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Police Officers (Injuries)

Volume 229: debated on Thursday 22 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers have been injured in the course of their duty for the last 12 months that figures are available.

Information on the number of injuries is not held centrally. In 1992, 14,946 police officers were assaulted on duty in England and Wales.

In the light of that response, I thank the Home Secretary for allowing the trials of the extended baton and telescopic baton throughout the country. Unfortunately Lancashire, where I live, is not an area where the trials are taking place. I have figures that show that in 1991 the number of police assaulted on duty was 439; last year, it was 466. That is an appalling figure. Once the trials have been completed, if they are as successful as I believe they will be, will the Home Secretary widely extend the issue of extended batons and telescopic batons and ensure that the police have the tools to do their duty of protecting the public against the criminal?

I have made it clear that I am determined to ensure that the police have the equipment they need to protect themselves from the attacks and assaults to which they are increasingly subjected. I saw on Monday, in Poole in Dorset, a demonstration of the Arnold baton. I share my hon. Friend's hope that the evaluation that I have authorised will soon be successfully concluded, so that the batons that are currently being tested can be used more widely across the country and give the police the protection that they need.

Does the Home Secretary recall that six months ago in my constituency, WPC Lesley Harrison was viciously attacked? Does he agree that the bravery shown by policewomen and policemen deserves our admiration and practical support? Given that more than 20,000 police officers came to Wembley this week and that in areas of difficult policing there is grave disquiet about the effects of the Sheehy report, will the Home Secretary take seriously their concern that the number of police officers will be reduced as a result of the report, leaving many communities under-policed?

Of course, I understand and am aware of the concern that has been expressed. I have made it clear that I intend to consult the police and not confront them on the question of change; but change is necessary. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look again at the report. He will see that, far from reducing the number of police officers available for policing duties, the object of the report is to increase the number of police constables on our streets.

In the light of my right hon. and learned Friend's information about the number of police officers injured, will he assure the House that in the coming weeks he will work closely with the police staff associations to reach agreement on proposals for reform, which both they and he desire?

I can indeed give my hon. Friend that assurance. I have every intention of engaging in a constructive dialogue with the police over the next few weeks. The consultation period will not expire until the end of September; I have made it clear that I will listen very carefully to the views of the police and others, and take them into account before reaching any final decisions.

Are not the police under tremendous pressure as a result of the appalling statistics revealed by the Home Secretary? The Sheehy report has led to a complete disintegration of morale, and the proposition that there must be a link between performance and reward has not helped. Will the Home Secretary now repudiate that statement and give the police a clear assurance that the basis of market testing in the Sheehy report is not acceptable to the Government?

No. I will not prejudge the outcome of the consultation in any way. The Sheehy report was designed to strengthen the links between responsibilities and rewards; that strikes me as a thoroughly worthy objective. The report sets out one way of achieving it, but I will take into account any other suggestions. I intend the consultation period, which is currently under way, to result in fruitful and constructive dialogue with the police and all others with an interest in these matters.