The Home Secretary and I hold regular bilateral meetings with police work force representatives. I have said since day one as the police Minister that my door is always open to those representatives.
The Minister will know, then, what pressure front-line policing is under. The Government promised to protect and even increase front-line policing numbers, yet 8,000 front-line jobs have gone. Why will the Home Office not look at alternative ways of saving money, such as introducing better procurement practices or scrapping police and crime commissioners, rather than pursuing plans to axe yet another 20,000 officers?
I would have thought that the hon. Lady would have praised the work that is being done by Avon and Somerset police, rather than following the party line. In her constituency there has actually been a 5% increase in front-line officers, who are not doing back-room work, and a 21% cut in crime.
Avon and Somerset police have indeed done very well. However, an understandable operational response to difficult budgets is to withdraw policing from rural areas, which empirically have a lower level of crime. That is understandable, but wrong. Will the Minister reassure me that he will tell all police forces that they have a duty to people who live in rural areas? Those people must not think that they are being exposed to crime or abandoned by the forces of law and order.
I assure my right hon. Friend that each time I go into any force I say to anybody who listens to me not only that it is their duty to address rural crime—my constituency has large rural areas—but that all crime, no matter where it is, needs to be detected and prosecuted.