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Police (Regulation A19)

Volume 527: debated on Monday 9 May 2011

Chief officers are responsible for managing the resources and staff available to them to ensure effective policing. Operational decisions, including on the impact of using their powers under regulation A19, are rightly a matter for them.

What kind of answer is that? There is a seasonal saying at this time of year: “Cast not a clout till May be out.” Why are decent, hard-working, brilliant, experienced police officers in my area, in Nottinghamshire and across the country being forced to give up their jobs because of this Government, when my community and others want to keep them and when they want to keep working?

From the hon. Gentleman’s outrage, hon. Members would not know that under the previous Labour Government Nottinghamshire police numbers fell between 2004 and 2009. This is a procedure used by chief constables that the previous Labour Government chose to renew. The fact is that officers ordinarily retire after 30 years and they do so with a full and generous pension.

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) has discussed this matter with the chief constable of Nottinghamshire, but I did on Friday. Does the Minister agree that it is imperative that when chief constables make these difficult decisions they should consult not only their communities but the Police Federation to ensure that we retain the best front-line officers?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Let me put this in context. I understand that some 130 of some 2,500 officers in the force may be retired under this provision. The independent Winsor review of pay and conditions recommended that this procedure should continue to be available to chief officers.

Approximately 2,000 police officers across the country with more than 30 years’ experience are being forced to retire under regulation A19 because of the 20% front-loaded cuts imposed by the Government. As we have heard from my hon. Friends, these include front-line beat officers, response officers, detectives and firearms specialists, although some, as we know, have been asked to return as volunteers. I want to ask the Minister a specific question: has he carried out an assessment of the cost implications for the Home Office, along with any other associated costs, of forcibly retiring these 2,000 experienced officers? Did any such assessment show that the cuts really were in the interests of the taxpayer?

I repeat to the hon. Gentleman that these decisions are made by chief constables in the interests of the efficiency and effectiveness of the force. This is a procedure that the previous Government chose not to change. The fact is that the total number of officers retiring with more than 30 years’ service who might be eligible for this procedure is about 3,000 of a total 140,000 officers. The question that the Labour party simply cannot answer is how it would have achieved the savings of more than £1 billion a year, which are the cuts it says it would have imposed on the British police.