Police Uplift Programme

– in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 26 April 2023.

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Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department 12:32, 26 April 2023

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about the Government’s police uplift programme.

Today is a significant day for policing. We can officially announce that our unprecedented officer recruitment campaign has met its target. We said we would recruit an extra 20,000 officers since 2019, and we have; in fact, we have recruited an extra 20,951 additional officers. That means that we now have a record number of officers—149,572—across England and Wales, 3,542 more than the previous peak. I am sure that colleagues will want to join me in celebrating those record police numbers.

This is the culmination of a colossal amount of work from police forces, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing, the Home Office and beyond. They have my heartfelt gratitude and admiration, and I pay tribute to the officials and police officers who made this possible. I feel honoured and privileged to have been able to take this programme to its successful conclusion. I especially express my thanks to my right hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), for Witham (Priti Patel), and for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) for their work, as well as to the Prime Minister for his work as Chancellor, financing this programme. Their vision and leadership were instrumental in helping us reach this point, and I know they will share my delight today. I also pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who has energetically steered this campaign to its successful conclusion, and again to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, for his continued support and encouragement.

This was not a simple task. There have been challenges along the way and people doubted our prospects of success, but by sticking to the course and believing unequivocally in the cause, we have done it. To every single new recruit who has joined up and helped us reach our goal, I say thank you. There is no greater or more noble example of public service, and they have chosen a career like no other. Not everyone will be as happy as we are today. Criminals must be cursing their luck, and so they should, because these extra police officers are coming after them.

Not only are there more police officers than there have ever been at any point before, but the workforce is more diverse than it has been before, too. There are now a record 53,083 female police officers in post, compared with 39,135 in 2010. There are 12,087 officers identifying as ethnic minorities, compared with 6,704 in 2010. That is a significant increase, which I am sure the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper will shortly be warmly welcoming. There are more officers working in public protection, in local policing and in crime investigations. There are now 725 more officers working in regional organised crime units tackling serious and organised crime, as promised.

While it is right today that we pause and reflect on the tremendous success of the police uplift programme, this is not the end. It is about more than just hitting a number. It is the latest step in our mission to crush crime and make our country safer. The public want to see more officers on the beat, patrolling local neighbourhoods, and that is what they are seeing. The public want to see courageous and upstanding public servants in whom they can have pride and can trust, and we are working to deliver that, too. The public rightly expect police forces to use this increased strength and resources to the best available effect. They want to see criminals caught and locked up, so that they feel safe and secure, whether in their homes or out and about. They want police officers to focus on the issues that matter most to them.

We have made extremely good progress already. Since 2010, crime in England and Wales, excluding fraud and computer misuse, has fallen by 50%. It was double under the last Labour Government, and I have still not received an apology from the shadow Home Secretary for having served in a Government who presided over crime levels twice what they are now. The crime survey of England and Wales, approved by the Office for National Statistics, also shows burglary down 56% since the last Labour Government left office, robbery down 57% and criminal damage down by 65%—[Interruption.] The Opposition do not like to hear it, but I am going to keep telling them. Violence is down by 38%, and for people who are into riding bicycles, even bicycle theft is down by 49% under this Government. Figures also show reductions in homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime since December 2019.

Crime, however, is a broad and ever-evolving menace, which is why we are addressing it from all angles, acting to turn the tide on drug misuse with our 10-year strategy and cracking down on county lines, of which we have closed down thousands in the past three years. We are stepping up our efforts to tackle domestic abuse, violence against women and girls and child sexual abuse. I can see in her place my colleague who is leading that work, the safeguarding Minister, my hon. Friend Miss Dines. We are supporting law enforcement in the fight against serious and organised crime, terrorism, cyber-crime and fraud. We have shown that where our constituents express concern about an issue, we listen and we act, as demonstrated by the recent antisocial behaviour plan.

We are going to keep up the momentum in this area. We will challenge the police, of course, but also support them. We expect police forces to maintain these officer numbers going forward. We expect to see these police on the streets protecting the public, preventing crime and prosecuting criminals. It is vital that police forces up and down the country seize the opportunity created by these record numbers of police officers. As the Home Secretary has made clear, common-sense policing is the way forward.

The Government are holding up our side of the bargain. We introduced measures recently to cut the amount of red tape that has been wasting police time. We are introducing new measures to improve issues concerning ethics and integrity in police conduct, which have rightly been of recent concern. If any colleague wants to come and discuss these issues with me in more detail, I will be in the large ministerial conference room under this Chamber at 3 o’clock for half an hour and I am very happy to meet colleagues to discuss these issues in more detail.

