The Prime Minister has made it one of his chief priorities to strengthen police numbers over the next three years by 20,000, starting with 6,000 by the end of March 2021.
Gwent police’s budget has been cut by 40% in real terms since 2010, so the Government’s plans to recruit will only take us back to where we were in 2010, if that. What assurances have Ministers given Gwent police that this programme and, importantly, pension costs will be funded after the first year?
I am happy to say that Gwent police are already up 42 police officers on last year’s budget settlement. A target of a further 62 has been allocated in the latest funding round. Announcements about police funding will be made as usual in early December, and I am confident that there will be smiles all round at Gwent police when we do that.
My hon. Friend is right to highlight that the excellent police and crime commissioner—I have met her several times now—for Cornwall is over in Portcullis House, demonstrating what a great job the police do in that part of the world. As I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, there has already been an initial allocation of police officers to his county force and there will be more news to come. We are in conversation with the policing community more widely about the allocation of police officers for years 2 and 3 of the uplift programme. Once that is concluded, I will let him know.
At my weekend surgery, a constituent who had phoned the police time after time about neighbours from hell living above him said that he realised, at one moment of desperation, that he had a hammer in his hand. Had he used that hammer against those neighbours from hell, the police would have turned up—no doubt very quickly—and he would have been the object of their attention, not the neighbours from hell. When I meet the Minister tomorrow to discuss extra police for Birkenhead, will he give a commitment not only in terms of numbers but that the police should stand on the side of decent citizens, not on the side of neighbours from hell?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the police standing on the side of decent citizens. When I hear distress calls from across the country about people who are not getting the response that they require from the police, I refer everybody to the police and crime commissioner for that area, who is responsible for performance and priority in the police force in question. Happily, the right hon. Gentleman will know that 200 police officers have been allocated from the uplift to Merseyside police, as a target for it to recruit over the next 12 months or so, and there will be more to come when we settle years 2 and 3. Like him, I want to see more police officers patrolling in Birkenhead, particularly in Hamilton Square, which holds fond memories for me as a child.
Police officers are on the frontline of defeating terrorism. The Minister will join me and all others here in welcoming the news of the demise of Baghdadi, the leader of the evil, vile and barbaric organisation Daesh. My question to the Minister is this: military action alone will not defeat Daesh—in 2015, I led the campaign to get the terminology right—so what step will he take to ensure that further work goes on to defeat the idea, the ideology and the appeal, which suck in vulnerable individuals from around the world and here in the UK?
I well remember my hon. Friend’s persistent questioning from the Back Benches of former Prime Ministers to get the terminology right about this mission. He is quite right that we all need to work together on a multi-stranded approach to prevent young people from being seduced into these evil ideologies and practices across the world, and the police are at the forefront of that. I hope and believe that some of the measures put in place to bind the police as closely as possible into society will assist in that mission.
In July on the steps of Downing Street, and again in his heavily criticised speech in front of new police recruits in West Yorkshire, the Prime Minister promised 20,000 new police officers for the frontline, but a leaked Home Office letter suggests that as many as 7,000 of these will not be going to local forces. With the Budget now scrapped, it is anyone’s guess if and how these officers will be recruited, so will the Minister tell us: will every one of those 20,000 officers be going to the frontline, as promised by the Prime Minister—yes or no?
The hon. Lady makes a good point about the allocation of police officers across the piece of policing, and I know that every single warranted police officer regards themselves as being on the frontline, whatever job they do. She will know that we have allocated the first 6,000 police officers to territorial policing, but there is a conversation to be had about further allocations, specifically to serious and organised crime, through the National Crime Agency, and to counter-terrorism policing, and about the balance between those and the territorial forces. I would not regard any one of those functions as non-frontline.