Local Policing

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 26 February 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

What recent discussions he has had with chief constables on delivering policing at a local level.

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

We have very regular discussions with chief constables across the country about local policing—in fact, just this morning I had a discussion with the chief constable of Staffordshire Police about some local policing issues in that county. It is a dialogue that happens on a regular and ongoing basis. Police chief constables are, of course, operationally independent, but we work very closely in partnership with them.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Houghton Regis are the third, fourth and fifth largest towns in Bedfordshire, yet they have a fraction of the police officers that are based in Luton and Bedford. Will the Minister speak to the chief constable to ensure that we get a fairer allocation of the record number of police officers we have in Bedfordshire, spread across the county and with a 24/7 first responder presence?

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

My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for his part of Bedfordshire. He is quite right to say that Bedfordshire, in common with many other parts of the country—and indeed with England and Wales as a whole —has a record number of police officers. In the case of Bedfordshire, the number is 1,456, and across England and Wales as a whole we now have over 149,000 officers: that is more than we have ever had before, and over 3,000 more than we had under the last Labour Government.

I speak regularly to Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst and the excellent police and crime commissioner in Bedfordshire, Festus Akinbusoye. Of course, how they deploy their record headcount is a matter for them, rather than for Government, but I will certainly mention the issues that my hon. Friend has raised when I next speak to them—I think we are having a meeting quite shortly—and I know that my hon. Friend will mention these issues as well.

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Labour, Brent Central

At the weekend I had to seek extra police support, due to the far-right abuse that I have suffered, which has been inspired and unleashed in part by the conspiracy theories and racist, Islamophobic, anti-Muslim hate peddled by the Members for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), for Fareham (Suella Braverman) and for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss). [Interruption.]

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Labour, Brent Central

It was peddled by Members of the Government party. Does the Minister agree that there is no place in this House or society for such divisive language? One Member has had the Whip removed. Does the Minister agree that other Members should also have the Whip removed, or does he agree with the points that were made?

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

This House as a whole should be clear that hatred based on religion or race has no part in a civilised country, whether it is directed towards the Jewish community, who have suffered a surge in antisemitism, or the Muslim community. The Conservative party is prepared to act extremely quickly, as we did at the weekend—a great deal faster than the Labour party when it had an issue in Rochdale.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

I am pleased that the Minister made reference to his meeting with the chief constable of Staffordshire Police after a disgusting hate mob appeared outside a Stoke-on-Trent Conservative fundraiser on Friday. It appears that a police officer allowed members of the public, who were spewing their hatred, into the venue’s private function room, where they sought to intimidate, harass and bully members old and young—some as young as 11 years old. One individual involved used to be a member of the now proscribed terrorist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. Is it not about time that we in this House stood up— because, I am sorry, Mr Speaker, but the actions of last week emboldened these individuals to take such action—and said with a clear voice that democracy will not be subdued in this way?

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

Yes, that is important. We make it clear in this House that Members of Parliament, elected councillors or anyone engaging in political activity, including attending political events, should be able to do so without intimidation and without harassment. No one in this House should feel that they have to change their vote, or change procedure, as a result of external pressure.

What happened in Stoke city on Friday evening was completely unacceptable. A political meeting was disrupted, and indeed closed down by protest. That is unacceptable. This morning, I met the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner of Staffordshire to make that clear. I also spoke this morning to the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Chief Constable Gavin Stephens, to make the same point. I am pleased to report to the House that four people have now been arrested in relation to the incident in Stoke city—[Interruption.]—on charges under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Has the Minister had a chance recently to talk to the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Police, which has been in special measures since 2022, and is now being sued by seven former and serving women police officers for failing to deal with rapes, emotional abuse and beatings over a number of years? What can he do to reassure the public in Devon and Cornwall that these allegations will be thoroughly independently investigated and any wrongdoing acted on?

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

Of course, we have the Independent Office for Police Conduct to make sure that there is an independent body available to investigate serious allegations about police forces or their conduct of particular investigations. On the Engage process, the chief inspector of constabulary chairs regular meetings of the policing performance oversight group, where forces in Engage are looked at and overseen. Devon and Cornwall is one of those forces, along with the West Midlands and London.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

Local policing is really important. I have had some good news from my police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez, which is that Liskeard is to have a new police inquiry office. Would my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming this, and will he look at what further funding is available for this to happen in other towns?

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

I pay tribute to the excellent police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez, for the work that she has done to get the Liskeard centre open, and of course I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her tireless work campaigning on behalf of Devon and Cornwall Police. Devon and Cornwall Police now has 3,718 officers, which is a record, and next year it will be receiving £28 million more funding compared with the current financial year, providing plenty of money to invest in services, as my hon. Friend quite rightly requests.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Flooding, Oceans and Coastal Communities)

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for everything you do to keep Members of Parliament safe. I know that so much of it goes unseen.

I know, from talking to residents in Hull West and Hessle, that they are deeply concerned about the rise in antisocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour is not trivial; it has a huge impact on neighbourhoods and on the mental health of the people subjected to it. So why are the Government failing to take it seriously?

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

With great respect, that is complete nonsense. The Government published an antisocial behaviour action plan just last year. From April of this year, in just a couple of months’ time, every single police area in England and Wales will have funding—£66 million in total—to run hotspot patrols in areas where there is antisocial behaviour or serious violence problems. We have 10 force areas running pilots for immediate justice, where people committing ASB have to do immediate reparations, and we banned nitrous oxide on 8 November last year. So an action plan is being implemented, and every single police force is having money to run hotspot patrols to combat ASB.