In August 2008, a three-year funding programme was announced for the National Policing Improvement Agency to increase the number of special constables in England and Wales through the establishment of nine regional co-ordinator posts. As part of that we have an employer-supported policing programme, which was launched in October 2009, which will ensure further development.
May I urge the Minister to continue the programme for the foreseeable future? I often think that the role of the special constabulary is underplayed. It plays a vital role in the policing of our communities, and the business community getting involved and releasing staff for training provides a vital pool of additional special constables. I encourage the Government to extend that programme.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. We are aiming to get about 20,000 special constables in place in the near future and we are raising our game to ensure that we recruit more. We need the support of the business community to do so. I visited specials in Flint, in my constituency, only three or four weeks ago and saw the wide range of activities and specialist work that they undertake on a voluntary basis in support of the full-time service.
To be honest, I have not spoken directly to the Minister in Edinburgh, but my hon. Friend makes a good suggestion. We need to co-ordinate, particularly in constituencies such as his, where there are cross-border issues, and the Cumbrian force could equally support those in the south of Scotland.