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Police Funding

Volume 457: debated on Monday 19 February 2007

Since the debate on the police grant report for 2007-08 on 31 January, I have held meetings with a number of chief constables, police authorities and hon. Members specifically on the funding of police forces. I think that, during the course of the same debate, I made a number of commitments to continue to do so.

I thank the Minister for that reply. He will know that over the last two years my local police force has seen a reduction in real terms of £681,000 in the specific security grant. With Fairford air base, GCHQ and a number of significant royal household protection duties, the specific security grant is a bigger share of Gloucestershire’s spending than that of any force outside the Metropolitan police. What will the Minister do to ensure that my constituents do not bear an increasing share of what should be national responsibilities?

I am not sure that I entirely agree with the latter point, but I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and the chief constable of Gloucestershire to discuss the matter further. I take the hon. Gentleman’s broad point about Gloucestershire having specific security responsibilities that are probably larger than those of many other police forces outside the Met, so I would be happy to meet him to discuss the issue further.

Slough basic command unit is in a crime family along with other units, all in the Metropolitan police area, that have many more police officers per head of population than Slough. Will the Minister comment on the fact that I have been informed by our local commander that, according to the total resource allocations formula, we are overmanned? Does that not suggest that the TRAF is actually wrong when it comes to high crime areas such as Slough?

My hon. Friend was one of the individual Members whom I promised to meet, following on from the debate on the police grant, and I am happy to discuss at such a meeting the TRAF and Slough BCU overstaffing—or otherwise—along with other matters relating to Thames Valley policing. [Interruption.] Yes, I am aware that the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) is to be included in the meeting—sadly.

During the debate on the police grant, the Minister mentioned quite candidly that he believed that there was a case for a review of the whole police funding formula. I know that it is a huge issue, but when does the Minister believe that that work can commence? Does he believe that as a part of that work, it might be useful to set up a Special Standing Committee to take as much evidence as possible, which could help to produce a lasting, fair and equable funding formula?

I deliberately wanted to open up a wide-ranging debate on the issue, as I said in the debate on the police grant report, but I also want to get something done and to make sure that any changes that need to be made are for the better. I am not sure that Special Standing Committees have ever done that.

When the Minister reviews the process, will he ensure that civil servants are entirely aware of the fact that he has no intention of devolving the funding of police forces in Wales to the Welsh Assembly, not least because crimes do not always happen just in Wales or in England, but quite often across England and Wales, as the recent letter bombing campaign has shown?

I am strongly of the opinion that what my hon. Friend says is absolutely right, so I entirely endorse it. By the by, I had a very enjoyable time in Swansea and Bridgend last week, when this point was raised. On balance, people felt that there was a strong inter-relationship between what the Welsh Assembly Government do on policing and what the UK Government do on policing. Of course that is right, but it is certainly not our intention to devolve all or part of our policing powers to the Welsh Assembly.

The Minister will no doubt be aware that the first anti-terrorist unit to be established outside the Metropolitan police was in Greater Manchester police, but he is probably not aware that it was funded entirely by Manchester ratepayers’ money. Will the Minister tell me why that was and can he assure me that other local anti-terrorist units will not have to depend on local money in the battle against national and international terrorism?

What the hon. Gentleman says is certainly true, in part, in respect of the very early days of the establishment of the counter-terrorism unit in Manchester. I am sure that he will agree that Greater Manchester, West Midlands and West Yorkshire police are making varying degrees of progress in establishing their counter-terrorism units—if he has not had the chance to go around them, he should—but that they are doing work that is second to none and vital, given the pressures and threat that we face. Much of the funding will be carried out in the long term by the Association of Chief Police Officers terrorism and allied matters committee, which is doing much of the work now. It is a matter for local police authorities if they want to augment and supplement that with local money, specific to local counter-terrorism demands. But in the main, we are very strongly of the opinion that, through ACPO TAM, the frameworks at least should be funded from the centre. That is the right and proper way to go forward.