workforce workstream under the joint programme board. Decisions were taken on segregated schemes and so on, and Police Scotland’s role in that has been to seek a view on future liabilities and so on.
However, going back to Mr Macpherson’s point, we would work on the basis of there being a fair and equitable split of assets and liabilities, because that is the approach that we want to take to full integration.
Tavish Scott has a supplementary question on integration costs. As this is your first appearance at the committee, do you have any relevant interests to declare?
No, I do not.
I have a few very brief questions on costs. What is the cost so far of the integration of Police Scotland and the British Transport Police?
I am happy to answer that question. We have discussed the £400,000 cost of EY’s programme management support, which is shared between ourselves and the BTPA. We have also engaged EY to undertake due diligence around the finance assets and liabilities of the BTPA, which is costing approximately £300,000. Police Scotland’s dedicated resources and any recruitment that we need to undertake will be subject to the replan, so I cannot put a figure on those at the moment. The costs associated with the setting up of the segregated pension scheme are in the region of £400,000. The replan will bring more clarity around costs, among other things, and we have paid EY £117,000 to take us through phase 1, which is effectively a review of workstreams and a refocus of activity, in order to give the replan the best possible foundation.
That is £1.2 million so far. What is the budget for the period between now and April 2019, if that is the date that is now being worked towards?
We are not working towards April 2019 any more.
You do not know what the date is.
The replan will give us a new target, but we have not established a date yet.
Is there a budget for the future period?
We will establish what that is. We have the police reform budget, of course, which—
How much is the police reform budget?
You will have to forgive me, but that is the one note that I meant to bring with me and did not. I have not got the number in front of me, and I do not want to make something up. That budget gives us flexibility and, in effect, we are in agreement with the Scottish Government on access to that budget going forward.
You said that you have, so far, spent £300,000 with Ernst & Young. Will that firm continue in the future?
We have engaged EY in its programme management role until April 2019, which was the original integration date. EY’s role in relation to the replan is a decision for the SROs, who must decide whether they want to continue to engage EY. An additional cost would be associated with that.
Do we know what that cost would be?
It would be in the region of £600,000 to £700,000.
That is more than the £300,000 that has already been spent on EY.
Yes. If EY was to stay with us on a replan, that would effectively run until the autumn.
So, £1 million has been spent on Ernst & Young.
No decision has been taken on whether that role will continue.
Mr McMahon, in your earlier answer to one of my colleagues—I forget which one—you said that, as far as you know, there are no plans for a business case. Correct me if I am wrong, because I might have misinterpreted you. Is that correct?
There are no plans for a business case as part of the replan exercise. We are working towards the stated will of Parliament in terms of full integration.
This might not be a fair question for you, because it predates you. Why was a business case not produced, especially given Audit Scotland’s and the Government’s policy on business cases?
I am not the person to answer that question.
Who would be?
Those on your next panel.
Can I keep that question for them, convener?
I have a couple of points for clarification, Mr McMahon. The first is on one of the points that Mr Scott has just put to you. Who ultimately meets the transition costs and all the other costs that are being incurred? Where does the money come from to pay all those invoices?
The amounts that I have given you details of are being paid by Police Scotland at the moment, although, as I have said, the EY programme management support is shared with BTPA.
You were asked about the pension scheme. What will the set-up costs of any new scheme be, and what will the costs of that scheme be going forward? Who will meet those costs?
We believe that it will cost in the region of £400,000 to establish the segregated scheme. I do not have a figure for on-going administration, but I can certainly look for it and write to the committee if that would be helpful.
That would be helpful. Going back to some of the points that were made earlier, one would have thought that that would have been established up front. If you are going to set up a new pension scheme, one would have thought that you would have established who is going to meet its on-going costs.
You mentioned—perhaps in that regard—that the SPA asked for an indemnification for future liabilities from the Scottish Government. Do you have any oversight of whether the Scottish Government will give that indemnification? In any event, how much is it likely to be worth?
