The police do one of the most important jobs in this country with great courage and commitment. As the service faces challenges, we will do all we can to reduce bureaucracy, promote professionalism and make it easier for officers to do their job.
“Put more police on the streets and they’ll catch more criminals. It’s not rocket science is it?”
So said the Minister’s party’s 2005 manifesto. We have morale at rock bottom, police numbers are to be cut by 16,000 and personal crime is up 11%. When exactly did his party become so weak on law and order?
What hon. Members still do not seem to understand is the importance of deployment and what officers are doing. According to the latest figures from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, the proportion of the policing work force who are on the front line is increasing.
May I read the House a quote from the chairman of the North Yorkshire Police Federation? He said:
“I can never recall a time when officers were so angry. We have been betrayed by a morally redundant Government.”
Given that that quote comes from 2008, does my right hon. Friend agree that the Police Federation has long been worried about police morale and that the best way of improving police morale is to cut the paperwork and bureaucracy and get them out on the streets doing something that they actually joined the police force to do?
I strongly agree. Those of us who have experienced Police Federation conferences over the years know that they are always lively and robust events. The Labour party knows that too. I note that the chairman of the Police Federation, Paul McKeever, said last year:
“Reading some of their press materials one would be forgiven for thinking that if Labour were in power they would in fact be increasing the police budget”,
whereas we know that Labour is committed to cutting it.
As we are listening to our chief constables, let us hear what they have been saying this year about the cuts. The chief constable of Dyfed Powys says that cuts to police budgets mean they will no longer be able to conduct cold case reviews such as the one that caught serial killer John William Cooper, and Gloucestershire’s chief constable says his force is on a cliff edge. What effect does the Minister think that will have on police morale?
The Opposition need to be plain with police officers and staff about the importance of dealing with the deficit and the fact that they too are committed to reducing police spending. They have admitted that they wish to reduce spending by more than £1 billion, and now we know that they wish to freeze pay as well. They cannot complain about these cuts and remain committed to the cuts themselves.