By Ray Fleming
WOULD two Home Offices be better than one? John Reid has hinted that he would like to divide the existing organisation into two parts, one dealing with the police, passports, immigration, border security and counter-terrorism (similar to America's post 9/11 Department of Homeland Security), and the other with matters of law and order such as crime, prisons, and criminal justice policy. Just to list those responsibilities under two headings shows immediately the difficulties inherent in making such a huge administrative change. One of the most consistent criticisms of the Home Office is that its right hand does not know what its left hand is doing. Yet, if the necessary cooperation between different units cannot be achieved within a single department, what chance is there that it will take place between separate departments answering to different ministers?

Labour ministers, Mr Blunkett and Mr Reid especially, have shown public dissatisfaction with the quality of Home Office staff but that is not in itself an argument for creating two new organisations. Is the leadership given by ministers all it should be? Mr Blunkett's published diaries suggested that it might not be. Creating two new Departments of State is no easy task, particularly when their responsibilities are so daunting. Changing horses in mid-stream comes to mind.

A better approach might be to concentrate on the quality and training of staff and the creation of a culture of cooperation across all the elements of a single department.


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