Again, the next panel could give members some insight into whether the Government is likely to offer the SPA the indemnification that its accountable officer has sought.
On the quantum, there is a spectrum of costs. We have heard discussion about there being a surplus based on the most recent valuation. There is the possibility of future deficits, but that is associated with any pension scheme. Ultimately, the SPA is seeking Scottish Government cover for whatever the liabilities might be in the future.
You say that there is “a spectrum” of costs. Out of interest, can you give its approximate range?
Based on Government Actuary’s Department advice that has been shared, the most dramatic numbers that have come into the public domain in the past few weeks are in the region of £100 million. They are based on the absolute worst-case scenario—on a cessation event. The scheme’s investment strategy is being moved immediately on to a more risk-averse approach in investment in gilts.
I am not an actuary, but I will do my best to describe the position. I emphasise that the numbers that have been in the public domain are based on an absolute worst-case scenario, which we would expect actuaries to provide. Given that we do not know the amount because the scheme has not been valued since 2015—I understand that it is due for evaluation this year—the SPA has sought that cover for whatever the liabilities might be.
To be absolutely clear, the SPA could be seeking an indemnification of around £100 million from the Scottish Government.
Yes, in an absolute worst-case scenario that is based on actuarial advice that has been provided. However, I emphasise that that figure is estimated and is ultimately highly dependent on market circumstances.
Who was that figure estimated by?
I think that it was estimated by the Government Actuary’s Department.
Calum Steele indicated that he has to leave at 11 o’clock. Before he does, I want to ask him about the proposal that the additional integration costs should come from the reform budget. I presume that that budget was put in place to enable the smooth transition to the single police force. Do you have any concerns about that? Would anything be affected by that decision?
The amount of funding that comes to the police service is my favourite subject. In general, the Parliament has not provided enough. In relation to the creation of the Police Service of Scotland, much of the reform funding that was identified was lost in the paying of VAT for a number of years. That was particularly unfortunate.
The reality is that, as with anything that happens in Scottish public life, the taxpayer ends up footing the bill somewhere. Decisions that are taken in Parliament have to be matched by parliamentary decisions on funding to ensure that the will of Parliament can be discharged by those who are asked to discharge the functions. Given that, at this point, the police service has needs of its own that are not helped by a lack of funding—I make no apologies for making that point—I hope that you, as parliamentarians, will press the Government on the removal of the additional burden of funding to ensure that that is addressed.
The last supplementary question may or may not involve Mr Steele. Before he leaves, he may want to add something after Daniel Johnson has asked his question.
My question is not addressed to Mr Steele; rather, I have a point for clarification following Tavish Scott’s line of questioning. If I heard correctly, the figures that were given were all attributable to Ernst & Young, which is an external provider. What are the internal costs of the integration programme? They would be additional to those costs for Police Scotland—for staff time, for example.
We are reassessing those costs as part of the replan exercise. There was a formal bid for resources, which I reported to the SPA in December. The opportunity cost of existing staff working on the programme was in the region of £1 million, but that figure is being revisited. A resourcing plan will be part of a new approach to the planning towards full integration.
Will that figure be revisited upwards or downwards?
I have absolutely no idea at the moment, but I expect us to dedicate people to the programme in order to achieve the will of Parliament.
Do you want to add anything before you depart, Mr Steele?11:00
I do, convener. To some extent, I will reiterate—or slightly expand on—my earlier point. To my mind, people must be put at the heart of this exercise. We have to look at the impact on officers and staff and properly understand it. It is incumbent on all those who are involved in the programme to ensure that officers and staff are aware of exactly what the alternatives might be rather than leave them to assume that things are going to be worse, which is a natural position for them to take if they do not know what the alternative is.
