I am in two minds about community support officers. A friend of mine, a serving police officer, tells me that they are just policing on the cheap. He resents, although I hope the Minister will correct me if this is wrong, the fact that when someone becoming a PCSO starts on a higher salary than a new police officer. My friend maintains that another difference is that police officers have much longer training than PCSOs and argues that in certain circumstances—here I refer to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch on the safety of PCSOs—they would not be able to look after themselves.
That is the bad side of the PCSO initiative. The good side, I guess, is that it is better to see someone on the streets to give reassurance than no one at all. On the other hand, that rather raises the question of whether, if we can afford it, we should not have police officers rather than PCSOs.
I support amendment No. 134 because I believe in localism, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs has spoken. It should be for individual chief constables to decide precisely what the role of the PCSO should be. This morning, we had an interesting debate on urban versus rural areas, and I learned from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Flello) that Longton police station is the busiest in England.