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Police Response Times (Lothian and Borders)

General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 18th November 2004.

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Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 2:00 pm, 18th November 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to assist Lothian and Borders police to improve their response times. (S2O-4103)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

As the member is aware, decisions on operational policing are a matter for the chief constable. However, we are providing record funding to Lothian and Borders police and have made clear the importance that we attach to the use of those resources to improve service delivery.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

I thank the minister for her response and for the extra funding for Lothian and Borders police, although the impact of the grant-aided expenditure changes on that force may be less positive than they will be elsewhere. She will be aware that operation capital, changes in call-centre provision and the priority gradings have, anecdotally, had a negative impact on policing in Edinburgh. Only last week, a young pregnant woman was physically assaulted outside my constituency office; when she was brought into the office, my staff telephoned the police three times before they arrived, which was well over an hour later. I receive reports of similar events all the time from my constituents, as I am sure other members do. What is the Executive doing to assist Lothian and Borders police with the monitoring of their grading system and the delivery of quicker response times, bearing in mind that the target for 999 responses in urban areas is 10 minutes?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I hope that Margaret Smith will take up the incident that she described directly with Lothian and Borders police. I am sure that she already has that action in hand. Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland is carrying out an inspection review in relation to Lothian and Borders police. The report of last year's primary inspection of the force stated that a number of issues would be covered in the review, including the impact of operation capital, the operation of the force communication centre and the impact of the force's review of its shift and call-grading systems. The force has undertaken an internal review of a number of issues and is planning changes as a result. I understand that the inspectorate's review-inspection report will probably be published towards the end of this year or at the beginning of next year.

As Margaret Smith mentioned, Lothian and Borders police have received an increase in the GAE figures, although it may not be as big an increase as other forces have received. However, Lothian and Borders police receive an extra £740,000 per annum in addition to the GAE money, in recognition of the capital-city pressures.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I wonder whether you would be good enough to review the management of question time. In the first section we reached only question 4 and in the second section we reached only question 5. I hesitate to advise the Presiding Officers, but some of the ministers' answers are very long-winded and eat into time. That is reflected in the fact that many members are not attending the chamber for question time and are not even bothering to submit questions. I ask the Presiding Officers, with respect, whether the management of question time could be reviewed.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I commend the member for deciding that she would not presume to advise the chair on how to conduct its business. One of the additional factors is that, in the first section of questions, I was able to accept seven supplementary questions, which added to the time. In the second section, I accepted four supplementary questions, which also added to the time. In the third section, I accepted one supplementary question, which allowed us to get as far as question 8. Members must appreciate that all those variables are factors.

It is fair to say that we observe different lengths in ministerial answers. There are points in that for ministers. However, those are not points for me to enforce from the chair; they are matters that concern us all in how we handle this affair. I understand that the Procedures Committee is looking at aspects of the procedure, so the member may well wish to make some representations to that committee.