My colleagues and friends in the British Transport Police Federation and I have had some discussions regarding the potential alternatives that could be put before them. However, I know instinctively, because of my particular interest in policing terms and conditions across the UK, that Police Scotland’s terms and conditions are almost unrivalled. I suspect that, if we were presented with a sensible options exercise, we could address many of the existing concerns of British Transport Police officers. However, that can be done only by ensuring that people are at the heart of the process. The technical stuff will follow and, as I said, the legislative stuff has taken care of itself. I believe that many of the officers in the BTP would welcome such an approach, as it would provide a degree of certainty around what the future might hold.
Mr Goodband, do you have anything to say before Mr Steele leaves?
I will give Mr Steele the opportunity to respond before he leaves. The British Transport Police pension scheme is slightly different in that, when officers who are on a 30-year scheme reach 50 years of age with 30 years’ service, they can continue their policing service and continue to invest in their pension. That does not devalue their pension—if anything, it provides a guaranteed increase. In the Home Office police forces, officers have to retire at the 30-year mark, or at 35 as it is now, because there is a devaluation—well, it is not so much a devaluation, but their take-home pay differs if they continue to work. British Transport Police officers do not have to do that—they can extend their employment up to the age of 60 and, on application for an extension, beyond that. From my understanding, that differs from the situation for the Home Office forces.
Another issue is that British Transport Police officers are employees. We have not yet resolved the issue of who will represent the officers, because they are not Crown officers or office holders in the way that Police Scotland officers are. They have a contract of employment and a redundancy and resettlement agreement, and some have compulsory redundancy agreements. Those issues have not been resolved, and British Transport Police officers will not surrender that protection to transfer over as Crown officers until they know that there will be no detriment to them.
Calum Steele is right—this is about the people, and we need to engage with them and get their views. We have done so on many occasions, and there has been no suggestion from anyone in the British Transport Police D division that they wish to transfer as Crown officers and adopt the terms and conditions that apply to officers in Police Scotland. There are little bits in our own terms and conditions that could potentially create detriment in that regard.
Thank you. Does Mr Steele have anything further to add?
In that case, we move to questions from Maurice Corry.
First, I want to come back to one point this is really bugging me—it is not the question that I was going to ask. To follow on from Calum Steele’s comments, I feel strongly that, in all this, the BTP people seem to have been ignored. Is it not a gross error that the people, as assets, seem to have been totally ignored throughout the whole process so far? I ask the chief constable to comment first.
Chief Constable Crowther
Calum Steele, Nigel Goodband, Tom McMahon and I have all been very clear that the people are the most important thing in the whole process. It is the people who will make the process work, as they are the ones who have the skills. I have been immensely proud of my officers and staff, who have, during a number of years of uncertainty, shown their resilience and commitment to delivering a great service to the public. We should all acknowledge how fantastic they have been.
It is a matter of great regret that they have not been engaged to the level that they should have been. I made that point at a joint programme board meeting, and I think that everybody accepts that. There is a commitment that there will be far more engagement with individuals in the replanning. I am keen to see that turn into action. They will have listened to all the questions.
On Mr Macpherson’s question about pensions, we are all at one in wanting to be sure that the people who transfer are treated fairly and have a proper pension when they transfer, so we are committed to a proper discussion about pensions. However, as we have heard, the issue is incredibly complex. It is not as simple as anybody thought when they first embarked on the process.
My plea is that an appropriate amount of time is given to replanning and to implementation so that all those things can be worked through and people who transfer are treated fairly and end up wanting to be committed railway police officers and staff in the new structures. However, Maurice Corry is absolutely right: the engagement has not been strong enough so far.
I often find myself at a disadvantage because people look to me for the answers, and I do not have them; they rest with other people. I am keen that we start to sort out the details of all these complex issues and involve our staff in discussions about them.
That was not the question that I originally wanted to ask, but it was a burning issue that I had to get off my chest. I am very grateful for what was said. Would Nigel Goodband like to answer my first question?
I totally echo what the chief constable has said. We all have to take responsibility for engagement. I feel as much pressure as the chief constable does. People look to the staff association to provide them with the answers.
