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East Midlands Special Operations Unit

Volume 461: debated on Monday 11 June 2007

First, I believe that I may have inadvertently accused the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) of being mendacious, which I am sure is unparliamentary. I meant, of course, that he was totally misguided, but I was not referring in any way to his veracity or honesty. I apologise for that.

As to the east midlands special operations unit, Home Office funding totalling some £6 million for last year and this year has been provided. Continuing funding from 2008-09 will, of course, be a matter for the comprehensive spending review.

I am sure that the Minister agrees with me that the east midlands special operations unit is doing some exceptionally valuable work in dealing with high levels of organised crime. May I remind my hon. Friend that he made a statement on the police grant earlier this year, in which he accepted that Derbyshire was, shall I say, not the most generously funded police authority? Clearly, if there is no guarantee of ongoing funding for this special operations unit, there may be some doubt about its future—hence my question.

I hear what my hon. Friend says. Not just for the benefit of Derbyshire, but for the other four forces involved in the east midlands, may I explain that since the discussions on merged forces, east midlands as a region above all others has made considerable progress in terms of closing the gap on protective services? I realise that that is, at least in part, because of the work done by the east midlands special operations unit. That will be a factor when we come to consider the east midlands generally under the comprehensive spending review and policing therein.

The hon. Gentleman will know better than I do whether Northamptonshire is in the east midlands. If it is, I can call him to speak.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I should like to ask a question on behalf of Northamptonshire police, which is one of the forces in the east midlands. The Minister has just said that everything they were doing was correct and exactly what the Government wanted, including closer co-operation on serious crime such as human trafficking. However, the Government will not give a guarantee of funding for the future. Surely that is a mistake. Should not the Minister give such a guarantee?

I simply cannot give that guarantee, because of the due process across Government in relation to the next three years of the comprehensive spending review.

One of the few positive outcomes of the abject and abortive attempt to amalgamate the five forces of the east midlands, including Leicestershire, was a renewed focus on the performance of those forces in the areas in which they have amalgamated and co-operated in an effective way. The east midlands special operations unit is a classic example of this. It is a beacon grouping which could give lessons to those in other parts of the country who wish to avoid having a regional force. I endorse the call from my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Laxton) for an extended funding commitment in the public spending review, and I hope that the Minister will back that call when the matter is under review later this year.

As I have said, this is a matter for the comprehensive spending review, but I agree with my hon. Friend and all colleagues from the east midlands, including Northamptonshire, that there has been considerable progress on the protective and level 2 services agenda. That can be—and, I hope, will be—recognised in the next CSR, but I cannot pre-empt the review.