I am grateful to have been called in this debate, so soon after last week’s proceedings on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, to express some of the frustration that has reached me from police officers in the far west Dyfed Powys force and, indeed, from members of the public, who are increasingly concerned about seemingly being used as a political pawn in the debate. It is affecting that vital bond between the public and the police, and indeed the morale of police officers themselves.
In our debate last week, I drew a parallel with the ongoing consultation on the future of the coastguard service, simply to remind myself as well as the House that the great passion for that service—one that is crucial in west Wales at Milford Haven—is built on loyalty, public respect, a sense of ownership and the sense that the coastguard and, indeed, the police are somehow part of the fabric and the architecture of the community, and that people know that when they ring the coastguard, as with the police, they will get a trusted and, above all, local response. That is increasingly relevant in this debate.
As hon. Members know, the Dyfed Powys force covers a huge geographical area of rural west Wales, but it has its fair share of terrorist-related incidents, urban crime and industrial-related challenges. Above all, however, what the force possesses is an ancient relationship with the community, and the potential compromise of that relationship, as a result of the terms of the Opposition’s motion, is causing our officers and our public to waver between nervousness and distrust and, at times, contempt. Public confidence is very precious, and the idea that we can compromise it on the back of financial mismanagement over the past few years is the scandal at the heart of this debate, rather than the proposals put forward by the Government.
Several Members have referred to conversations that they have had with their local chief constables, and I will be no exception. Mr Ian Arundale, who is highly respected by the public in our area and by his own members of staff, has told me on more than one occasion that the proposals are challenging but need not compromise public safety.