Is the Minister aware that, according to the North Yorkshire chief constable's annual reports, the number of offences in the county in 1979 was 20,000, and falling, and that last year the number of recorded offences was 50,000, and rising? Is he aware that, under the last Labour Government, in five years Labour Home Secretaries gave North Yorkshire 151 additional police officers, whereas in the 13 years of Conservative Government the county has received only 46 additional police officers? Can the hon. Gentleman tell me of any other part of the police service that has had to deal with a 150 per cent. increase in workload with only a 4 per cent. increase in the number of officers? Finally, can he tell me when North Yorkshire will get the additional police officers that it so badly needs to prevent crime?
The hon. Gentleman should beware of making comparisons on the basis of 1979. The average annual increase in reported offences in North Yorkshire was higher in the five years prior to 1979 than it has been since then. The number of police officers in North Yorkshire has risen to 1,391 and there are 447 civilians in post. Nationally, spending on the police has increased since 1979 by 74 per cent., net of inflation. What matters in combating crime is the way in which the police are deployed. That is a matter for the chief constable and the effectiveness of our crime prevention. There are nearly 2,200 neighbourhood watch schemes in North Yorkshire.
I warmly welcome my hon. Friend to his new responsibilities and warn him that the last junior Minister I so welcomed was my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip. Does he agree that if all police forces in Great Britain were run as effectively and efficiently as the North Yorkshire police, the fight against crime would be all the greater—and more efficent, too? Is he aware that this year the North Yorkshire police have concluded a three-year programme of investment in new telecommunications, computer and telephone equipment, which means that eight officers can now be released to outside duties? Will the flexibility to spend their money in the way that they wish be continued?
I thank my hon. Friend for his first remarks. His knowledge of police matters, for which he is widely respected, is well known. He is absolutely right in what he says about the initiatives that have been taken by the North Yorkshire police. They have taken a number of initiatives and have worked with the local community on crime prevention, to good effect.