asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Statement by the Lord President on 13 January (WS 19–24) on Northern Ireland priorities and budget 2004–06, whether they include the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the front-line services (WS 22); what increases in the police budget they plan for 2004–05 and 2005–06, as compared with previous years; and whether the number of police officers available for operations will increase in each of the two years, after allowing for holidays, sickness and desk work.
The Northern Ireland Office has stated that following the 2002 spending review the grant available to the Police Service of Northern Ireland was set at £726.4 million for 2004–05 and £726.3 million for 2005–06. This compares to £699.5 million for 2003–04.
The chief constable's human resource planning strategy envisages 5,400 officers in district command units by April 2005. This figure may be amended to reflect the creation of a crime operations department with responsibility for handling serious crimes. The improving position on sickness absence allows more officers to be available for deployment.
The 11 departments of the Northern Ireland administration add that priorities and budget 2004–06 sets out the Government's priorities and spending plans in Northern Ireland for those services previously devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive. This does not include the Police Service of Northern Ireland.