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Special Constabulary

Volume 22: debated on Thursday 22 April 1982

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with the recruitment to the special constabulary; and whether he will make a statement.

Chief officers are fully aware of the vital role of the special constabulary. I am encouraging them to make every effort to recruit as many specials as they can usefully train and deploy.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he encourage all police forces to allow specials to take on more of the routine work that the police carry out so that the permanent force can be made available for more important matters? Would it not be helpful if we had more specials doing the routine jobs, thereby making community policing more apparent to the public? Will my right hon. Friend examine the scheme that is beginning in Northumbria, where I understand the chief constable is recruiting about 750 volunteers for the specials to act as street policemen in their home areas?

I agree with what my hon. Friend said. I believe, as do the chief constables, that there is considerable scope for using special constables on routine duties and releasing policemen generally for other duties. That is very important. I understand that the Northumbria scheme has been a great success. I congratulate the chief constable of Northumbria on introducing the scheme. I know that similar initiatives are being taken elsewhere.

What success has there been in recruiting members of the ethnic minority communities into the special constabulary?

Rather more than there has been in recruiting them into the regular police.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the report of the chief constable of Northumbria, which was produced this week, a particular tribute is paid to special constables in the context of community relations? There is also a reference to the recruiting programme. The police community relations committee will shortly celebrate its tenth anniversary, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will wish it well.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who I know takes a particular interest in these matters in the North-East. I am grateful to him for what he has said. There has been a significant development in Northumbria, but I do not wish it to be thought that that is the only police force that is carrying out such an endeavour. Many others are doing so, and I welcome them all.