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Special Constables

Volume 626: debated on Monday 3 July 2017

Since 1831, special constables have made a genuinely valuable contribution to local policing. That is why we should keep under regular review what the Government do to support that work.

Will my hon. Friend congratulate the 358 special constables in Essex, and congratulate Essex police on their push to encourage even more people to become special constables? Will he consider making it easier for councils to offer council tax rebates to special constables so that we can give something back to those who serve in our communities?

I thank my right hon. Friend for that. He has been a tireless champion for volunteering, and for special constables in particular. He represents a county that, through the leadership of police and crime commissioner Roger Hirst, is showing real leadership in trying to encourage more special constables. At the moment, we provide access to insurance for legal expenses. There is provision for out-of-allowance expenses, and there is provision in law for discretionary benefits such as discounts on council tax, but I am happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss how we can go further.

In welcoming back the hon. Member for Stroud (Dr Drew), I am informed that during his enforced and involuntary absence he has become a doctor of philosophy, upon which the House wishes to congratulate him, I am sure.

I had to do something with my wasted years.

I welcome the police Minister to his place. We all congratulate the specials on the work they do, which is of course first-rate, but it seems to me from my experience—I am going out with the specials on Friday, so I am sure they will tell me in no uncertain terms whether I am right—that being in the specials is no longer an entrance point to the full-time constabulary. Is there a reason for that? If it is because of problems of release or of financial support, will the Minister look into that and do something about it?

I add my voice to the congratulations to the hon. Gentleman, with whom I used to serve on the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; it seems like 1,000 years ago. I would be concerned if what he says were true. It is not what I hear and not what the data tell me about the number of specials who go on to become regular police officers, but I will keep it under regular review.

As a former special constable—I am sure that will not be the last time that is mentioned from this Dispatch Box—I saw at first hand the dedication and bravery of our frontline officers, but I also witnessed a collapse in morale as the Government ignored warnings over jobs, pay and resources, and this has only gotten worse. Only last month at the Police Federation conference, the Home Secretary dismissed the concerns of an officer who told her how pay cuts had left him struggling to put food on his table. Does the Minister agree with the Home Secretary or the Foreign Secretary on whether our bravest and best should continue to experience a real-terms pay cut until 2020?

I thank and congratulate the hon. Lady on the contribution that she has made as a special constable. In relation to police pay, let me be very clear: we want to make sure that frontline public service workers, including the police, are paid fairly for their work, not least because of the contribution that they have made over the years to reducing the deficit that we inherited from Labour, and, in that context, the work they have done to safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs. How we do that in a sustainable and affordable way is under active discussion.