We said that we would recruit an extra 20,000 officers since 2019 and we have delivered that. We said that we would have record numbers of police officers and we have delivered that. We said that we would cut crime since 2010 and, according to the crime survey of England and Wales, we have delivered that as well. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:40, 26 April 2023

The Home Secretary has been out on the airwaves this morning but she is scared to defend her record in this House, and little wonder because that statement was a joke. Where are the Tories pretending to have been for the last 13 years? They cut 20,000 police officers. Belatedly, they set a target to patch up their own cuts and now they want us all to be grateful. They want the country to applaud them for their attempts to patch up some of the criminal damage this party of Tory vandals has done to policing and the criminal justice system over the last 13 years.

They were warned about the damage their cuts would do: arrests have halved; prosecutions near-halved; community penalties halved; crimes solved halved; more crimes reported and recorded, but hundreds of thousands fewer crimes are being solved—hundreds of thousands fewer victims getting justice every year. The Home Secretary claimed on the television this morning, “Oh, it’s irrelevant what happened over the last 10 years”: not to the millions fewer victims who have had justice in the last decade as a result of what this Tory Government have done.

As for the policing Minister’s claim that “Criminals must be cursing their luck” because we are “coming after them”, who is he kidding? The charge rate hit a record low last year: 95% of criminals not charged—for rape it is over 98%. The charge rate has dropped by two thirds since 2015 alone. That is record levels of criminals getting off under the Tories; they are not cursing their luck, they are thanking their lucky stars. Under the Tories the criminals have never had it so good; they are pathetically weak on crime and weak on the causes of crime.

As for meeting records, well, yes, they are meeting some records: a record number of crimes not being solved; a record number of people saying they never see police on the street; record numbers of police officers leaving policing last year; record low charge rates last year for rape and sexual offences. And then we have got serious violence rising: knife crime up; gun crime up. And of course the fraud and online crime that they never want to talk about is also at a record high. What has the Home Secretary got to say about that this morning—just some more waffle about woke. She has got nothing new to say to tackle the problems.

Then there is the chaotic recruitment process, with forces ending up cutting standards to meet deadlines. Most of last year, the average monthly increase from recruitment was 475 officers each month; in March, just before the deadline, it was suddenly 2,400 in a month. No one believes that this is a properly managed and sustainable recruitment plan. We have had reports of people who were initially turned down being asked to reapply at the last minute to meet targets; reports of people with addiction, and with criminal histories, being encouraged to apply and let in. A massive variation of standards applied across forces so that Matt Parr in His Majesty’s inspectorate said that hundreds of people have joined the police in the last three years who should not have, and then he said,

“certainly in the hundreds if not low thousands.”

Have the Tories learned nothing from Wayne Couzens and David Carrick? We have still not got proper national mandatory standards in place; have they learned nothing of the need to raise standards? So is the Minister confident that all these new recruits meet the standards we should expect from policing?

Look at the numbers that the Government have announced: this is not an uplift programme, it is a damage mitigation programme, and they have not even achieved that. In Hampshire the Home Secretary’s own force, in Cleveland, in Durham, Northumbria, and Merseyside, they all still have fewer police than they had in 2010. Compared to our growing population, there are 9,000 fewer officers compared to the rates in 2010. They have cut 8,000 police community support officers and 6,000 police staff, including intelligence and analysts, forensics, digital, vetting and standards checks. And worst of all, they are refusing to do Labour’s plan for 13,000 more neighbourhood police. Instead we have got 10,000 fewer police and PCSOs in neighbourhood teams since 2015. So when will the Government reverse those cuts to the police on the beat the public want to see? That is what people see and what people feel.

The reality is that half the country say they do not see the police on the beat at all any more—half the country, up from a quarter of the country in 2010. That is why people know all this boasting from the Minister is out of touch. That is the reality that no amount of boasting, crowing or fake headlines can cover up. Let me just say to all the Tory Back Benchers: the only thing that all this boasting and crowing does is tell the country you are even more out of touch than we thought.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

The shadow Home Secretary asked about police numbers in the years following 2010, during the coalition Government. She will recall that the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury, her colleague, left a message saying the money had all gone and that led to difficult decisions that had to be made. But I am not sure if she was listening to what I said before because the number of officers that we now have—149,572—is higher, by 3,542, than the number of officers left behind by the Labour party. These are record ever numbers. Never in our country’s history have we had as many officers as we have today. It is important that the shadow Home Secretary keeps that in mind.

She asked about neighbourhood policing. The way the figures are reported, neighbourhood policing, emergency response policing and local policing are reported together. Since 2015, local policing, neighbourhood policing and emergency policing taken together is in fact higher.

