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Police: Additional Officers

Volume 799: debated on Monday 30 September 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government by what date the additional 20,000 police officers announced by the Prime Minister will be deployed on duty and how many of the following categories of staff in forces in England and Wales they estimate there will be on that date compared to April 2010: (1) police officers, (2) special constables, (3) police community support officers, and (4) police staff.

My Lords, I refer to my interests as recorded in the register and beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, the Government have committed to recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers over the next three years. Through the police uplift programme, the Home Office and policing partners will also ensure that the wider workforce is supported, including special constables, PCSOs and staff.

My Lords, we welcome the noble Earl to the Home Office portfolio, which he will enjoy with great gusto, I am sure. He has not answered the Question, which asked for a comparison of how many police officers were in position when the Conservatives came to power. Perhaps he has not answered the Question because in fact the so-called 20,000 extra officers will not bring the level back up to the level at that point. Is the noble Earl satisfied, given the documents in the Operation Yellowhammer file that suggested that there may be rioting on the streets in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the comments of a Cabinet Minister to the Times in the past few days suggesting that there will be rioting on the streets commensurate with the gilets jaunes in France if Brexit does not proceed, that the police have adequate resources to cope with the pressures that they are now facing?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his question. He raises the subject of police numbers. The important thing is to look to the future. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has announced a further 20,000 increase in the police force. Importantly, we will be aiming for 6,000 in year one, 8,000 in year two and 6,000 in year three. I am confident that the police will deal with all the demands on their time.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the clear-up rate for crime has dropped from more than 17% five years ago to under 8% on the most recent figures, and that one element of that is undoubtedly the reduction in community teams as a result of the cutback to the number of police officers available? Can he give a guarantee that, with the increases coming back to we hope somewhere near where the figure stood a few years ago with the 20,000 additional police recruits, emphasis will be given to community teams to ensure that intelligence is picked up?

The noble Lord makes a good point, particularly on the community teams and the valued work they carry out. The noble Lord will be aware that the deployment of officers is a decision that will be made by the local chief constables and the democratically accountable police and crime commissioners, so where these resources go will be in their hands.

My Lords, does the noble Earl not think that having all these extra police officers will require management? Does he know whether police superintendents will be included in that number and, following on from that, whether any other police resources will be given to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which desperately needs more officers?

The noble Baroness mentioned police resources in Northern Ireland. I will ensure that my noble friend the Minister is aware of her question; I will ask him to respond to that part of it. The noble Baroness makes some important points. It is so important that we get the training right so that the logistics are in there. This is all part of the scheme. The logistics will be available to properly train these police recruits. There have so far been 160,000 hits on the employment site advertising these jobs, of which over half looked at specific recruitment opportunities.

My Lords, Ministers have told the House from the Dispatch Box on many occasions that there is no correlation between the number of police officers and the level of crime. Would the noble Earl like to reconsider that statement in the light of this recruitment announcement and the Prime Minister’s comments that accompanied it?

My Lords, as the noble Lord will be fully aware, the important matter is that we will have these extra police additions to the force. They have an important part to play. I will not enter into any discussion over what has happened in the past; I will look toward the future, which is looking a great deal better for the police force of the United Kingdom.

My Lords, does the noble Earl accept that one of the real concerns about the reduction in the number of police officers has been that many police forces have given up their specialist child protection teams to make child protection part of the general service? Can the noble Earl use his good influence to ensure that, as these new recruits come on, priority is given to the restoration of specialist police child protection teams?

My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point about the child protection teams and how they should be able to do their jobs to protect children, which we can all agree is very important. I will pass that on to my noble friend the Minister. As the noble Lord will be aware, and as I said earlier, decisions on extra staffing and where the staffing requirements go will be down to the chief constables and police and crime commissioners.

My Lords, when the former Mayor of London—our current Prime Minister—oversaw dismissals, sackings and the emptying out of the Met Police, it was obvious that he removed an awful lot of people who did the backroom jobs and people at sergeant level, who are the sort of people who will make these police officers more effective on the streets. Do the Government have a plan that will back-fill all these roles that are so crucial to the police being effective?

The noble Baroness makes a good point: it is so important that these extra police we get working on our streets are effective in the work they carry out. It is therefore also important that these new officers are given the right training for modern policing. The college, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Home Office are working closely together to ensure that sufficient capacity is in place.