Adjournment (Summer)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:17 pm on 9th July 1992.

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Photo of Mrs Angela Knight Mrs Angela Knight , Erewash 6:17 pm, 9th July 1992

The hon. Member has been too hasty. I shall come to that matter in a moment. I am sorry that he is not supporting the other hon. Members who represent Derbyshire constituencies in trying to ensure that there is adequate policing in the county.

I deal now with the police authority. As with other county forces, the police authority is a committee of the county council. The inspector of constabulary last year informed the chairman of the police authority, who is, incidentally, a Labour county councillor, that he considered the force inadequately resourced to provide an efficient service. The county council then requested an increase in the standard spending assessment, which it got.

At the end of last year, it emerged that in recent years the Derbyshire constabulary had not been allowed to submit a budget for consideration by the police authority. No other police authority is treated in that way. In the end, the chairman of the police authority agreed that the chief constable could submit a budget in February but, long before that date, the chairman said openly that he would not allow the police force a budget that was up to SSA level—the new SSA level which the county council had asked for. However, I am glad that the police authority took a different view, and granted a budget which was up to SSA level. The county council then overturned that decision. That is an appalling case of mismanagement of the police by the county council.

I make three further points. First, the recommendations of the inspector of constabulary's report should be implemented to ensure effective policing for my constituents in Erewash and for the residents of Derbyshire. To do that, the Home Office must continue to put pressure on the county council as that is the only way of ensuring that it discharges its duties. Although I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary for his persistence in seeking regular progress reports, there is, sadly, no evidence whatsoever of the county council having a real determination to deal with the issue properly.

Secondly, in former metropolitan counties such as South Yorkshire, the police force is allowed to precept separately, to raise its money separately from the local authority. That means that it has greater financial independence and is not dependent on the whim of a local county council and its spending plans. The police authority is still there, but it is able to discharge its duties more effectively because its financial decisions cannot be overturned, as happened in Derbyshire. Consideration should be given to that proposal for county forces so that they are allowed to precept independently.

Thirdly, few people doubt that today's police have a tough job, as increasingly violent crimes are committed on people and property. The police have an unenviable job, because we expect them to protect us. We should do all we can to support them, but that has not happened in Derbyshire.

For those reasons, I believe that the House should not adjourn until it has discussed the matter more fully.