Police

Part of Science, Technology and Engineering (Careers Information in Schools) – in the House of Commons at 2:29 pm on 13th February 2013.

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Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds 2:29 pm, 13th February 2013

I am not suggesting that we do anything quite as crude as that: I am suggesting that those of us who represent rural seats think that sparsity factors are not being taken into account sufficiently. Clearly, the process must not direct resources willy-nilly. The needs of high-crime areas must be reflected in the formula, but the formula does need to be looked at, as the right hon. Gentleman will know as a senior Minister in the last Government. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Delyn will also know how incredibly difficult it is to strike the balance. Damping was a very controversial policy, but it was the best that one could do in the circumstances. We can have a serious debate about a review of the formula, but I—and other rural Members—will put our case for better and more equitable shares for rural areas.

We also need to thank the Home Secretary—at least those of us on the Government Benches who take an interest in law and order—for the doughty way in which she has fought the police service’s corner. She has been able—in a committed and forceful way—to ensure that the further 1% of departmental reductions that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his December autumn statement would not apply to the police budget for 2013-14. She has also commuted the reductions that would have flowed from the Chancellor’s statement in November 2011 on public sector pay restraint, and she has protected the police budget from those strictures.

We are not saying that this settlement is the one that we would have liked: of course we would all like more money for the services that serve our constituents. But we cannot let this debate pass without saying once again that there is a national economic crisis—I shall not be party political about how it arose—and whoever was in government now, Labour, Conservative or any possible combination of parties in coalition, would have to make reductions. It is undeniable that in the modern age Governments need to do more with less. They need to get better results with constraints on public service budgets. That means not just worrying primarily or solely about the amount of money put into a service, but about how that service is organised. That is why the Home Secretary should be thanked, again, for the shot of adrenaline she has given to radical police reform—getting more for less.

My right hon. Friend is in the fortunate position of being able to do this at a time of falls in crime—it was declining under Labour and continues to decline under us, notwithstanding the tight budget settlements to which the police have been subject.