The Home Affairs Committee said last year:
“We accept that there is no simple relationship between numbers of police officers and levels of crime.”
The Government agree.
There are 385 fewer front-line police officers in Merseyside than there were in March 2010. According to the British crime survey, there has been the biggest increase in recorded crime for a decade. People in Merseyside could be forgiven for thinking that there was a link between the two. Will the Minister now stand at the Dispatch Box and deny the existence of that link?
I have already quoted the Select Committee’s view that there is no simple link. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that according to the latest official figures relating to crime in Merseyside, published earlier this year, in December last year overall crime had fallen by 2% and the number of instances of violence against the person had fallen by 7%. There are areas of specific concern, but it is not true to say that overall crime has been rising in the hon. Gentleman’s police force area.
The Minister said that there was “no simple link”. The Police Federation has suggested that by 2015 the number of serving police officers in Wales will have fallen by about 1,600, and according to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary the figure is closer to 800. Even if the more cautious figure were correct, does the Minister really believe that a drop of 800 would have no effect whatsoever on crime in Wales?
The hon. Gentleman ought to ask what police officers are doing. If they are tied up in red tape, as they were by the last Government, or if they are in back-room positions in which they do not need to be, that is not necessarily the best possible deployment of resources. The latest official figures show that in south Wales overall crime has fallen by 7%, and at the end of last year the chief constable of south Wales said:
“We are not just treading water, we are improving the service and improving the way that we deal with members of the communities we serve.”
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the number of burglaries in Harlow has fallen by 15% in the past year, and that similar results have been produced by many other crime indicators? That is thanks to not just the excellent work of Essex police, but the work of community organisations such as Harlow Street Pastors which are doing so much to reduce crime.
I congratulate Essex police on that achievement. Up and down the country, police forces are showing that, despite having to make savings, they are continuing to reduce crime. What matters is the effective deployment of resources to ensure that we maximise the use of the sworn officer.
Overall crime is down in my constituency, with a massive drop in antisocial behaviour. However, repeat antisocial behaviour can destroy the quality of people’s lives. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that the police act in such circumstances?
Tomorrow my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will launch the Government’s proposals to combat antisocial behaviour, strengthening the powers available to the police to deal with antisocial behaviour and giving citizens greater power to tackle repeat antisocial behaviour that they feel insufficient action is being taken to address.
The Home Secretary has frequently claimed that her 20% cuts to police funding will not reduce front-line policing. I am sure we all agree that 999 first responders, including traffic, CID and neighbourhood police, are, indeed, front-line officers. Will the Minister therefore confirm that recent freedom of information requests show that front-line police numbers have fallen by 5,261 since March 2010?
Why does the Labour party never admit that its proposed spending reductions of over £1 billion would also result in a reduction in the police work force, and why does it also never admit that it supports the two-year pay freeze, and that the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), the shadow policing Minister, supports further savings to the police budget, which means it is committed to a greater saving than we are? That is a fact, and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) should attend to the real issue, which is that there have been 25,000 police officers in backroom positions rather than on the front line. We are seeking to redress that.