Police: Female Officers

– in the House of Lords at 11:21 am on 23 March 2006.

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Photo of Lord Kimball Lord Kimball Conservative 11:21, 23 March 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many female officers resign from the police force each year.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, 590 women officers—1.7 per cent—voluntarily resigned in 2005; 589—2 per cent—did so in 2003–04; and 501—2 per cent—did so in 2002–03. The Government are keen to ensure that the police service is able to attract and retain trained, experienced women. A steering group chaired by Hazel Blears has been set up to oversee this work, and new procedures have been put in place to examine the points at which women leave the service, and the reasons behind their leaving.

Photo of Lord Kimball Lord Kimball Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Without being slightly churlish, however, I feel that it lacks a certain sympathy. All the speculation about amalgamation is unsettling for lady officers. They play a vital part in the work of the force, and it is time that the question of amalgamation was laid to rest so that they can get on with the business of arresting criminals.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we understand that any change of any institution is unsettling for officers, no more so for women than for men. We have real progress in female advancement through the service. We hope that, if the reorganisation goes well, there will be even greater opportunities for a more equitable balance between male and female officers.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Spokesperson in the Lords, Northern Ireland Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Police), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, notwithstanding the fact that the Minister has told us that Hazel Blears will look carefully at this, is she able to tell us why the drop-out rate for black and ethnic minority women officers at probationary stage is so high? If she is unable to tell us now, will she undertake to write to me?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I certainly undertake to write to the noble Baroness, but the drop-out rate between nought and two years for women is lower than that for men. As we go through the service, there are issues involving the two to 10-year bracket, such as when women have children and matters of that sort. The flexibility of the service seems to have a negative impact, but I assure the noble Baroness that we are doing everything possible to address those issues. I will write to her about her specific query.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, is there any significance in the numbers of women officers who resign after their statutory maternity leave? Are there opportunities, such as work sharing or part-time work, for those who want to spend time with their small children beyond the statutory limit?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, one of the difficulties that the noble Baroness rightly highlights is the inflexibility of some working practices. That is one of the things that we are looking at with great care. In the reorganised police service, which is much more intelligence-led, there are more opportunities for specific expertise and for women to have a more flexible input and play a part. We are looking at those issues carefully to make sure that we do not lose the considerable talent of our women officers.

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, through fair and transparent selection processes and promotion procedures, female police officers have risen—quite properly—on merit to the most senior positions in the service, including chief constable, and that only the post of commissioner is yet to be filled by a talented female colleague?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I can confirm that women have done very well in the service. We have six chief officers, four deputy chiefs and nine assistant chief constables. I can also confirm what the noble Lord said about recruitment. Women now make up 21 per cent of the number of police officers and are being recruited at a rate of 32 per cent. The success rate at the assessment centre, which is competency-based, is 78 per cent for women and 65 per cent for men.

Photo of Lord Glenarthur Lord Glenarthur Conservative

My Lords, can the Minister say whether the figures that she quoted include women special constables? If not, can she supply figures showing whether they leave at the same rate?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I do not have with me the figures for special constables. I shall look at that issue, but I assure noble Lords that overall wastage rates are low in the police force generally. The wastage is lower for women than for men: it is 3.5 per cent for women and 5.7 per cent for men. Those figures compare favourably with other public services.

I shall look at the issue of special constables. Noble Lords will know that they have a slightly different status from those who are employed on a full-time basis.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative Independent

My Lords, the Minister said that the regionalisation of the police force was unsettling. Is there any truth in the rumour that the boundaries of the new regional police forces just happen to coincide with the boundaries of the European regions under the Europe of the regions project?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the ingenuity of the noble Lord in getting Europe into a question never fails to astound me. I can tell your Lordships that the reorganisation is consistent with the needs of Great Britain and that that takes priority.