She asked about crime. She asked about crime numbers. The only source of crime data endorsed by the Office for National Statistics is the crime survey for England and Wales. I have got the figures here. If she is unfamiliar with them, I can hand them to her afterwards, but they show domestic burglary down 56%, robbery down 57%, vehicle theft down 39%, violence down 38% and criminal damage down 65%. She may not like the figures from the Office for National Statistics, but those are the figures.

She asked about standards in police recruitment. For every police officer recruited in the last three years, there were about 10 applicants, so there was a good degree of selectivity. In relation to vetting, the College of Policing has just finished consulting on a new statutory code of practice for vetting, which will be adopted shortly, and police forces up and down the country are implementing the 43 recommendations made by the inspectorate on vetting standards. We are also conducting a review in the Home Office, which will conclude in the next few weeks, on police dismissals, so that where misconduct is uncovered officers can be removed quickly, which is absolutely right.

The message to the country is clear. We have record levels of police officers—higher than we have ever had before—and according to the crime survey, crime has gone down compared with the last Labour Government that she served in.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, House of Commons Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Conference Committee, Chair, Speaker's Conference Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Client Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Client Board Committee

Order. Can I just say to the right hon. Member: calling somebody “she”—does he really want to use that type of language? For all our benefit, I would say to everybody: let us show a bit more respect to each other than we seem to be at the moment. I understand there might be a bit of anger, but respect does no harm. I would like to see a bit more and this will be a great example—Kit Malthouse.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Can I offer my congratulations to the Minister, the team at the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and everybody involved in what has been a massive effort over the last three years to recruit the extra 20,000? Remembering that the gross recruitment to backfill retirements is about 45,000, it has been an enormous job and they have done a fantastic job, not least given that they were doing so in the teeth of a pandemic, which required some ingenuity.

As the Minister says, however, this is only half the battle. Maintaining the number where it currently stands will be the next stage. Can he confirm that funding will be provided to police and crime commissioners on the basis that they are incentivised to maintain police officer numbers in their forces, not least because, as we have seen over the last decade, in areas controlled by Labour or independent police and crime commissioners, they have failed to prioritise police numbers, which is why, proportionally, they may now be below the numbers in areas that are controlled by Conservatives?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

First, let me just thank my right hon. Friend, whose work over a number of years did more than just lay the foundations for this programme: it really got it under way and on the road to success, so I thank him personally for his work on this. He is absolutely right about the importance of maintaining officer numbers. We have created financial incentives to ensure that happens, and I know police and crime commissioners and chief constables are very keen to make sure those numbers are maintained.

On individual police and crime commissioners, my right hon. Friend is right. In some parts of the country, in the years when we were repairing the financial damage of the last Labour Government, some PCCs did not protect frontline numbers, meaning they were coming up from a much lower base. When the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend Boris Johnson, was Mayor of London and my right hon. Friend was Deputy Mayor for Policing in London, they protected police numbers, which is why London, in common with 27 other police forces, has record numbers.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Sir Mark Rowley gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee this morning. According to the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police Service missed its uplift allocation of 4,557 additional officers by 1,089, missing the target by 23.9%. When I questioned Sir Mark about why that had happened, he pointed to a range of reasons, including the erosion in the starting pay of a police constable and the hot employment market in London. Can the Minister say what the implications are for the ability of the Metropolitan Police Service to perform its UK-wide responsibilities, as well as to keep Londoners safe, particularly at this point when we have had the Casey review and we know that the Metropolitan police are in the engage phase with the inspectorate? What is the Policing Minister going to do to address those concerns?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I thank the Select Committee Chair for her question. It is first worth observing that the Metropolitan police have by far the highest per capita funding of any police force in the country. I think the average for forces outside London is about £200 per capita and in London it is about £300 per capita, so the funding is very much higher. On the issues identified by the Casey report, there are a series of recommendations, most of which are for the Met and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. I expect them to implement those recommendations. On numbers, every single police force met its uplift target, with just one exception: the Metropolitan police. It is certainly a question I will be asking Sadiq Khan as the politician responsible. It was the only force not to meet the target. As the right hon. Lady said, it recruited an extra 3,468 officers and it should have recruited an extra 4,557. The funding was there to do that and I will certainly be asking Sadiq Khan why he failed. But I am pleased to be able to reassure the House that, despite that shortfall, the Metropolitan police still have a record number: 35,411 officers.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

