Police Grant Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:24 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Labour, Harrow East 2:24 pm, 3rd February 2010

I accept that, and the hon. Gentleman is, in a different way, putting the point about floors and ceilings again. However, considerable progress has been made over the past 10 to 13 years in the allocation of resources and in trying to reflect the needs of local areas. I think we should go further on that, of course, and we could, and should, do that on a cross-party basis in future.

Whatever the difficulties in terms of police authorities, the Opposition are in a state of confusion about the notion of having elected police commissioners. If that were in place now, we would be in considerable difficulty, because, effectively, the person whom the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell has ordained as the role model for elected police commissioners has just walked off the pitch. The Mayor of London has just said, "I don't like this any more. It is too tough. I cannot be bothered being chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority." He said in his manifesto, no less- [Interruption.] I would like Members to listen to this, and I apologise for being metro-centric, but that is just the way I am. [Interruption.] I said "metro-centric", not "metro" something else. In his manifesto, the future Mayor said:

"It is important for the Mayor to take a public lead, so I will chair the Metropolitan Police Authority. I will take personal responsibility. No offence will be too trivial to demand my attention. No challenge will be so big that I shrug my shoulders and pass the buck."

What has he done just last week, however? He has shrugged his shoulders, passed the buck, and said to himself, "I know what I'll do; as £140,000 is not enough, I will write another column for The Daily Telegraph for £250,000." He can afford the time to do that, therefore. In the same week that he gave up the chairmanship of the MPA, he also said, "Think green, vote blue" and "I can't be bothered with the London waste authority either." The chairmanship of that is in the Mayor's gift, but he cannot be bothered to do that either.

The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell needs to think about this idea of having elected police commissioners. It is terribly badly thought through, and he has managed to do something I could not do in two and a half years in ministerial office: unite the police world against him. The idea must be wrong in some aspects, therefore. I fully accept and concede that when I was a Home Office Minister, we discussed these issues and agreed that there was something lacking in terms of accountability, but elected police commissioners are not the way to address that. That is a mad idea.

I have said in a London context that there must be some way in which local councils can more readily hold to account their borough commander for local policing, and that that is not captured through the MPA structures. That issue is complicated in London because the Met does so much nationally as well. We were also told by the Mayor that he would spend less on press officers and redirect more resources to front-line policing. How many fewer press officers are there now than when Mr. Johnson came into office? What is the difference between his quota of press officers and Ken Livingstone's? None; the number has not changed at all. Someone who does the counting right might be able to say that Mr. Johnson has saved 0.5 of a press officer post and that is it. We were told in fluid style during the campaign that he would cut the number of press officers and that that would fund four new rape crisis centres, which, as the police and everybody fully accept, are needed. Have they happened? No. We have one such centre-some might say that we have one and a half, but barely so-and by the end of his term two will be completed. Promises that were made barely two years ago have not been delivered, to the consequence of London. In this context, the only new money-additional money-that London will get this year is the 2.7 per cent. for the next two years that the Minister announced among other things today.

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