This issue is frequently discussed in meetings between Ministers and police organisations. It has also been recently addressed in the report by Jan Berry entitled “Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing”, published on 2 December 2009.
The Minister mentioned Jan Berry, the Government’s adviser on reducing police bureaucracy. She was recently asked whether the police were spending more time away from their desks. Her answer was:
“If you talk to police officers they would say it has remained the same or got slightly worse.”
Does the Minister agree?
We are trying to ensure that we reduce the amount of unnecessary paperwork that police officers do, and in fact it has fallen over the past five years. Jan Berry’s report, published just over 10 days ago, gave us 43 recommendations. We have accepted 13, we shall be looking at 22 with her over the next year and we are still examining a further eight. There is a lot of work to be done, but we are committed to reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.
The Minister talks about unnecessary bureaucracy. Surely part of the unnecessary bureaucracy has been processing reoffending criminals let out under the early release scheme. Has the Minister made an assessment of how much that has contributed to police bureaucracy?
The hon. Lady will know that there have been and continue to be pressures on the prison system. I was Prisons Minister at the time, and the early release scheme is a temporary measure, which is determined to ensure that we release individuals 18 days early. The reoffending rate on that is extremely low, but it obviously remains a matter of concern and is under review by my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary, and will be ended as soon as practicable.
The hon. Gentleman should keep up. There is only one target on policing from the Government —the confidence target of 60 per cent. by 2012. We have improved from 45 to 50 per cent. over the past year and we are on target to reach it by 2012. I suggest the hon. Gentleman goes back to his constituency and looks up the facts in future.
If it appears that the administrative burdens of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 contributed in any way—however small—to the tragic death of four-year-old John Paul Massey in my constituency last month, will my right hon. Friend agree to review it? Will he also call for a detailed report from Merseyside police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who are investigating the matter, so that we can fully understand how complaints made to the police were not followed through and the Government can respond where possible?
My right hon. Friend raises an extremely important issue. That was a tragic death. She will appreciate that there is an ongoing police investigation by Merseyside police. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is in discussions with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about what steps, if any, we need to take to ensure that we prevent such an incident from occurring again. We will certainly look at the lessons and make sure we do all we can to stop the use of dangerous dogs in this way.
The hon. Gentleman will know that we are working through a range of recommendations. If he looks at the stop and account forms, for example, he will find that we have saved 690,000 hours of police time on such stoppages. We have reduced or removed 27 of the 36 data streams from the Home Office. We are making real efforts to reduce police bureaucracy. Jan Berry accepted that in her recent report, and we will continue to do so. Every step we take reduces police time—for example, there are 6,000 more officers on the front line, whom we have been able to release just by tackling bureaucracy since 2003-04.