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Police Reform

Volume 571: debated on Monday 2 December 2013

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that we have scrapped national targets, improved police accountability, reformed pay and conditions, abolished bureaucracy, set up the National Crime Agency and College of Policing and brought in elected police and crime commissioners. Those are the most radical reforms in the history of policing.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will she also confirm that crime has fallen to the lowest level on record?

Again, I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that crime is down on both the reported measures of recorded crime and the crime survey. Recorded crime is down by more than 10% under this Government, and that is backed up by the independent crime survey, which shows that crime has halved since 1995 and is indeed at its lowest level since the survey began in 1981.

Has the Home Secretary had an opportunity to look at Lord Stevens’ report, which was published last week? In it, he says that the police are in danger of

“beating a retreat from the beat.”

Is it not time for us to reaffirm the importance of neighbourhood policing and the wider social justice purpose of policing?

The figures show that the proportion of police on the front line has gone up under this Government.

The Home Secretary will know that I am a strong supporter of the police, but I hope she will bear in mind the lack of confidence that exists in the way that complaints about the police are investigated. For the public to have confidence in the police, it is important that complaints are properly investigated. I have some serious issues in west Yorkshire about how a particular case has been dealt with. Will she look again at how West Yorkshire police investigates complaints about its own police officers?

My hon. Friend is right to raise the importance of ensuring that complaints against the police are dealt with properly and the concern that members of the public often have about the police investigating themselves. That is precisely why we are giving extra resources and powers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In future, the IPCC, rather than the police themselves, will investigate serious and sensitive complaints against the police. I am pleased to say that for the other complaints that will remain with the police at local level, many police and crime commissioners are looking at how they can introduce a degree of independent oversight or consideration of those complaints.

Greater Manchester police is constantly having to reform because its numbers have been cut by more than 400 since 2010. For the next 12 weeks, our local police and 150 specialist officers are being deployed to control a very small protest against the development of shale gas at Barton Moss. I am concerned that the police response to what is a small protest is complete overkill and very costly and that crime could soar in my constituency given that our diminished force is now being diminished even more.

I am pleased to say that crime in the Greater Manchester area is down by 9%. The hon. Lady raises the issue of how a particular protest is being policed by Greater Manchester police. That of course is an operational matter, which is entirely for the chief constable and officers of Greater Manchester police.

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that the Government are taking firm action to ensure that police forces accurately report crime statistics?

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the Home Office does ensure that there are rules about what particular crimes should be recorded. This is a matter that will be looked at, and is looked at, by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. Under our new arrangements, the police and crime commissioners have, in at least one case, taken action. In Kent, the PCC asked HMIC to come in and look at the recording of crime to see whether there were any problems and to ensure that lessons were learned.

In an unprecedented step commissioned by the Opposition and a royal commission in all but name, Lord Stevens reported last week with the most comprehensive analysis in half a century of British policing. He sounds the warning bell that the Government’s reforms, and cuts to the front line—10,460—and partnership working risk returning our police service to a discredited model of reactive policing. Does the Home Secretary agree with Lord Stevens and does she support his recommendation that there should be a guaranteed level of neighbourhood policing? It is what works and it is what local people want.

Of course, Lord Stevens produced a number of recommendations in his report and I am happy to say that the Government have put quite a few of them in place through all the reforms we have been making—reforms that have, I might say, been opposed at every stage by those on the Labour Front Bench.