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Again, my hon. Friend speaks up admirably for his constituency, reflecting the concern I have seen on my visits for the Stevens consultation. Communities such as his have helped to build community policing, they value it and they want it to continue, but they are seeing it come apart at the seams, with the police becoming increasingly remote, often as a result of the cuts impacting on relationships with the police officers who serve their communities.
The first priority of policing is to fight crime, but it is not the only priority. If the Police Minister was to visit the Somerset levels and tell people there that the police are only crime fighters, they would be utterly uncomprehending. Yet the Home Secretary could not have been clearer when she said:
“cutting crime is the only test of a police force”.
Over the last few weeks, however, we have seen how important their wider role is. Their function, above all, is to build relationships, prevent crime, divert people from crime, detect crime and wrongdoing and bring those responsible to account, but, at times of disaster and crisis, they are also there to rebuild lives and communities. Their wider function, therefore, is of the highest importance.
The warning bells are sounding, and for that reason we are calling on the Government urgently to rethink the scale of their cuts and instead to set out a proper plan for police reform. We are now in the fourth year of this Parliament, and we are again debating a settlement that will damage the ability of police officers across the country to serve their communities. I want to stand up for the best of British policing and for our communities and their determination to fight crime. For that reason, we will vote against this settlement. It is the duty of us all in the House to fight for what our communities want and deserve—to be safe and secure in their homes and their streets and to see a continuation of the neighbourhood policing we built in government. For that reason, I urge all Members to vote with us in rejecting the Government’s plans.