From the thousands of responses I received from my local crime survey in Westminster, the people’s priority was clear: they want to see more police on the street. I therefore welcome the Government’s announcement today that we have now reached our 20,000 target. Does the Minister agree that, to ensure that people feel safer in their neighbourhoods and that we prevent crime, it is important that we see more police on the beat?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Yes, I entirely agree. It is important that we see more police on the beat and more criminals getting prosecuted. In addition to hiring all those police officers to deliver a record number, we are trying to remove some of the burdens that have prevented police from spending their time fighting crime. For example, we changed the Home Office counting rules recently to reduce the amount of time spent on unnecessary administration. We are looking, with the Department of Health and Social Care, at how we can ensure the police do not spend time essentially with mental health patients, who would be better treated by the health service. We are absolutely focused on getting those police on the street, where our constituents can see them.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Shadow Minister (Justice)

Confidence in the police from women is at an all-time low and nothing in the Minister’s statement today is likely to do anything to change that: still nothing on having domestic abuse call handlers in every 999 control room; still nothing on having a specialist rape and sexual assault unit in every police force across the country; and still nothing on national standards on training and vetting to make sure the scandal of Wayne Couzens and David Carrick never happens again. When will the Minister finally get a grip and address those issues?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I am delighted to say that we now have more female police officers, by a very large margin, than at any time in history. In the most recent recruitment over the last three years, 43% of the new recruits were female, which is a very big step. We would like it to be 50%, but 43% is a very big step forward. On the prosecution of rape and serious sexual assault, by the end of June this year, we will have Operation Soteria Bluestone, an academically endorsed method for investigating rape cases, rolled out across the country. In early adopting forces such as Avon and Somerset, we have seen material increases in the number of charges and prosecutions. On specialist officers, every force has specialist officers. Some are organised into units and some are not. That is something I will look at in the coming months. The Government conducted a rape review. We have a violence against women and girls strategy. The safeguarding Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Miss Dines, is leading work in that area, but I fully acknowledge there is more work to do on prosecutions and confidence. It is an area that the Government are working on extremely actively.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

Our diligent Policing Minister deserves great credit for what he has achieved and for his statement today. He serves under an outstanding Home Secretary, of course. However, does he recognise that in rural areas such as Lincolnshire there are profound problems with the police funding formula? He will know that Lincolnshire is one of the lowest-funded police authorities in the country. Indeed, sadly, the force has had to cut the number of police community support officers this year. He has previously agreed to look at that. Will he now agree to an urgent meeting with me, so that Lincolnshire can benefit in the way that so many other areas have?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Of course, I would be delighted to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss police funding in Lincolnshire as soon as possible. It is a topic I discuss with the excellent police and crime commissioner Marc Jones regularly. The current police funding formula has been around for quite a long time and needs refreshing. We intend to consult on the formula to start the process of getting it updated, so that areas such as Lincolnshire, which the police funding formula does not treat as generously as some other areas, can be addressed.

Photo of Jon Trickett Jon Trickett Labour, Hemsworth

Of course we all thank police officers who work diligently within the rules, but I came to Parliament this week from Northfield Primary School in South Kirkby, where there is an urgent problem with antisocial behaviour. Two points were made to me. First, where are the police? We do not see them in the villages in our area. Secondly, the 20,000 police officers who were lost each had many years of service and they are being replaced by people who are new to the job. In the vacuum that was left during the years when the Government cut the police service, criminality and antisocial behaviour became rife. Of course, they then cut £1 billion from youth services and mental health services. The Government’s record is a disgrace. They left communities ill defended and we are now seeing the consequences.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I do not accept that. I have read out twice now—I will not repeat them—the ONS figures in the crime survey for England and Wales showing reductions in crime since 2010. On antisocial behaviour, the Government agree that more needs to be done. That is why, just a week or two ago, the Prime Minister personally launched an antisocial behaviour action plan designed to rid our streets of the scourge of ASB. On police officers being visible, I agree with the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken that we want visible police and we expect to see that with all the extra officers who have been recruited.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on the success of this policy. I also congratulate and thank Kent’s police and crime commissioner, Matthew Scott. Since 2010, we now have 400 extra police officers in Kent. Even more importantly, measurably, it is working. In the last four years, overall crime is down 12%, residential burglaries are down 44%, vehicle crime is down 25% and violent crime is down 5.2%. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, clearly and measurably, Kent’s streets are safer now than they were 15 years ago?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I agree with my right hon. Friend and join him in paying tribute to the excellent police and crime commissioner in Kent, Matthew Scott. I am delighted to hear that crime is dropping in Kent thanks to the work of the Kent police and the PCC. On the police numbers in Kent, the most recent figures out this morning are actually a bit better than he suggested. The number of police in Kent today compared with 2010 stands at 4,261, up from 3,862—a significant increase. I am sure everybody in Kent will be delighted by it.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

