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Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

The Government have swept away central targets and cut police red tape. Our package of policies to reduce bureaucracy is saving up to 4.5 million hours of police time a year, freeing officers to focus on their core mission, which is to cut crime.

My right hon. Friend will know that in 2010 less than 15% of a patrol officer’s time, on average, was spent on patrol. What specific measures has he taken, and will he take, to cut the red tape at the police station that is keeping too many officers off the beat?

I mentioned the amount of officer time —the equivalent of more than 2,000 officers—that we have effectively released for front-line duties. For instance, we are returning charging decisions to the police, scrapping the national requirement for the stop-and-account form, reducing the burden of the stop-and-search procedures, employing new technology to ensure that police officers can give evidence from their police stations rather than having to go to court, and championing a simplified crime-recording process. I could go on, but the list is an impressive one and reflects our determination to free up officer time so that they can do the job we want them to do, which is to fight crime.

I have been working with Asda and Avon and Somerset police on setting up a police booth in Asda in Longwell Green to ensure an increased police presence in the area and to empower police officers to help reduce crime at little cost. Will the Minister welcome such innovative measures and encourage all forces to consider how to engage with local businesses that might be keen to fight crime?

I welcome that initiative, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising it. It is a very good example of how police forces are using innovative means to maintain, or indeed increase, their presence in local communities. Setting up such booths in supermarkets can bring a large number of people into contact with the police—far more than might choose to visit a police station.

I declare an interest as a candidate to be a police commissioner in south Wales. Does the Minister not accept that the best way of empowering police officers to reduce crime is to prevent reoffending? Instead of concentrating on bureaucratic requirements, such as having several reports before action can be taken, will he strengthen the use of antisocial behaviour orders, which have succeeded in preventing reoffending?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that we are strengthening the powers available to the police with new tools to deal with antisocial behaviour. Police and crime commissioners will play a lead role in giving a voice to the people and will be under statutory duties to co-operate with other elements of the criminal justice system to ensure a focus on preventing crime and reducing reoffending.

The Leicestershire force is losing more than 200 front-line police officers and more than 150 support staff. Will crime rise or fall in the city of Leicester as a result?

Crime is falling in Leicestershire, which reflects the fact that, despite the challenge set for police forces in reducing their spending, they can do so while maintaining their front-line service and the service to the public, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), made completely clear. The majority of forces continue to cut crime, showing that it can be done.

24. The Minister is aware that a deeply distressing child sexual exploitation case is currently being prosecuted in my constituency. What training and support are being offered to police forces to ensure that they can spot the signs of exploitation early and have the confidence to share and act on intelligence so that we can prevent these terrible crimes? (115562)

The Government’s progress report on tackling child sexual exploitation, published on 3 July by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education, who has responsibility for children and families, makes it clear that the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Policing Improvement Agency are taking forward proposals for the training of front-line police officers in tackling child sexual exploitation. ACPO intends to do further work in this area.

How will cutting a further 290 front-line Greater Manchester police officers in 2012-13 help what remains of our police force to cut crime?

There has been a 6% fall in crime in Greater Manchester. That shows that the force is able to deal with the necessary spending reductions while continuing to reduce crime. That is a credit to the force, its leadership and its officers. The hon. Gentleman, in common with his Labour colleagues, continues to call for increases in public spending, which is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

Will the Minister look at the role that an institute for policing excellence could play in pulling together evidence of best practice and ensuring that the police use what works and what is cost-effective in tackling crime?

Yes. I am happy to reassure my right hon. Friend that we will be—indeed, we are—looking at that proposal. We are working constructively with the police to set up a professional body for policing, about which we will have more to say shortly. Tomorrow I shall be speaking in Cambridge about evidence-led policing, and about the importance of police forces developing links with academia, which includes the potential for faculties of policing.