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Police Recruitment

Volume 574: debated on Monday 27 January 2014

3. What recent representations she has received on the effect of the cost of a certificate in knowledge of policing on the recruitment to the police of black and minority ethnic groups and disadvantaged groups; and if she will publish the equalities impact assessment of that policy. (902167)

Other than from the hon. Lady, no representations have been received on this matter. To improve recruitment standards, we have given forces a range of entry routes that they should use to recruit a work force who reflect the communities that they serve. A copy of the equality impact assessment produced by the College of Policing is available on its website.

When the Home Secretary opened her College of Policing last year, she said:

“Policing needs to be able to attract the brightest and best—regardless of their background. It should not place artificial barriers in their way”.

In the past week, I have received numerous complaints about the college’s £1,000 bobby tax on police recruits. As the bobby tax has to be paid up front, and there is no guarantee of an interview or a job at the end of the course, or even of passing the course, it is clearly an unacceptable barrier to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds joining the police. Why will the Minister not instruct police forces to scrap this insidious tax on our police and young people?

The certificate of knowledge in policing is designed precisely to improve the standards of those entering the police force, to make them even more professional. From this year, the Metropolitan police will offer financial support to help with the costs of the CKP, in the form of an interest-free loan, which will be available on the basis of London residency and means-tested household income, so that will specifically be available to the hon. Lady’s constituents.

Following on from that question, on the policing of ethnic minorities, the Minister will know that I am greatly concerned about the welfare of African-Caribbean people held in detention environments, and of those with mental health issues. Is there anything that the Minister can say today to reassure me that Front Benchers are aware of this concern, and are doing something about it?

I am indeed aware of my hon. Friend’s concern, not least because I have debated the matter with him in this House. I am able to reassure him further: my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has written to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary on the subject, because we take it extremely seriously.

Can the Minister say what the recruitment of black and ethnic minorities is like in the west midlands? Can he give us the figures?

I do not have the west midlands figures immediately to hand, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman about that. If he is asking whether the police should do more to recruit ethnic minority recruits, yes, they should. That is why the College of Policing is devoting much of its early energies to this matter. Everyone throughout the police service, and certainly in government, believes that the police should reflect the communities that they serve, and that more needs to be done, both in how the police act on the streets and how they seek new recruits, to make sure that the police are more reflective of the whole community that they serve.

My right hon. Friend and, I think, the whole House will agree that police forces need to reflect the ethnic diversity of the communities that they serve. Does he agree that one way to do that is possibly by recruiting more special constables from those communities, so that forces can use their language and other skills? I have a significant community of Kashmiri origin in my constituency, and I would like the opportunity for a number of them to become special constables. They would bring to the role a lot of knowledge and other skills that are much needed in policing.

I agree very much with my right hon. Friend. The specials do a great job anyway, and their recruitment is particularly important, both as a way of increasing the diversity of forces, and as an entry route to full-time paid policing. Specials bring a degree of expertise from outside the traditional policing route, but many find it such a satisfactory career that they wish to pursue it full time.

Do the words “disadvantaged groups” in the question suggest that white working-class people should also gain from any measures?

It is not for me to anticipate what the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) was thinking when she tabled the question, but I have made the point that the Metropolitan police is offering interest-free loans; as I say, they will be made on the basis of residency in London—because the commissioner of the Met is keen that policing in London be done increasingly by people who live in the Metropolitan police area—and on the basis of means-testing. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) can be reassured on that point.