Police Grant Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 3:53 pm, 3rd February 2010

I am grateful for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I concur heartily with my hon. Friend.

May I finish on some of the points made by my hon. Friends? I totally agree with the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon. The problem with the mooted 2006 mergers was that they were top-down and forced; there was little public consultation and little opportunity to debate properly the issues surrounding the specific challenges and problems of each force. The then Home Secretary understood that. There is ample evidence that, on payroll, human resources, procurement and premises, local police forces can and will work together. My hon. Friend is right about Devon and Somerset fire service, which is accruing significant savings as a result of that.

There is a huge deficit in accountability because many senior police officers are accountable to no one but the Home Secretary in practice. They must be accountable within strict parameters and a framework that we all buy into and understand and that has legitimacy in the House and beyond to local people, with their local priorities. We should never be in a situation where the operational decisions of the police are in the hands of politicians, who may use them for electoral advantage. I do not agree with that, and that is not the case in most places in the world. However, we need that golden thread between ordinary people on the street and their experience of crime and policing, and the people who make the decisions in central Government and at local level in the constabulary. For that reason, I heartily support the call by hon. Members and hon. Friends for elected police commissioners. That will restore people's faith and trust in the criminal justice system. It will mean that people have a real input into the decisions that are made about their local communities and tackling crime. Most people are law-abiding and decent, but they want fairness, accountability and transparency.

With that, I hope that the Minister specifically addresses the issues that I have raised about the Cambridgeshire constabulary. I pay tribute to all the people who work in the police service in Cambridgeshire, and I hope that we get a better settlement when we have a Conservative Government in the next few weeks.

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