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Police Strength

Volume 24: debated on Wednesday 26 May 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many police officers there were in Scotland in May 1979; and what is the latest total number.

At the end of March 1979 there were 12,675 police officers in Scotland and at the end of March 1982 there were 13,221.

I welcome my hon. Friend's reply, but is he aware that many police officers are unable to attend to other duties because they must spend long periods at the sheriff court, where often they are not called to give evidence? Will my hon. Friend look at the matter and discuss it with the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General for Scotland in case a solution can be proposed?

My hon. Friend has raised a genuine problem. It is a matter of concern to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Law Officers. There are no obvious solutions. We hope that section 15 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, which provides for intermediate diets, will be helpful. That provision is not widely used at present. We shall monitor its use.

Does the Minister agree that the increase in the police force is infinitesimal compared with what the Conservatives were proposing during the general election and with what they said in their manifesto? Is he aware that the Scottish clubs, including those in the Scottish League, have been complaining about the ratio of police that they must pay to attend Saturday matches? Does he realise that while the police are in the grounds there is a high rate of vandalism outside?

The behaviour at Scottish football matches has improved considerably as a result of the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act. The hon. Gentleman is an influential figure in Strathclyde. He might wish to take up with Strathclyde region its decision to keep police numbers at 150 below the authorised figure.

Will the Minister explain clearly how much of the rate support grant settlement this year is for police pay, and how much that will be up to 1984–85? If this year it is only 4 per cent., rather than the 10 or 11 per cent. that would be required to honour the principles in the Edmund-Davies settlement, will he accept that his right hon. Friend's acceptance of those principles would be no more than glib hypocrisy?

That precise point was answered fully by my hon. Friend the Solicitor-General for Scotland in his excellent speech to the Scottish Grand Committee on Monday. The Government have a record second to none on police pay. Discussions within the police negotiating board have not yet started.