I listened with interest to the Minister’s presentation. In particular, I listened when he described the Conservative party as the natural party of law and order. Not all of our constituents would agree with that, having seen the relative cuts in funding and the spike in violent crime. I shall return to that later.
I wish to say at the outset that the Opposition will not be opposing the police funding settlement, but we remind the Minister that it is not just about the total settlement but about the police funding formula. For five years Ministers have been promising to revise the police funding formula, and I argue that that is a concern not just for Opposition Members but for Members of all parties. Ministers have had five years. Perhaps they can make greater haste in something that is so key to the effective fighting of crime in all parts of our country.
Although we are far from satisfied with the Government’s plans for policing overall, the Opposition believe that this is the first time since the Labour Government that there has been a funding settlement for the police that does not in real terms undermine them further, so in the circumstances it would be wrong to oppose this particular funding settlement. Let me be equally clear, though: I do not want to be cruel, but the Opposition have no confidence in this Government to restore policing to its proper strength or to tackle serious crime. I strongly doubt—I shall explain why—that the Government will even meet their own pledge to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers. I see Government Members who are new to the House looking shocked, but I remind them of this Prime Minister’s track record on policing and police recruitment.
When the current Prime Minister was Mayor of London in 2012—those of us who are London MPs remember that well—he sent a list of nine promises to every household in London. His political marketing claimed that it was his “nine-point plan for Greater London”. No. 4 on the list was:
“Making our streets and homes safer with 1,000 more police on the beat”.
I have to tell the House that this pledge was never met, even though it was signed by the current Prime Minister himself, so I do not think that his record on policing provides much confidence that he will meet his manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 extra police.
Secondly, I want to turn to an issue with the funding settlement, which is inadequate even in its own terms. When the Minister announced the funding settlement, the Home Office claimed that it was the biggest for a decade, but that was a decade of cuts in police funding—cuts made by Ministers now on the Government Front Bench. It is not much of a boast when the settlement represents an uplift only when compared with the cuts made in previous years.