Police

Part of Science, Technology and Engineering (Careers Information in Schools) – in the House of Commons at 2:55 pm on 13th February 2013.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee 2:55 pm, 13th February 2013

It is a real pleasure to follow Mr Ruffley. He speaks with enormous knowledge about policing issues, and, as one who has attended many debates on the police grant —both in opposition and supporting the Government—he has always come to the Chamber with good and fresh ideas. It is a mystery to me why he is not in the Home Office doing the job, because he knows so much about it.

I must say that I was a little disappointed by the Minister’s opening remarks. I like the Minister, who has appeared before the Home Affairs Committee and who is always very robust, but in a debate of this kind there is no need for knockabout stuff, because we are dealing with extremely serious issues. I am still a bit puzzled about why the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice was not here to open the debate. He may have other important business to deal with, but I should have thought that he would be able to open a debate of this kind, as he has done in the past. Obviously a deal has been done on the Front Bench, however, and we are happy to hear the Government’s view.

I, too, was present at the memorial service for Paul McKeever, and, like the shadow Policing Minister, my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson, and the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds, I want to express my appreciation for a life that was dedicated to public service. He was the policeman’s policeman. Hundreds of people turned up at Southwark cathedral on Saturday, including the Home Secretary—who read the lesson very eloquently—the shadow Home Secretary, the policing Minister, the shadow policing Minister, and the entire hierarchy of the police service. That was because Paul McKeever was very special as an advocate of what the service does throughout Britain. I think it right for us to start our debates by paying tribute to the work of the police force in this country.

Let me now make some remarks about the new landscape of policing, and about the reduction in the overall police grant and how it will affect some of the important institutions that the Government have created.

Let me say first that I am a great fan of what the Home Secretary is doing in reforming the landscape of policing. I am attached not to particular organisations, but to the services that are provided for local people. However, as we approach the halfway point in those changes in the landscape, I am not entirely convinced that at the end of the day we shall meet the Home Secretary’s original objective. When she started the process in 2010, her aim was to unclutter the policing landscape, but I think that we may well end up with more organisations rather than fewer.

Secondly, I should like to know what is happening to all this money. Of course there cannot be an immediate transfer from one organisation to another. However, the Home Affairs Committee has been studying the matter for the last two years, and in the course of our latest inquiry, into leadership and standards in the police, we have been looking at the organisations that are being abolished or reformed and the new organisations that are being created. I am afraid that the sums do not add up.

Evidence was given to the Committee by the former policing Minister, Nick Herbert. When I asked him what the budget of the new National Crime Agency would be, the Home Office director of finance was sitting next to him, and he did not know what it would be. We do know that the combined budgets of the National Policing Improvement Agency and the Serious Organised Crime Agency amount to about £860 million. We also know that the budget of the National Crime Agency will be about £400 million. Yesterday, in his assured evidence to the Committee, Alex Marshall said he would have a budget of £50 million and a staff of 600.

I am not very good at maths. I will not reveal my GCSE grade to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I am sure that you did better than I did. However, I think that we are about £315 million short. We are not talking about a few bob here and there; we are talking about a lot of money, and in the context of the overall reduction in the police grant over a number of years, it is really serious money. I am not trying to put the Under-Secretary of State on the spot—I do not know whether he will be winding up the debate—but it would be great if those sums could be confirmed, either today or in writing to me or to the Committee.