Annual Report by Chief Inspector of Constabulary

Part of Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 12th April 2016.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:45 pm, 12th April 2016

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We believe it is appropriate to charge the chief inspector of constabulary with producing reports on a regular basis, not just on the efficiency and effectiveness of policing but, crucially, on the crime and non-crime demand on police in England and Wales for the year in respect of which the report is prepared and for two and five years ahead. For example, we may disagree on how to handle cybercrime, but it is common ground across the House that it is a major and growing area of crime and a relatively new development; we must therefore always properly assess the demand on the police service before making decisions about how best to meet that demand.

To be quite frank, the problem is that things are increasingly difficult for the police. Some 18,000 police officers and some 5,000 police community support officers have gone. The thin blue line has been stretched ever thinner; ever fewer are being asked to do ever more, on four fronts in particular.

First, following scandals in recent years, there is now a great national will to do everything necessary to protect children in our society. Only last week, Simon Bailey, the chief constable who heads up the police’s multi-faceted strategy on the protection of children, said that it was already costing the police £1 billion, and that that would rise to £3 billion by 2020, such are the scale and complexity of the cases involved, both current and historical, and the investigation necessary.

Secondly, there has been an enormous increase in cybercrime. As we were rehearsing only yesterday, someone is more likely to be mugged online than in the street. Some of the major banks have estimated 20% or 30% increases in attempted crime against their customers every year. The scale of it is enormous.

Thirdly, there is the sheer scale of what is required for counter-terrorism. Last November, the Government decided not to go ahead with what would have been 22% cuts on top of 25% cuts. One reason for that decision was the strong representations, made by people like Mark Rowley and Bernard Hogan-Howe, that numbers matter, both for surge capacity in the event of a Paris-style attack and for neighbourhood policing, which was described by Peter Clarke, the former head of counter-terrorism, as the “golden thread” that runs from the local to the global. The patient building of community relationships is key to gaining intelligence; as a consequence, arrests for terrorism are now happening at the rate of almost one a day. As Bernard Hogan-Howe and Mark Rowley have said before the House, that is a consequence of good neighbourhood policing, but it is incredibly resource-intensive.

Fourthly, there is the wider problem of the police being increasingly seen as the force of last resort. In his powerful contribution this morning, my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham rightly made the point that, if there are no other agencies ready to respond, the police are the force of last resort. Sara Thornton, the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council, said recently that the police tend to be the people who, after 5 o’clock on a Friday, can be counted on to turn out when others perhaps do not because they no longer have the resources. Classically that includes going after looked-after children.

To meet demand, the nature of the demand must be understood. Our thinking is, in part, inspired by very good work from the College of Policing. Its infographic—the Minister will be familiar with it—pointed out that, in purely policing terms, about a quarter of police time is spent dealing with crime. Some might ask what they do with the other three quarters. In counter-terrorism, for example, they are cementing good relationships with the local community, which is key to intelligence gathering. The intelligent work from the College of Policing points to the fact that much more needs to be done to understand the nature of demand. I very much hope that the Government will agree to this new clause because it is about understanding what the public needs and using that understanding to inform what is done to protect the public.