The BTPF welcomed the pause and the acknowledgement that engagement had been poor. Unfortunately, however, we have been told since 20 February that engagement would improve and that the first step would be to have a day of engagement, but we are still waiting for a date for that. It was going to be in March this year. I have written to the Minister for Transport and the Islands to seek clarity. It was suggested that the last letter had gone off to the various departments to obtain answers to my questions.
I attended the Scottish Police Authority’s meeting only a couple of weeks ago, and we posed a number of questions, which were declined; we were given no answers to them.
On the evidence that we have seen so far, there has been acknowledgement that the engagement has been poor, but there has been no action to address that. At the moment, there are simply words, and our officers still suffer a level of uncertainty. It is appalling that the Scottish Government constantly reminds us that one of its three aims in full integration is accountability to the people of Scotland. British Transport Police officers and staff in D division are people of Scotland. They are proud Scots; they are proud to be in the British Transport Police and proud of living in Scotland. However, they have lived two years of uncertainty. They have said to me that they feel abandoned not only by their force but by their Government. That is pretty disgusting. It is alarming that they feel that way.
Who is leading on the engagement?
The joint programme board should be leading on it. We are still waiting for dates. One day event will not resolve the current level of distrust among officers. Much more than that is needed. I hope that the British Transport Police Authority and the Scottish Police Authority with the joint chairs of the joint programme board are some way towards mapping out at least six months of engagement with officers to identify and answer some of their concerns.
There is talk about as-is transfer, for example. However, if people want to progress in their careers in Police Scotland and seek promotion, they will lose the as-is status. They will then transfer to Police Scotland as office-holders, so they will lose their terms and conditions. That is handcuffing officers, to their detriment. None of them will seek career progression or promotion outside of the railway division if they are threatened with losing their terms and conditions and suffering detriment to their pensions.
Mr McMahon, what is your response to what these gentlemen have said? How will you deliver a positive message to encourage them? You say that you are a sales manager and you are out flogging your products—how will you sell them? You can hear what the market is saying.
I might not have put it in the same terms as Mr Goodband has, but as members of the joint programme board, we acknowledge that engagement has been very poor. That is absolutely accepted. Part of the rationale for the replan is that we get engagement right, but we work through the joint programme board; the committee is about to speak to the SROs of the joint programme board. Ultimately, Police Scotland went out and engaged with D division staff. I know that ACC Higgins took part in a number of events before Christmas to try to provide some level of reassurance but, again, part of the problem was the absence of detail.
The new SRO in the Scottish Government, Donna Bell, has made it very clear that she will invest in comms and engagement capability to supplement what is already there. That is a really positive step, but I recognise the points that Nigel Goodband has made.
I am slightly concerned by the implication that, in order to engage with the SPA, you felt that you had to submit public questions to the SPA board. Can you clarify that? What engagement have you had with the SPA board and Susan Deacon? How would you characterise that engagement?
I have had no engagement whatsoever, although I have personally been to SPA open meetings. At the last meeting, we welcomed the pause in integration and we were informed that the 104 and 90 orders were in draft form, but they have not been shared with us. It is very similar to what happened with the pensions proposal. When that was initially given to the trustees, it took 50 days of me knocking on the door of the Department for Transport, which kindly shared the proposal because it was alarmed that it had not been shared with us right from the outset.
We have four particular questions that we would like the SPA to answer on the pensions liabilities proposal. The decision that was made 24 hours prior to that meeting was that those questions will not be answered. That was not a demonstration of trying to improve engagement with our members. It was very disappointing.
To be fair to the SPA, had you formally asked for meetings or put your questions in formal correspondence prior to tabling public questions? Was that the first time that you had asked those questions or had you asked them before?
It was the first time we had posed those questions.
I am not going to comment on the level of engagement that you have had, but my understanding is that the transport minister informed the federation several times, almost right from the start of the process, that there would be no detriment to your members’ pay and that pay and pensions were triple locked and guaranteed. Is that not the case?
