The single confidence target puts the public at the heart of local policing. The policing pledge guarantees regular public meetings that will help determine local priorities. We are strengthening police authorities’ responsibility to consider the views of the public. All this is backed up by a strengthened inspectorate acting in the public’s interest.
Would it not be a much better idea simply to elect people capable of making those decisions? If the Minister thinks that is a good idea—it seems to work elsewhere in the English-speaking world—it is our policy, so the best way of implementing it would be to have a general election very soon.
I could happily fight an election in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency on the basis of crime. He knows that over the past five years, domestic burglary in Hampshire has fallen by 22 per cent. and vehicle crime in Hampshire by 26 per cent. Police numbers in Hampshire are up and Hampshire funding is up by £109 million over the 11 years of this Government to date. If he wants to fight on those figures showing crime down, investment up and more police officers, I will happily take him on.
A moment ago we discovered that the Home Secretary pays no attention to the information that he gives in written answers to me, so let us try another written answer. Why has the amount of time that police officers spend on incident-related paperwork risen so sharply in the past year? How is that consistent with the stated aim of the policing pledge for officers to spend 80 per cent. of their time on patrol?
The hon. Gentleman will know that that is old information. It dates back to a period before the policing pledge was implemented, and since the pledge has been implemented, the situation has improved dramatically. If he looks, as he will do later this year, at the figures on front-line services and reductions in bureaucracy, and at the action that we have taken since the pledge was implemented 12 months ago, he will see a great improvement. He will know also that my colleague Jan Berry, who has produced an independent report, will produce shortly further recommendations for Ministers to improve still further on reducing front-line bureaucracy. That is what the issue is about. Again, I say to the hon. Gentleman: crime down, police numbers up. That is a record on which I am very happy to argue the toss with him.