Twenty seven extra police posts were approved for Leicestershire in April so that a total of 54 have been approved since May 1979. In addition, some 130 police officers have been returned to operational duties as a result of civilianisation and other efficiency measures.
The police authority has applied for my right hon. Friend's approval of 75 more posts in 1990–91. Our aim is to announce decisions on this, and applications from other authorities, towards the end of this year.
Is the Minister aware that one of the few areas in which the Members of Parliament for Leicestershire agree, with the possible exception of the right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson), is that we do not have nearly enough police, that the level of crime, which has doubled since the Conservatives came to office, is insupportable, and that it was wrong to turn down the applications of two successive chief constables for a considerable increase in the number of policemen? Is he aware that all Members of Parliament for the area have expressed in the House their view that it is not safe for people to go out at night in parts of Leicester because there are not enough policemen on the beat and that the Government's continued refusal to accept the recommendations of chief constables is unworthy and wrong?
I have good news for Leicestershire. As I have said, we have increased police posts by 54, a process of civilianisation has freed 130 officers for operational duties and that process is continuing. There is more good news. In 1978–79 expenditure on the Leicestershire constabulary was £15·65 million. In the current year it is £57 million—a huge increase. There is more good news. The hon. and learned Gentleman may have noticed that in 1988 there was a fall of 9·3 per cent. in sexual offences and 5·7 per cent. in burglaries. All that is good news and it is a great pity that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not point out those facts.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, contrary to the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), the recent announcement of an increase in police for Leicestershire has been widely welcomed, although it may not be an ideal figure? Will my hon. Friend congratulate the force on the tremendous strides that it has taken towards civilianisation? Is it not a fact that spending on police in England and Wales has been higher than spending on almost any other area of government during this Administration?
As one would expect from my hon. Friend, he has given a comprehensive summary of the position. I am sure that the House would like to know that spending this year, compared with the last year of the Labour Government, is 54·9 per cent. up in real terms—a huge increase. We never hear any mention of that from the empty Opposition Benches.
As regards the efficiency of the Leicestershire constabulary, it is a great pity that the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) did not draw attention to its exceptionally high clear-up rate—42·8 per cent., compared with 35·2 per cent. in England and Wales. I am also glad to say that the county has a much lower crime rate of 5,712 per 100,000 of population, compared with 7,396 in England and Wales, excluding the City and Metropolitan police.