HC Deb 06 June 1985 vol 80 cc424-5
2. Mr. Hunter

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the present manning levels of police forces.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department(Mr. Leon Brittan)

There were 120,364 police officers and 39,299 civilian staff in England and Wales on 30 April. This was a total increase of 12,919 since May 1979; it was also an increase of 461 since March of this year.

Mr. Hunter

I applaud the professionalism and dedication of the police and welcome the measures that the Government have taken to increase manpower, but the fact remains that the burden of responsibility and duty that the police must now shoulder has increased significantly since 1979. In some parts of the country there appears to be little more than a minimum level of effective policing. Will the Government give urgent consideration to a further increase in police manpower?

Mr. Brittan

I agree that the burdens on the police since 1979 have increased, and it is for exactly that reason that the numbers of police have been increased.

With regard to the position in particular parts of the country, obviously I consider applications for increases in police establishment on their merits.

Mr. Dobson

If there are sufficient police, why have the numbers of crimes increased from 2.5 million in 1979 to 3.5 million in 1984?

Mr. Brittan

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows enough about the causes of crime to realise that they relate as much to what criminals do as to the presence of policemen. Were it not for the strengthening of the forces of law and order, I have no doubt whatever that, with the increase in crime that is occurring all over the Western world, crime would be far worse in this country.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, in cases recently brought to my attention, there has been a delay of over 15 minutes in response to an emergency call before even one police officer has arrived on the scene? Obviously, further action, such as an arrest, is precluded until reinforcements arrive. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that is a reflection of inadequate manning levels and that the public should be assured that they will have a prompt and efficient response to any emergency call?

Mr. Brittan

I agree that it is important that emergency calls should be dealt with on an emergency basis. My hon. Friend obviously has a particular case in mind. If she would like to get in touch with me, I shall look into it and see what went wrong.

Mr. Soley

Given that the Home Secretary thinks that he has done so much for the police in manning and other areas, why does he think that he received such a hostile reception at the police conference?

Mr. Brittan

The hon. Gentleman might like to compare that response with the one that his right hon. Friend received.

Mr. Hayes

I appreciate that my right hon. and learned Friend is committed to doing everything he can to ensure that we have an efficient and effective police force, but is he aware that there is widespread concern among officers in the metropolis that the present restrictions on overtime may be hampering inquiries? Will he investigate those allegations?

Mr. Brittan

It is important that the police should operate efficiently. I think that the measures that the commissioner has introduced to regulate overtime are an important part of the process of ensuring that the police do operate efficiently.