That is the case. We had the triple-lock guarantee in written form, but that is simply a statement without substance. There is no detail in that letter to show exactly what the guarantee is. The language in the letter talked about the Scottish Government’s “intentions”, “aims” or “views”, but that is not a guarantee in writing. Ultimately, that is what our officers want to see. They want that reassurance. There is actually a triple-lock guarantee, but as I said to Mr Macpherson, in the language that it uses, which is that the intention is that members should not suffer by having to make higher contributions to their pensions, the pension proposal is no guarantee; it is simply an intention. That is not the language that our officers are seeking. It does not reassure them that they will get the triple-lock guarantee that is being proposed.
Mr Goodband, I want to go over the same point that my colleague Daniel Johnson covered with regard to asking the SPA for information. Was your first communication made straight to the board in the way that you described?11:15
Yes. It was the first time that we did that through the process of the SPA’s open public meetings—
Would there not have been a better way to go about that? We keep saying that everybody needs to talk to one another in order to move things forward. Would it not have been better for you to communicate directly, rather than—with the greatest respect—showboating at a meeting?
Personally, I did not see it as showboating at a meeting. The point is that, from day 1, we have been sitting with a level of uncertainty. As Tom McMahon confirmed, there has, from the outset, been a struggle with engagement on the detail. Everybody knows that there has never been a business case or a written-down plan—
I get that, but would it not have been better to pursue other lines of communication rather than communicating in the way that you did?
Potentially, yes. However, prior to that date, I did not believe that the SPA could answer the questions, because it would not have had the detail itself. It was only at the point at which we welcomed the pause, when we believed that the joint programme board accepted that there were risks and concerns around engagement, that we considered that there was an opportunity for the SPA to answer some of those questions.
I would like you to clarify one point for my own understanding—please stop me if I am being slow. You asked the SPA a question for which you did not think that it had an answer.
No. Previously, I thought that it did not have an answer.
I understand Nigel Goodman’s position in trying—entirely reasonably—to get answers for his members. He will be aware that even supporters of integration like me have repeatedly asked questions and sought assurances in this very room, and I am disappointed that we are no further on in that respect.
There has been a lot of discussion about costs, and I want to raise two specific issues. The first concerns the role of the railway operating companies. Have there been discussions with those companies about the allocation of costs for training in particular?
I am happy to answer that, Mr Finnie. I have convened a number of meetings with the rail delivery group—we have had three engagements, and I have a fortnightly call with Mark Newton, who is convener of the group. The purpose of the updates, which started in October or November, was to give the group an idea of progress and move discussions on with regard to overall funding. We are working on the basis of a transfer of assets and so forth to the value of £21 million, which has been identified as the current cost of D division. We are not working on the basis that the train operating companies will have new costs to meet in that respect, and I have sought to reassure them about the process.
In fact, that was overtaken by the decision that we should delay and move towards a replan. A significant part of the replan activity will involve the development of railway policing agreements as set out in the Railway Policing (Scotland) Act 2017, and we are determined to address that. However, it was clear to me, having come to the landscape around August last year, that the due diligence work that would enable us to have a clear split of assets and to understand fully the BTP’s current cost model in order to replicate or develop our own cost model and engage with the train operating companies had not started quickly enough. In effect, we did not have time to undertake sufficiently strong engagement with the rail operating companies. We are covering the background, and the due diligence work is progressing and will report in the next few months. That will give us a stronger foundation on which to engage with the train operating companies.
Mr Crowther do you have any points to make?
Chief Constable Crowther
Yes. I do not seek to speak on behalf of the rail industry, but it seems from my conversations with the companies that their concerns lie in two key areas. One is the cost of integration. I think that the companies would, if they were here today, question the proposed cost. As you will know, the funding model means that our funds are raised from the train operators. I think that they would say that they are not sure why they are paying the cost of integration as a result of the costs on the BTP.
The second point—
I am sorry to interrupt, Mr Crowther, but has it been confirmed to them that they will be expected to meet those costs?
