Metropolitan Police (Recruitment)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12 March 2001.

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Mr. Keith Danrill:

What measures he is taking to increase the recruitment of police officers to the Metropolitan police service. [151700]

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government have provided generous funding to the Metropolitan police service to enable it to increase its police numbers. The Met has been allocated a total of 2,044 recruits under the crime fighting fund. That, combined with the resources recently agreed with the Greater London Authority, should enable the Met to increase its target strength by 1,050 officers, to 26,650, in the coming year.

Other measures to boost recruitment in the Met include the increase of about £3,300 a year in the London allowance paid to officers in the Met and the City of London police who joined after 1994, the provision of free rail travel within a 70-mile radius of London for the Met's officers, and the national recruitment campaign. Several outline bids covering the Metropolitan police area are also being assessed under the first round of the Government's starter homes initiative

Photo of Mr Keith Darvill Mr Keith Darvill Labour, Upminster

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, and I am grateful to him for reminding the House of the raft of measures that address recruitment and retention in the Metropolitan police service. Can he assure me that he will continue to monitor closely the progress being made to increase police numbers, and will he ensure in particular that outer London police divisions, such as Havering, have their fair share of police officers? Despite the Government's creditable performance in reducing overall crime by 10 per cent., concern remains that police numbers still need to reflect the changing demands in localities, so that the Metropolitan police can continue to bear down on criminal behaviour.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I fully understand the needs of the outer London boroughs, not least Havening—an area I know well. As my hon. Friend knows, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has removed an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy from the Metropolitan police service. That is releasing officers for front-line duties, as is his policy of dealing with unnecessary sick leave, which in turn has released more than 500 officers for front-line duties. The bare gross figures do not tell the full story about numbers, but I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that recruitment in the last month was running at double the level of a year ago.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Given the mix-up over Metropolitan police housing in the Greater London Authority Act 1999, does the Home Secretary accept that the motivation of pre-Sheehy and post-Sheehy officers in Metropolitan police housing may be adversely affected by the turn of events, and that retention as well as recruitment may be at stake?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's concern, but as he knows, we are taking steps to put the matter right. The latest figures show a net increase in the number of officers going into the Metropolitan police service. In general, morale is greatly improving—all the data suggest that—and a major factor in that improvement is the provision of free rail travel for all officers.