[holding answer 27 February 2007]: The Home Office Scientific Development Branch produces standards for body armour which incorporate a number of different protection levels. These standards were last published in 2003 but we plan to issue revised standards in the next month. All body armour is tested against these standards at Home Office approved test houses.
In 1995 the Home Office Scientific Development Branch, in collaboration with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), developed a Police Operational Requirement (POR) for body armour. This requirement states that the protection provided by ballistic and stab resistant body armour must be sufficient to prevent the wearer from sustaining serious or permanent injury. To achieve this, five vital organs located within the torso must be protected: the heart, lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys.
The provision of police equipment is a matter for chief officers. However I have written to the forces which do not provide protective armour to police community officers to ask them to clarify the reasons for their decision, and I will let my hon. Friend know the responses of the four forces at the earliest opportunity.