Chief Constable Crowther
Yes. The funding model is that the user pays. The Department for Transport has assessed that that is a cost of policing, so it is passed on within our core budget. We often have a debate about that with them.
The second issue is how charges will be allocated in the future. Tom McMahon has touched on that. We have a very complex charging model with lots of proxies that feed into it. It would probably be an understatement to say that it causes some anxiety every year when the charges are allocated to different people and they look at why their charges have changed. That is a bone of contention even with us.
People are very concerned to see how the charges will be allocated in the new policing model. That is relatively straightforward for ScotRail, which operates exclusively within Scotland, but it is much more complicated for companies with cross-border services such as Virgin East Coast, Virgin West Coast and CrossCountry. They are keen to understand how the charges for the railway division in Police Scotland will be allocated and how that fits with our already very complex charging model.
As Tom McMahon said, either Police Scotland needs to adopt a model that is similar to ours, or a completely separate model will need to be sorted through. That takes a lot of negotiation. If it affects our charging model, we are contractually obliged to give certain periods of notice. If it changes the charging model, we have to give three years’ notice around those issues.
That plays back into day-to-day things such as ICT systems. Our charging is derived from activities. Our command and control system pinpoints to a particular operator where a crime has happened at a particular station, and policing activity is attributed to a particular operator. Members can see that the model is quite complex. Police Scotland needs a command and control system that can work that all out for it, so members can see why the issue is pretty complex.
Are the durations of existing contracts likely to influence an integration date? Are they uniform, or are they different across the train operating companies?
Chief Constable Crowther
The police service agreements are on-going contracts. They are a condition of franchises. Someone who holds a franchise agreement must have a police service agreement, and they roll on.
There is a time factor in our day-to-day contracts. For estates, facilities management and ICT contracts, for example, we need to give 12 months’ notice to our providers. That is why Tom McMahon mentioned that we were at a critical time just before the pause. By now, we would need to have given notice of those contracts ceasing and novating over to Police Scotland if the April 2019 date were to have been meet. There is a time criticality around the sequencing of when notice must be given.
Has Police Scotland undertaken a cost benefit analysis of integration?
No, we have not. We are monitoring costs. I have given members some sense of them. I know that the joint programme board has said that there is work to be done on benefits analysis and a description of that. I expect that, as we start to work in the more formalised and multi-agency PMO, there will be a continued focus on emerging costs. However, we have not undertaken a cost benefit analysis to inform an options appraisal, as would normally happen.
Who would do that? Would it be the PMO or Police Scotland? Would there be a global analysis, informed by various component parts?
The committee’s next witnesses could probably speak to that task and how they might pursue it.
Prior to the MTT being stood down, Police Scotland undertook—on 29 March, I think—to conduct a cost benefit analysis at the request of the SPA. Will that still go ahead? If so, when will there be a report?
As I understand it, we are now working through the PMO. The committee can discuss the matter with Donna Bell, who is the SRO. We can and should capture costs, and work should be done to assess benefits, but the direction of travel is towards full integration. A cost benefit analysis would normally inform an options appraisal, but—as per the decision of the joint programme board—we are not undertaking an options appraisal or looking at other options.
I understand that, but I think that I am correct in saying that Police Scotland undertook to conduct a cost benefit analysis. Will that happen, as far as you are aware?
It is important to clarify for the committee’s benefit what we have committed to do, which is to capture costs as they relate to full integration and contribute to the articulation of benefits.
I want to go back to some of the ICT issues that have been highlighted in today’s session. Dr Kath Murray’s submission highlights the problematic “Police Scotland ICT architecture”, and the BTP’s submission refers to
“The risk around ICT systems”.
Nigel Goodband, in his submission, states:
“Railway partners assist BTP with ... tasks”
—stopping trains, for example—
“via a seamless GB-wide command and control system that operates throughout the railway infrastructure.”
