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Regionalising Police Forces

Volume 590: debated on Monday 5 January 2015

The Government have no plans to move away from the localism that local police forces give us. Localism is something for which the hon. Gentleman campaigned for many years.

Does the Minister recognise that although there may be advantages to be gained by regionalisation, such as economies of scale, larger police forces could mean a greater distance between the public and the police and less local accountability?

I am slightly confused, because the hon. Gentleman campaigned for the introduction of police and crime commissioners when he was a Conservative Member and sat on the Government Benches. Is he now saying that they should not be there? Perhaps it is just a UKIP policy: one day one thing, and the next day another. At the end of the day, local democracy means that local authorities can make decisions. If they want to amalgamate, they can submit a business plan to us. Manchester has done that, but it is the only one.

Would not regionalising policing mean either the abolition of PCCs or a multiplication of several times over in the size of their constituencies? Does the Minister agree that either course would be a terrible slap in the face for those who campaigned so hard for so long for the system we now have?

There are many present in the Chamber—including, perhaps, one Opposition Member—who have campaigned for localism over many years and who passionately believe in it. PCCs give that to the community and I cannot understand why anybody would change their mind about them.

Proposals to merge Northamptonshire police with an east midlands police force, as advanced by the Labour party when it was in power, would have been disastrous for Northamptonshire. The present proposals from the police commissioner and the head of the local fire brigade to increasingly merge their operations make lot of sense on so many levels. Will my right hon. Friend encourage this?

Not only will I encourage it, but I have seen it going on around the country. Taxpayers’ money needs to be spent efficiently and it must be done in a way that is right for the emergency services. I have seen that happen, and if it happens in my hon. Friend’s constituency then so be it, but it will be a local decision.