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Part of Housing Benefit and Universal Credit in the Social Housing Sector (Regular Payments) – in the House of Commons at 3:14 pm on 12th February 2014.

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Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds 3:14 pm, 12th February 2014

The right hon. Lady misunderstands me. I am obviously in agreement that the bedrock of British policing, whether it is level 1, 2 or 3 policing, is neighbourhood policing and safer neighbourhood teams. That is a given. I am suggesting that with better productivity among existing uniformed officers we can deliver the falls in crime further into the future that we have seen in the last three years. How might we do that? The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims has talked about the new generation of productivity tools: electronic tablets, computerised forms and body-worn video cameras that will reduce the amount of form-filling back at the station. My right hon. Friend came to Ipswich a few months ago to see a pilot that Suffolk constabulary is running on body-worn video cameras so that police officers can spend less time behind a desk back at the station computing and filling in forms and can instead get on with visible policing on the front line.

In addition, Ministers have created something that was long overdue and which the Labour party had 13 years to create; a police ICT company that has offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy police technology in a joined-up way, so that we do not have 42 forces doing their own thing and wasting money, with interoperability being limited and the power of bulk purchasing completely ignored.

My right hon. Friend touched on the fact that we need to look not just at higher productivity, but at standards in policing. In that, the Home Secretary has been no slouch either. She has instituted the new College of Policing, which has taken a fresh look at how we professionalise the police service at all levels, with better training and an insistence on higher ethical standards. She is talking about direct entry so that very able men and women from other disciplines—whether the armed forces or business—do not have to do the compulsory two years’ probationary constable time before they can ever run a police force.

The Normington proposals, announced a few days ago, will radically reform the Police Federation and will also engender a higher sense of ethical responsibility among the 125,000 police officers that the federation currently represents. We also have the Winsor review, parts one and two of which are controversial as they make changes to overtime, salary levels and entitlements. But Winsor modernises the work force of the police service so that it conforms to the norms of every other part of the British economy, all other public services and the private sector. Winsor says simply that we should not just pay police officers according to time served, pretty much regardless of their performance. Instead, we should reward specialisms and capabilities so that younger officers who are going out and improving their skills, getting better training and producing higher performance, have that reflected in their remuneration. We are doing that in the teaching profession; it would be inexcusable to make the police an exception. Police exceptionalism in this regard is not sustainable in the public services today.