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Police Numbers

Volume 677: debated on Monday 8 June 2020

The Government are of course committed to delivering an extra 20,000 police officers over the next three years and to putting violent criminals behind bars for longer. That is why we are giving the police literally wheelbarrows full of cash, with £700 million this year to help with the recruitment of 6,000 additional officers by the end of March 2021; 3,005 of those officers have already been recruited.

May I first ask the Minister to join me in congratulating all of Aylesbury’s police on ensuring that the Black Lives Matter march in the town on Saturday passed off peacefully? Thanks are also due to the organisers and the community partners for their co-operation. Having recently been on a socially distanced patrol with the police superintendent in Aylesbury, I know the increase in officer numbers and the cash my hon. Friend mentioned will be greatly appreciated. Can he assure me that the process of additional recruitment be sustained, despite the undoubted pressures on the public purse due to coronavirus?

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating his local police on the peaceful passing off of the protests in his area on Saturday, and I thank him for taking the trouble in his first few months as a Member of this House to spend some time with his local police. It is always informative, and I urge all Members to do the same.

Of all the promises made at the general election, I know that delivering Brexit and delivering 20,000 police officers are the two closest to the Prime Minister’s heart. With confidence, therefore, I can say that we will complete that task in the time allotted.

I want to take the opportunity to place on record my thanks to Jo Farrell, the chief constable of Durham and Darlington police force, for the calm and controlled conduct of her force and, in particular, for her excellent weekly cross-party virtual briefings to make sure that local MPs and council leaders are up to speed. In recent calls, one point of concern has been frustration with delays in restarting court proceedings. Will my hon. Friend further encourage the Ministry of Justice to do everything possible to find a safe way to make as much progress as possible in reopening courts, so that all our police forces’ work results in criminals being dealt with?

I join my hon. Friend in offering congratulations to his local police force and chief constable for the work they have done throughout the lockdown. Police across the entire country have done a fantastic job and remained remarkably resilient throughout the last few difficult weeks. He is right that the impact of the crisis on the courts has been profound and has resulted in the workload—the case load—rising quite significantly. Double-hatted as I am between the Home Office and the MOJ, I have a ringside seat on creating a recovery plan for the courts. On Friday, I held a meeting between the courts service, the Lord Chancellor and chief constables from across the country to start to outline the recovery plan to them, and I am confident that it will be put in place quite soon.

As the shadow Home Secretary said earlier, issues around the horrific killing of George Floyd and the protests at the weekend will be dealt with in a statement later this afternoon. Now, I would like to ask the Minister about his “wheelbarrows full of cash”. With many police and crime commissioners, we wrote to the Home Secretary in early May, responding to a letter from the Minister for Crime and Policing to a PCC suggesting that funding for recruitment of the first tranche of the 20,000 additional police officers promised by the Prime Minister be repurposed to fund the response to covid-19 pressures. Will the Minister categorically confirm today that that letter was incorrect and that funding for recruitment of those desperately needed additional staff will not be diverted, and that the wheelbarrows full of cash will continue to be used to recruit those 20,000 police as promised?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to clear up what is obviously a misunder- standing. Throughout the crisis, I have held weekly calls with police and crime commissioners across the country to talk to them about the issues they are facing. One issue brought to us relatively early was cash flow, as a number of forces have faced additional costs during the crisis and they felt that their cash flow—not the absolute cost, but their cash flow—might come under pressure. We therefore agreed to a number of measures, not least advancement of the pension grant and the early delivery of half of the ring-fenced funding for recruitment, to ease that cash-flow pressure. That is a separate issue from the overall cost, and our discussions with the Treasury about that cost and with PCCs are ongoing.