My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer to another Urgent Question given in the other place today by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Police. The Answer is as follows:
“First, I apologise to the honourable lady and to the House for not being in the Chamber when she put the Question. The visit to the UK of any President of the United States of America is a significant and historic event. I reassure the House that the police have developed robust plans to ensure the safety and security of the visit. The three main forces involved are the Metropolitan Police Service, Thames Valley Police and Essex. Nearly all forces in England and Wales are providing officers and resources to assist with the policing plans. This is under existing mutual aid arrangements and is being co-ordinated by the National Police Coordination Centre.
It is a long-standing tradition in this country that people are free to gather together and demonstrate their views. The police are aware of a number of protests planned across the country and will be working to manage these. The Metropolitan Police Service anticipates protest in London, including two large-scale protests tomorrow and on Saturday.
Proportionate policing plans are in place to support them. This is a significant policing operation and comes, as the House knows, at a time when police resources are also focused on investigating the incidents in Salisbury, protecting us against terrorist attacks and delivering their local policing plans. We will consider any requests for special grant funding in line with normal processes.
I conclude by stating for the record something I am sure the whole House feels, which is our appreciation for the incredible hard work that our police officers and their partners are doing to facilitate this visit successfully. That comes on top of the work they do every day in every community to protect the public”.
My Lords, I join the Minister in appreciating the incredible work that our police and other partner agencies do to keep us safe. I fully support the right of people to protest peacefully while President Trump is here in the United Kingdom. It is such a contrast to how President Obama was received a few years ago. I recall the wonderful address he gave to both Houses in Westminster Hall and the time he took to leave the Hall because he was talking to Members of both Houses.
With police budgets under pressure and gun, knife and other violent crime rising, it is important that any requests for additional grant funding are considered in the context of the pressure police budgets are already under and the duty to keep citizens safe. Can the Minister confirm that that will be the case?
I most certainly can. As the noble Lord will know, there are established processes for PCCs to make an application for additional funding if they face unexpected and exceptional expenditure—and I am sure this is such expenditure—which would otherwise create a serious threat to the force’s financial stability and its capacity to deliver normal policing.
My Lords, I shall continue the theme of funding. We continue to believe that the police are underfunded, particularly considering that 60% of funding for police services comes from central government and that amount is reducing in real terms. Police officers on mutual aid operations to ensure President Trump’s safety are being housed in gymnasiums. There are hundreds of officers in one space on camp beds. Male officers are having to pass through sleeping areas designated for female officers. Some female officers are being accommodated on the floor of squash courts where there are no beds, simply a mat on the floor for them to sleep on. These officers are having to spend three nights in these conditions and are then expected to work 12-hour shifts. Why has the Home Office not proactively stepped in to ensure that forces have sufficient funds to provide civilised accommodation for these officers? How do the Government expect police officers to treat the public fairly if this is the way the Government treat them?
I totally sympathise with the noble Lord’s point. Police officers who work in the line of duty to protect the public should absolutely be given decent accommodation. I shall quote the NPCC’s spokesman:
“Some of the accommodation pictured today for officers supporting the major operation for the US Presidential visit is not acceptable and below the standard of other accommodation for this operation”.
I understand that Essex Police is working at speed to resolve this and to ensure that the affected officers will be decently accommodated. The spokesman also thanked the officers who raised this issue because what the noble Lord outlined is utterly unacceptable.
The Minister set out the context of how PCCs can apply for additional funding for the costs associated with policing the President’s visit to the UK. Does she think that the conditions highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, are a prime example of where funding should be brought in quickly and urgently to deal with those issues?
It certainly could be an example of where costs were not expected but were incurred. Therefore PCCs would be eligible to apply for extra funding.