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Police Numbers

Volume 530: debated on Monday 27 June 2011

3. What recent assessment her Department has made of the relationship between numbers of police officers and levels of crime. (61829)

The Select Committee on Home Affairs said in February:

“We accept that there is no simple relationship between numbers of police officers and levels of crime.”

The Government agree.

A 43% reduction in crime was achieved under the last Government, in part, and not least, because of the 17,000 new police officers that were brought in during that period. Why would the Home Secretary put that at risk by cutting 12,000?

I have answered the point about the relationship between police numbers and levels of crime and we have been absolutely clear that it is not simple. Our view is backed up by the Home Affairs Committee and by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), who said last September:

“I don’t think it’s possible to make a direct correlation between police numbers and crime reduction”.

Once again, the Government agree.

According to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, even when we had a record number of police officers, only 11% were visible and available to the public at any one time. Does that not show that it must be possible, even if the number of officers falls, to protect and perhaps improve the visibility of police on our streets?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point and that HMIC report’s importance lay in the fact that it pointed out the issues about the visibility and availability of police officers as well as that more police officers were visible and available on a Monday morning than on a Friday night. That came as news to many people living in town centres, where there are considerable problems on Friday nights. We must ensure that police officers are deployed in the most effective way so that they can fight crime.

In 15 days’ time, 2,000 police officers will gather in Central hall to voice their opposition to the Government’s plans on their pay and conditions and the reduction in numbers. The Home Secretary is right to quote the Select Committee’s conclusions, but only two weeks ago the Police Federation told us that morale in the police service was at its lowest in a generation. What steps will she take to ensure that the police understand that what she is doing to reshape the landscape of policing, which is her right, is for the benefit of the public and of the police?

We are doing what we are doing with the distinct intention of ensuring that we have a police force that can move forward in the 21st century and provide the policing that is necessary and that people want. That means considering pay, terms and conditions and the flexibility of the work force as well as the bureaucracy that has tied too many of our police officers to their desks and to form filling rather than allowing them to be out on the streets fighting crime. This Government are making a distinct difference to that bureaucracy by slashing it, so that the police can do what people want them to out on the streets.

As my right hon. Friend knows, the Opposition consistently refer to 20% cuts in police budgets. Will she confirm that as there will be no cut in the precept funding and as public sector pay is expected to be frozen, the cut in money received by the police will be in the order of 6%, not 20%?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Opposition talk about Government funding, but every police force in this country has funding available from the precept. At the end of the four-year period of the comprehensive spending review, police will have 6% less funding. That is the figure that people should concentrate on, rather than what the Opposition say.