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Police Forces (Paperwork)

Volume 524: debated on Monday 7 March 2011

The Government are committed to reducing bureaucracy. We are scrapping the stop-and- account form, and reducing the amount of information to be recorded on the stop-and-search form. Doing those two things saves up to 800,000 man-hours a year. We are returning certain charging decisions to the police. That will save up to a further 50,000 man-hours per year. We are working with the police to sweep away a further range of the red tape that prevents officers doing what they and the public want them to do—getting out on the streets and cutting crime.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the past 14 months the Wiltshire police force has undergone four separate inspections by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary lasting three working weeks and costing the force £60,000, and no meaningful recommendations have been made as a result? Does she intend to reform this box-ticking regime to cut the burdens of police bureaucracy and paperwork still further?

I was not aware of the specific figures for Wiltshire. I realise that this is an issue. That is why the Policing Minister has been working with HMIC on reducing the bureaucratic burdens of the inspection regime by ensuring that we maintain an effective inspection regime, and he will inform the House on this matter in due course.

I commend my right hon. Friend on her efforts to improve on the just 11% of time that the police are visible to the general public, but may I press her on what actions she will take to reduce the unnecessary amount of time that police officers spend in court, especially as delays continue to be endemic?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising an important issue. In looking at saving police time so that they can do the job that we want them to do, we need to look across the whole of the criminal justice system. That is what I am doing, together with the Justice Secretary, the Attorney-General and the Policing Minister, who is also a Minister in the Ministry of Justice.

I welcome the Home Secretary’s commitment to reducing police bureaucracy. As she knows, in October last year Jan Berry published her report and made 32 recommendations. How many of those recommendations have now been implemented? Will the Home Secretary continue Jan Berry’s term of office so that this is not just a one-off piece of research, but a continuing monitoring of the bureaucracy in our police service?

Jan Berry did a valuable piece of work looking at bureaucracy in policing. We have already implemented a number of the recommendations that came out of that. I have referred to the restoration of some charging decisions down to local police, the more proportionate approach to inspections, and revising the police performance development reviews. We are taking the work forward in a slightly different way. There is a programme board led by Chris Sims, the chief constable of west midlands, which is working with the Home Office and identifying further areas of bureaucracy that can be scrapped.