If the media are good enough for the Secretary of State to talk to, I do not understand why she is not here to make this statement and answer questions. The Government did not just let 20,000 police officers wither; it was a stated intention by the Conservatives to cut 20,000 posts from the police. They were warned that we would lose experienced police officers, with a knock-on effect on charges and criminal conviction rates. Recorded knife crime is now up 70%, and 90% of crimes go unsolved. Sexual crimes are at a record high. Since 2015, we have seen 10,000 officers cut from our neighbourhood policing. That was all on the Tories’ watch—13 years of mismanagement of our police and criminal justice system. Is it not time that they started to listen to our communities, put the police back in local neighbourhood policing and adopted Labour’s policy of putting 13,000 officers on our streets?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I have already explained that local policing numbers—the emergency response teams and neighbourhood teams together—are higher now than in 2015. Opposition Members should stop saying that again and again, because it is not accurate; it is misleading. It is not just about backfilling what may have happened in the past. We have more officers now—3,542 more than at any time in this country’s history. Yes, quite a few officers recently are less experienced. That is why we are keen for experienced officers to stay on beyond their 30 years. Mechanisms are in place to do that. We want mentors and experienced officers to help to train and induct new officers to make sure that they become effective. We are seeing the benefits of that already, and Members across the House should welcome that.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

I welcome the Minister’s statement. He will be aware that my constituency falls within the Humberside force area. Let me take the opportunity to congratulate it on its outstanding rating. The Minister mentioned police on the beat. As we know, that is what our constituents want. Serious crime must take priority, but low-level antisocial behaviour blights the lives of so many constituents. Can the Minister assure me that he will continue to ensure that the police focus on antisocial behaviour?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

The Humberside force is doing a good job and recently had a good inspection. I thank Chief Constable Lee Freeman for his work. The Humberside force also has a record number of officers—188 more than in 2010. I agree with my hon. Friend that neighbourhood policing and visible policing on the street are critical. That is why we launched the antisocial behaviour action plan a few weeks ago. We expect that to be tackled by police forces up and down the country, including in Humberside, so I completely agree.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

One of the issues raised in the Casey review, which the shadow Home Secretary referenced, was standards and vetting. It is all well and good for the Minister to talk about new recruits and figures in the thousands, but even police officers are highlighting concerns with senior ranking officers. Why has it taken so long for this Government to introduce mandatory national standards on vetting, misconduct and training for all new recruits? That would help to address some of the issues that we see not only in the Met police but right across other police forces—the very same police forces that are in special measures. It is all well and good saying that we have new recruits, but that is no good if they have no confidence that if they raise an issue with their superiors it will be dealt with. That could be addressed by having a national vetting procedure for all new recruits.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

The College of Policing has just finished consulting on an updated statutory code of practice for vetting standards, which will come into force in the near future. As I said, we are also looking at the rules on dismissing police officers, because in the past it has been quite hard for chief officers and chief constables to dismiss police officers for misconduct. We would like to give chief officers and chief constables more power to do that where they uncover misconduct, to address some of the issues that Baroness Casey and others have raised.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

I warmly welcome today’s statement, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the momentous achievement of beating our manifesto commitment three and a half years into the Parliament. Will he confirm that, proportionally, it is even better news for Thames Valley police, whose headcount now stands at 5,034? That is 518 more officers than in 2010—an 11% uplift.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

My hon. Friend is right to point to the fantastic police officer numbers in the Thames Valley. He is right that they are about 500 higher than in 2010. That is good news for people across the Thames Valley force area, who will see more police on their streets than under the last Labour Government, more criminals getting caught and more neighbourhoods protected.

Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My constituents will be listening and some of this will ring hollow, because their experience in Thames Valley is that 174 crimes go unsolved every single day. Just next door in Gloucestershire, the new Justice Secretary’s backyard, it takes an average of 18.5 hours for the police to respond if they are called. Those are shameful figures. Does the Minister agree that the real litmus test is the day-to-day experiences of our constituents, not the boastful numbers?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

The numbers are important; if they had gone down, Opposition Members would be the first to complain. There are around 500 more officers in the Thames Valley force than under the last Labour Government, which is significant. We expect the police to respond to crime quickly, to protect neighbourhoods and to get prosecutions up. That is why we have gone through this enormous recruiting process.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

It is really good news that the Conservatives are delivering the 20,000 officers. The officers will need somewhere to work, so will the Minister ask the Mayor of London to scrap his police station closure plan, so that we can save Barnet police station?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I join my right hon. Friend in calling for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to reconsider his unwise plans. As I said, the Metropolitan police has by far the highest per capita funding of any force in the country. I do not think any of us want police stations to close, so I join her in calling on Sadiq Khan to reconsider.

Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

After years of devastating cuts, any extra police officers are welcome, but it is not just about numbers; it is about quality and experience too. Can the Minister confirm how many new police officers are student officers, not yet qualified, such as the 300 in Bedfordshire? Does he agree that Luton, Bedford and Dunstable are clearly not rural areas? When will the farce of funding Bedfordshire police as a rural force end, so that the police finally have the resources to keep people safe in Luton?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

As I am sure the hon. Lady knows, Bedfordshire police has additional support through the police special grant, giving it extra money particularly to fight organised criminality. I corresponded with Bedfordshire’s excellent police and crime commissioner on that topic just recently. I am glad that she raised the question of police officer numbers in Bedford, because Bedfordshire has around 200 extra officers compared with the number under the last Labour Government.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

I congratulate the Minister on delivering more police officers than we promised in our manifesto. There is much to welcome. He points out that crime is at half the level it was in 2010, despite Labour voting 44 times to stop us introducing tougher penalties on violent offenders. I welcome the extra 1,000 officers for Essex and the 83 for Southend. Will he join me in congratulating Roger Hirst, our excellent police and crime commissioner in Essex? Antisocial behaviour is down by 55%, burglary is down by 45% and murder is down by a third. Is it not true that the Conservatives are keeping our streets safer?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Yes, it is. I am delighted to note that Essex has 150 more police officers than under the last Labour Government. The police and crime commissioner Roger Hirst and Chief Constable BJ Harrington are doing a fantastic job reducing crime in Essex. On being tough on crime, I meant to say in response to the shadow Home Secretary that I was shocked in Bill Committee a year or two ago when Labour Members voted against a clause specifically introduced to keep rapists in prison for longer. I think we know who is on the side of victims.

Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Labour, Wirral West

Merseyside has more than 300 fewer police officers compared with 2010, which has serious implications for the safety of our communities and police morale. A recent survey of police officers on Merseyside, carried out by the Police Federation of England and Wales, found that 17% of respondents intended to resign from the police service either within the next two years or as soon as they can. What steps will the Minister take to improve the morale of police officers, boost retention and boost the numbers on Merseyside?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I pay tribute to Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, who leads the Merseyside force. I was up in Merseyside and Liverpool just a few weeks ago meeting officers. The target of the police recruitment programme in Merseyside was to recruit an extra 665 officers; in fact, 724 have been recruited.

In terms of people leaving the police, we have surveyed thousands of police officers recently recruited through the uplift programme. About 80% are very satisfied with the job and a similar proportion intend to make policing their long-term career. In terms of supporting and looking after police officers, I chair the police covenant wellbeing board. I have not got time to list all the initiatives now, but we are doing a number of things to ensure that serving and former officers get looked after and that morale is maintained.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

Having 20,000 more officers across the country is a fantastic achievement. It is a Conservative promise made and delivered that will help crack down antisocial behaviour in Cleveland, drawing on our new antisocial behaviour strategy. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that cracking down on problem areas, such as the Norfolk shops in Berwick Hills, is exactly the activity that more officers will enable us to deliver?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I agree completely with my right hon. Friend. That is exactly the kind of thing those officers will do. Cleveland had a target of 239 extra officers to recruit. They beat that target and have recruited an extra 267 since 2019, and I am sure those 267 new officers will be on patrol in exactly the place my right hon. Friend would like to see them.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Solicitor General

My constituents feel under siege from drug dealers, antisocial behaviour and online fraudsters. They will feel insulted by the Minister’s attempt to whitewash this Government’s record. Why did he destroy neighbourhood policing, and why does he ignore fraud, which represents 40% of crime but gets virtually no policing resources?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

As I have said, the Metropolitan police have record numbers; they are up to 35,411. They have never in their history had more officers. Had the Mayor of London used all the funding available, they would have about 1,000 more, so perhaps that is a question the hon. Gentleman might like to take up with Sadiq Khan.

We want to see more action on antisocial behaviour; that is a fair comment. That is why we have launched the antisocial behaviour action plan. Fraud is another important area, and an updated fraud action plan will be delivered by the Home Secretary and the Minister for Security very shortly.

Photo of Darren Henry Darren Henry Conservative, Broxtowe

I wholeheartedly welcome the Minister’s announcement about the extra 20,000 police officers. That will benefit the people of Broxtowe, which currently has a significant problem with antisocial behaviour in Beeston and Chilwell. Will he comment on the military service leavers pathway into policing course, first set up in Nottinghamshire by the police and crime commissioner and chief constable, so that ex-military personnel, with similar values to police officers of sense of duty, teamwork and public service, will increase those numbers still?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I congratulate the excellent police and crime commissioner in Nottinghamshire, Caroline Henry, who beat the police uplift target, delivering an extra 418 officers instead of the target of 357. If only Sadiq Khan had done the same in London.