Research that was published today shows that 35 per cent of ICT service outages across 312 critical infrastructure organisations in the UK, including police forces, were caused by cyberattacks. Surely, Mr Crowther, you accept that the current ICT set-up is not faultless. Conversely, does integration offer an opportunity to iron out some of the existing ICT problems?
Chief Constable Crowther
I can answer that briefly: no. With regard to protection against cyberattacks, we have, as you would imagine, the same sort of measures in place that any police force has. The railway infrastructure is part of the critical national infrastructure, and issues that relate to vulnerability to cyberattack are dealt with by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, which is very active in working with Government and others to ensure that systems are secure. I am certainly not aware of any risks that may be mitigated by integration with Police Scotland; I am not sure whether I have misread your question—
I suppose the question is simply this. As far as you are aware, do you accept that there are ICT problems in the current set-up?
Chief Constable Crowther
No, not really.
So the system is perfect.
Chief Constable Crowther
From an operational perspective, we have control rooms that are linked to all the railway operating control rooms across the country. If we need to communicate with the industry—we do that hundreds of times a day—about specific incidents, there are seamless arrangements in place to enable us to do that the length and breadth of the country.
Police Scotland does not have any such arrangements in place. It would need to create a system, which would need to operate from a single control room. As I said earlier, railway policing is a national function and needs to be commanded as such. My understanding is that Police Scotland currently has a number of control rooms. It would have to designate one of those rooms as a lead control room for railway policing, and it would need to operate on a pan-Police Scotland basis, rather than on a geographical basis as I understand is currently the case.
I think that our system is pretty good—it works, and it is tested every day. We are trying to replicate a system in the Police Scotland environment that would work as effectively in safety-critical decisions. I will give you an example. If there is a fatality, one of the first things that my control room does is engage and make sure that we are patched through on the radio to the driver of the train, who can give an account of what has happened. That enables us to make an immediate risk assessment based on whether the act is suspicious or non-suspicious. We can then decide how we react, which will determine whether there are any impacts, such as blockages, down the line. Blockages can lead to safety issues, given that people who are stuck on trains have a tendency to open the door and get out on to the track. We have in place a system that allows us to do all that.
We must ensure that, when we integrate, Police Scotland has a similar system in place. It therefore needs an integrated IT system that will enable it to do that. Those are the risks, but if we take the time and make sure that all the integration is in place, they can be overcome. However, in my view, it cannot be rushed.11:30
Our view of the full integration proposal is that Police Scotland wants one seamless command and control. On the railway infrastructure, that will create a dual command and control because there will be command and control from British Transport Police in England and Wales, and there will be separate command and control in Scotland. In essence, Police Scotland will not achieve seamless command and control throughout the country. It will only be in Scotland. That is the view of the federation.
I have a quick question that probably harks back to the point that George Adam raised and also touches on something that Rona Mackay mentioned. George Adam talked about contact with the SPA and whether the concerns had been raised directly with the Government. I am interested to know what the relationship and engagement with the Scottish Government have been like on some of the issues that have been identified.
Engagement started off pretty well, if I am honest, with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice meeting me and members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association. Unfortunately, once the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill had passed through Parliament, that engagement came to a halt. Every time that we asked any questions, we got back the three statements of the Scottish Government’s aims—seamless command and control, accountability to the people of Scotland, and wider access to specialism within Police Scotland.
We have posed questions about that specialism. What is Police Scotland’s specialism that will be offered to the railway division that BTP does not have? We do not have air support, but other than that the BTP has been functioning on the railways for more than 100 years and we have specialism within the force. When we asked about the enhancement or access to specialism that is being talked about, we did not seem to get a response. Since the bill was passed, engagement with the Scottish Government has lapsed.
Mr Adam made a point about how I posed those questions to the SPA and that might be a correct interpretation. Perhaps we should have considered engaging with the SPA in another way. I take on board that criticism, but at that time and in the absence of anyone else giving us any answers to our questions, we thought that it was an ideal opportunity to pose questions to the SPA. However, I take on board the view that it could have been done in an alternative way.