Uniformed Police

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18 January 1996.

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Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe , Bradford South 12:00, 18 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the Police Federation concerning the proposed increase in uniformed officers. [7582]

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I discussed the proposed increase in the number of uniformed officers with the Police Federation at the time of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's announcement. The federation chairman described the announcement as a tremendous boost for the Service.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe , Bradford South

Federation members locally are concerned about the announcement of extra police. The Government are kidding no one but themselves if they think the fear of crime has improved. Crime is as bad now as it was, it is getting worse and ordinary people are suffering.

Police establishment figures were cancelled two years ago, and numbers were left to the discretion of chief constables. Is that because two years ago West Yorkshire had 5,295 officers, whereas it now has only 5,120? Where are these extra police officers?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The reason for the change is that it is what chief constables—including the chief constable of West Yorkshire—wanted. Since 1979, the number of police officers in West Yorkshire has increased by 383 and the number of civilians by 774, and West Yorkshire will receive enough funds to recruit 200 extra constables over the next three years. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will draw those figures to his constituents' attention.

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

Notwithstanding the facts drawn to our attention by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson), does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that morale among the well-led police in West Yorkshire is as high as it has been for many years? My constituents like to see uniformed police about. Will my right hon. and learned Friend continue to get them away from their desks and on duty?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is largely a result of that morale, or associated with it, that the last crime figures that I saw for West Yorkshire showed a 5.5 per cent. reduction over the 12 months in question: 16,000 fewer crimes had been committed in the area.

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

Does the Home Secretary recall that, in the 1992 Conservative manifesto, his party promised to provide 1,000 extra police officers in that year? Does he further recall that only 771 were appointed, and is he aware that since then the number has been reduced by 1,333? That information is based on Government statistics that I was given recently in a parliamentary answer.

What reason do the people of Greater London, Greater Manchester, Wales, Avon and Somerset, West Mercia and other areas that have experienced a reduction in the number of police officers since 1993 have to trust the Government's current promises any more than they should have trusted the broken promises of 1992?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not for a moment accept the figures given by the hon. and learned Gentleman. This year alone, we expect to have an extra 400 officers across the country, and, as a result of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's announcement, we shall have an extra 5,000 over the next three years. As for the Metropolitan police, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman specifically referred, as I said earlier this afternoon there are now 21,600 constables in the Met—more than ever before, and 5,000 more than there were in 1979.

Photo of Mr Matthew Banks Mr Matthew Banks , Southport

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, contrary to the misleading impression created by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), he has ensured that next year alone chief constables throughout the country will be able to create up to 1,000 new posts for bobbies on the beat?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The money has been provided, following agreement with the Association of Chief Police Officers, and I hope very much that chief constables will recruit the extra officers.