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Rural Policing

Volume 981: debated on Thursday 27 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the chief constables of England and Wales about rural policing.

We are concerned to encourage the development and interchange of ideas on the policing of rural areas, especially on the relationship between police and public. Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary discuss these issues with chief constables and their police authorities.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Is he aware that in many rural areas people are disturbed because, as increasing pressure is put on police resources in the urban parts of rural counties, policemen are withdrawn from the law-abiding villages and put on traffic and other duties in the towns? Is he aware that that means that police coverage is much diminished in such villages? Is he aware of the considerable public unrest? What can be done about it?

I understand the anxiety. The deployment of police is a matter for chief constables. Deployments can be, and are, discussed with inspectors of constabulary. I am sure that the chief constable involved will note my hon. Friend's question.

Has the Home Office discussed with chief constables community policing in rural and urban areas? What experiments in community policing are being conducted in metropolitan areas such as London?

The phrase "community policing" can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Different experiments in different parts of the country are taking place. Even within rural areas there is scope for different types of policing. Such matters are discussed with inspectors of constabulary and the police forces. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular case in mind, I shall do my best to deal with it if he writes to me.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the chief constable in the rural area of North Wales has said that police inquiries have been set back by several weeks as a result of the recent showing of the "Nationwide" programme about arsonists in Wales? Is not that highly regrettable?

I have heard that expression of opinion. Of course I deplore anything which leads to police inquiries being impeded.