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I agree with the hon. Lady. The police have talked to me about the difficult role that they play on the frontline when dealing with people with mental health issues.
The Government often brag about their commitment to national security. They brag about protecting the defence budget and spending upwards of £150 billion on a weapon of mass destruction that we will never use, but they are all too happy to use the old excuse of balancing the books as a matter of urgent necessity when it comes to vital community services.
The Welsh police forces are unique within the UK. They are non-devolved bodies operating within a largely devolved public services landscape. They are thus required to follow the diverging agendas of two Governments. It is essential that the people of Wales should be given a democratic choice, through their directly elected Government, as to how the police are to be governed and held accountable, just as the people of Scotland are. I was dismayed at Labour’s cheap dig at the Scottish Government. It was a divisive elbow-jab, given the immensity of the challenges facing police forces in England and Wales.
Transferring responsibility for policing to the Welsh Government would not be the tectonic shift that many Unionists claim it would be. Relationships between the Welsh forces and UK services such as the police national computer and the Serious Organised Crime Agency would continue as at present, as is the case in Scotland. Cross-border arrangements could also continue. Why then should the people of Wales not be given the same democratic freedom as that enjoyed by the people of Scotland and that proposed for certain English cities? Devolving policing powers would lead to greater clarity and efficiency by uniting devolved responsibilities such as community services, drugs prevention and safety partnerships with those currently held by the UK Government.
The Tories have been justifying many of their policies of late by claiming that the people voted for them, regardless of whether those policies were included in their manifesto or not. Perhaps that is a democratic oversight. The people of Wales did not vote for the Tories’ policies. They did not vote for this Government. The people of Wales voted in 2011 for a Parliament: their own democratic institution to make decisions on matters that relate to Wales and to her interests.
The Silk commission—a commission comprising all four main political parties in Wales—spent two years consulting not only the public but civil society, academia and industry experts. It received written evidence, heard oral evidence and visited every corner of Wales, and its report recommended the devolution of policing. That is what the people of Wales have asked for, and that is what the people of Wales deserve. Wales’s police forces cannot cope with continuing cuts, and they should not have to.