To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the work of special constables.
Special constables play a valuable role in supplementing regular officers and strengthening the partnership between the police and the public. I have recently announced a new target of 30,000 special constables.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. The chief constable of Leicestershire is making intelligent use of special constables and, as a result of the additional target that my right hon. and learned Friend has announced, will make even better use of them. May I commend to him proposals for parish constables, which will increase the partnership between the public and the police so that villages in rural areas can feel safer? May I also commend the proposals of the high sheriff of Leicestershire, Mr. Robin Murray-Philipson, for a Leicestershire crime beat scheme bringing young people together with the police—
Order. Question Time is becoming a debating period. Members are asked to put questions to Ministers, not constituency cases. Has the hon. Member finished his question?
I was asking the Home Secretary to commend the high sheriff's Leicestershire crime beat scheme, which brings young people together with the police.
I will certainly look at the high sheriff's proposal with much interest. I am grateful for the support that my hon. Friend expressed, in particular for the possible introduction of parish constables throughout rural areas. We have payed all too little attention to rural crime, which requires determined and effective action. I hope that parish constables will be able to play a part in dealing with it.
Is it not likely that the target set by the Home Secretary will not be reached due to low morale among the regular police force following the Sheehy proposals? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not think it outrageous that he is proposing payment by results, short-term contracts and sacking policemen when they represent the thin blue line resisting the rising tide of Tory crime?
It is hardly surprising that the hon. Gentleman was unable keep a straight face as he asked that question.
I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's statement on special constables, but does he accept that the majority of crime in this country is committed by the same small group of people in each police division, who are doing it again and again? Does he accept that we have to focus on those people and keep them locked away for a long time so that they physically cannot burgle our constituents' houses, steal their cars and rape their daughters.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. I congratulate him on the measures that he has taken to give the prosecution powers to appeal against bail orders when they are inappropriate. I will always listen to the point of view that he represents.