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Metropolitan Police

Volume 556: debated on Monday 7 January 2013

1. What recent discussions she has had with the Mayor of London on the accessibility and visibility of the Metropolitan police. (135577)

I regularly meet variously with the Mayor of London, the deputy mayor responsible for policing and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police. However, it is not for the Government to direct the Mayor of London or the Metropolitan police how to deploy their officers and staff.

Since the general election, the number of police officers in London has fallen by 1,700, and it has been reported that nearly half the capital’s police stations could face closure. The Home Secretary is living in cloud cuckoo land if she thinks that this is improving the service for Londoners. Does she accept that having fewer police and fewer police stations is undermining public confidence in the Met and, more crucially, undermining its ability to do the job that needs to be done?

What I accept is that what we have seen in the Met and in most forces across England and Wales is that they have dealt with budget cuts. We have seen some reductions in the number of police officers, but crucially crime has been falling. Visibility, accessibility and confidence in policing are not about certain types of building. They are about police being available to people, and that is exactly what the Met intends to do. It intends to put more constables on the beat and increase their visibility by enabling people to access the police in places such as supermarkets.

There are currently 30 Metropolitan police officers assigned to Operation Alice, dealing with issues relating to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). Another 30 officers are assigned to Yewtree and 170 are dealing with Tuleta, Weeting and Elveden. As well as that, an unnamed number of officers are searching for Ibrahim Magag who went missing just before Christmas. Is the Home Secretary confident that the Metropolitan police have sufficient resources to deal with the bread and butter issues of London, bearing in mind the burden of all these specialist operations?

Yes. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Metropolitan police receive extra funding for the fact that they are the capital city police force. I have every confidence in the Metropolitan police in all the operations that they are undertaking. The number of officers deployed to each of the operations that the right hon. Gentleman referred to is a matter for the commissioner and his officers.

In May 2010 the Met had more than 32,600 police officers. Last April, Mayor Boris Johnson promised us that he would maintain this figure, yet in November the latest figures show us that policing has fallen to just 30,939. Last year the deputy mayor told the Home Affairs Committee that it was a doomsday scenario for London to have only or around 31,000 officers. Does the Home Secretary agree with this assessment, and if so, what does she intend to do about it?

I suggest that the hon. Lady look at the plans that the Metropolitan police have and which they published just before Christmas, which are to maintain officer numbers at around 32,000, to introduce a flatter management structure and to put more constables on the beat. I should have thought the Opposition would welcome the fact that the commissioner, the deputy mayor and the Mayor of London want to ensure that there are more police officers on the beat in London and in the Metropolitan police. That is surely good news.