I strongly commend the programme that has been pioneered in Nottinghamshire to get people leaving the military to come into policing. Just yesterday evening I was discussing with colleagues at the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Home Office getting that model rolled out across the whole country, which we should urgently work on doing.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

The announcement rings hollow for our constituents and serving police officers alike. I recently met with police officers at Honiton police station and it was plain that they receive way more priority calls than they have officers to deal with them. Earlier this month, we discovered that over 45,000 burglaries reported last year went unattended in England and Wales. Will the Minister get behind a Liberal Democrat Bill to create a statutory duty on police officers and police forces to attend and properly investigate every domestic burglary?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I congratulate the excellent police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez, for delivering record officer numbers. There are 3,716 police officers in Devon and Cornwall, which is nearly 100 more than there were in March 2010.

In relation to domestic burglaries, I am afraid the Liberal Democrat party is a little behind the curve, because last autumn the Home Secretary launched an initiative to ensure every residential burglary got a police visit, which is something I am sure everyone in the House would support.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

I and my constituents also welcome the uplift to over 3,500 officers in the Devon and Cornwall police area that the Minister just mentioned. I also welcome what the Minister said about investing in police forces. I draw the House’s attention to the fact that in the south-west we have five hard-working Conservative PCCs, who already have a voluntary vetting service between their five forces, so that is starting to work. Will the Minister meet with me and our excellent police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez, to talk about the summer funding that Cornwall and Devon so desperately need? We welcome more visitors to our area than any other part of the country, except London, and we need extra funding to help deal with the additional antisocial behaviour we see every year.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I am aware of the financial and policing pressures that summer tourism creates in places such as Devon and Cornwall, the Lake district, Dorset and many other parts of the country. We plan to address that in the new police funding formula, which we intend to consult on. In the meantime, I would be delighted to meet with my hon. Friend and the fantastic police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Mr Speaker. One of the unintended consequences of the programme is that police forces have to reduce backroom police staff because of the financial penalties they receive if they do not increase officer numbers, leaving police officers undertaking non-public-facing roles. As 50% of funding for Dyfed-Powys police now comes from the police precept, should the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable not have a greater role in determining the force’s optimal workforce mix? For how long will the Home Office maintain those financial penalties?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Chief constables and police and crime commissioners are able to decide how to spend their budget and whether they spend it on physical equipment, buildings, police staff or police community support officers. They have operational independence, so they can make those decisions. I am pleased to say that every single one of Wales’s four police forces—North Wales, South Wales, Dyfed–Powys and Gwent police—have record officer numbers, and more officers than they had in 2010, under the last Labour Government.

Photo of Simon Baynes Simon Baynes Conservative, Clwyd South

I congratulate the Minister on the recruitment of 207 extra police officers in north Wales. Would he agree with me that that is vital in combating antisocial behaviour in parts of my constituency of Clwyd South? Will he comment on the work he is doing to streamline paperwork, which takes up far too much police time?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Yes, I certainly agree. North Wales police has 105 extra officers compared with March 2010. We expect them to be catching criminals. I agree with my hon. Friend that we want to minimise the bureaucratic burdens on policing. We recently changed Home Office accounting laws to reduce some of the bureaucratic burdens. We are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that people who are suffering mental health episodes that do not pose a threat to themselves or the public, and where no criminality is involved, are dealt with properly by the health service rather than by the police, so I completely agree with his point.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for his statement. The positivity in relation to recruitment is to be welcomed. It is great to hear about England and Wales hitting the pledge of 20,000 new police officers. In Northern Ireland, we have a different situation whereby our terrorism threat level has been increased and our police officers are at risk of violence, with Detective John Caldwell having been brutally shot. What discussions has the Minister had with the Police Service of Northern Ireland about meeting the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland national pledge to keep our police officers safe while on duty?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about police officer safety. Of course, that concerns all of us, across the whole United Kingdom, but officers in Northern Ireland face unusually elevated risks, as we saw with the tragic shooting just a few weeks ago. I am sure the whole House wishes the victim of that terrible attack a speedy recovery.

