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Policing Budgets

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2018

4. What assessment he has made of the effect of changes to policing budgets since 2015 on Welsh police forces. (905010)

The Government understand that police demand is changing and becoming increasingly complex. That is why, after speaking to all forces in England and Wales, we have provided a comprehensive funding settlement which will increase total investment in the police system by over £460 million in 2018-19.

Cardiff hosts more than 400 major events a year—civic, political and royal—as a UK capital city, and on top of the Government’s police funding cuts, my constituents are having to find money to pay an extra £3 million for the annual cost of policing those events, which is the equivalent of 60 police officers. When are the Government going to recognise South Wales police as a capital city force, with proper funding to match?

As I said earlier, we have consulted all the police and crime commissioners and chief constables, as they are ultimately best placed to understand their local needs. Following the police funding settlement, most PCCs have set out plans either to protect or to increase frontline policing this year. I acknowledge the hon. Lady’s point on Cardiff; that is part of a national formula, but I will be happy to meet her if she wants to discuss it further.

Does the Minister agree that policing is not just about budgets and money, although they do matter, but about leadership, strategy and organisation?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I saw an interesting statistic recently: if we increase productivity through the better use of digital technology, we could save each police officer an hour a day, when they could be on the frontline. That would be the equivalent of 11,000 extra police officers a year on the streets of the country.

I, too, extend my condolences to the family of Tecwyn Thomas. He was well known, and was ready to work with other parties, including mine, to the benefit of his area.

Police forces in Wales pay £2 million a year towards the Government apprenticeship levy, yet get virtually no financial support towards training. Skills and education are devolved competences, but this levy was imposed by Westminster—cue entirely predictable confusion and buck-passing. Where was the consent decision to impose a 0.5% tax on major Welsh employers?

In the conversations I have had with many businesses around north Wales, they have welcomed the apprenticeship levy—

Well, I have been round a number of businesses, and they welcome the levy. The fact is that training in Wales is devolved, as the hon. Lady has said, and the amount of money that the UK Government have given to the Welsh Government exceeds the amount that the Welsh Government are spending on training.

I am sure the Minister shares my concern that the word “Orwellian” is overused in contemporary politics, but does he also share my concern that the Orwellian concept of doublespeak is epitomised in what now constitutes devolved consent agreement—namely, consent as agreeing to consent, consent as disagreeing to consent and consent as refusing to consent? How can Wales possibly say no?

There have been extensive discussions with the Welsh Government, and they have recognised that the UK Government have come a long way and that the levy is beneficial to the whole United Kingdom. I hope that other Governments will follow suit.

Order. If the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) wants to come in briefly on this question, he can, but he is not obliged to do so.

9. A recent report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary on the National Police Air Service concluded that the service was financially unsustainable and that flying hours had halved despite the cost of flight hours doubling. Is it not the reality that the centralisation of police air support on an England and Wales basis has been an unmitigated failure, and that the decision of the British Government to steal our dedicated police helicopter in Dyfed-Powys has led to a second-rate service for my constituents? (905015)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the responsibility for overseeing NPAS lies with its strategic board, which is made up of police and crime commissioners and chief constables, including the Dyfed-Powys PCC. Both NPAS and the National Police Chiefs Council have already announced that they are undertaking work to address the issues that he has raised, and Mark Burns-Williamson has said that many of the areas identified in the report have already been recognised and they are doing work to address them.