We have dialogue with the PSNI on a number of issues, including officer safety. I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that those discussions continue. I know he will be working closely with the Northern Ireland Office to ensure that the PSNI has the resources it needs to keep his constituents and the people of Northern Ireland safe.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Before I came to this House, I was a criminal defence solicitor for 17 years. Many of the inefficiencies in the criminal justice system are related to Labour’s disastrous decision to move charging from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has led to endless paperwork, form filling and inefficiencies. To assist the new recruits in tackling crime, cutting bureaucracy and doing the best job they can on behalf of all our constituents, will my right hon. Friend return full charging powers to the police?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

We have regular discussions about this topic with the Attorney General’s Office and with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill. Some police officers feel that they would benefit from taking more charging decisions; some feel that DG6, the sixth edition of the director’s guidance, could be improved; some are concerned about the burdens that redaction places on police officers. Those are all matters that we are discussing actively with the Crown Prosecution Service. I would welcome a meeting with my hon. Friend to discuss in more detail how we can remove and reduce the bureaucratic burdens.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

I welcome the Government’s remarkable achievement of a record number of police officers across England and Wales. In Sussex, the Government’s uplift since 2019 has resulted in an extra 429 police officers. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the Sussex police and crime commissioner, Katy Bourne? After 10 years of remarkable service, she has achieved an additional 250 police officers in Sussex, who have been recruited through a local initiative on top of the Government’s uplift.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for his campaigning work for the police and the public in Sussex. Katy Bourne, the police and crime commissioner, does a fantastic job. I have met her many times to discuss policing in Sussex; indeed, I visited Brighton with her just a few months ago. She has done a great job of recruiting extra officers locally. More than that, she has exceeded her police uplift target, delivering 439 extra officers in Sussex—10 more than the target of 429. I send huge congratulations to Katy Bourne and her whole team.

Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley

I welcome today’s statement. Not only have the Government fulfilled their manifesto pledge of an extra 20,000 police officers since 2019, but the national police force has increased by 3,542 officers from 2010 levels. Does the Minister share my frustration that at every single opportunity the Labour party has voted against measures to bring in the tougher sentences that I am sure police officers want implemented, particularly for violent and sexual offenders?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I concur entirely with my hon. Friend’s remarks about police officer numbers. It is striking that the Labour party has consistently voted against measures to toughen up sentencing. The vote that most shocked me was the vote by Labour members of the Public Bill Committee on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill against the specific clause that would have kept rapists and child sex offenders in prison for more of their sentence. I was frankly horrified by that.

Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Conservative, Ipswich

I welcome the 201 extra police officers we will have had in Suffolk since 2019. However, Josh, who runs Essential Vintage in Ipswich, which he set up over a year ago, has closed his doors. In the past two or three months, he has had 600 or 700 quid’s worth of items stolen from the shop, and he has closed his doors because he has had enough. Does the Minister agree that Suffolk police have a responsibility to look at the footage that Josh has shared with them—it is clear footage; I have looked at it—and to investigate it properly and punish those who are found guilty? Thieving is debilitating for a town centre and debilitating for local businesses. I welcome what the Minister says, but does he agree with me about those key points?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Yes, I do. Suffolk has about 150 more officers than in March 2010 under the last Labour Government, and it is important that those officers are used to investigate crimes such as shoplifting. I completely agree with my hon. Friend: where a crime is reported and there is a reasonable line of inquiry or actionable evidence to pursue, I expect the police to follow it up and investigate it in all cases, in exactly the way he sets out.

Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

I welcome the news that there are already 267 more police on Cleveland’s streets. Some years ago, our then Labour PCC closed our community police base in Elm Tree, but since then I have been working with local Conservative councillors, with our new Conservative police and crime commissioner, with police and with stakeholders to secure a new community police base in a shared space on Bishopton Road. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a base in the community will allow the police to be more visible and spend more time in Fairfield, Bishopsgarth and Elm Tree, Grangefield and Hartburn?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

That sounds like an excellent initiative to ensure that police are based in local communities. I strongly commend my hon. Friend and the local police and crime commissioner for their work to make it happen. I urge all hon. Members to be on the lookout for opportunities to base police in local communities: for example, in my community in Croydon, south London, we now have police based at Purley fire station to get them closer to the local community. Any Member of Parliament on either side of the House can be on the lookout for such opportunities to ensure that police are based as close as possible to the communities they serve.

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

Thank you, Mr Speaker; I am afraid I am an echo. Under the leadership of Conservative police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne and Chief Constable Jo Shiner—both wonderful women—Sussex police have increased the number of police officers by 429 through the national uplift programme and 250 through the local precept, beating the Government’s uplift targets and helping to reduce crime in Hastings and Rye. May I join the Minister in congratulating them both?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

That is a good note on which to end. Yes, police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne and Chief Constable Jo Shiner, both of whom I have met, have done a fantastic job in Sussex of protecting the public and beating crime, which is something I hope the entire House can get behind.