HC Deb 29 January 1986 vol 90 cc931-2
1. Mr. Hirst

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland which Scottish police forces are currently under establishment strength; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John MacKay)

With the exception of Strathclyde police, all Scottish police forces are currently operating close to their authorised establishment levels. Allowing for officers on secondment to central service, Strathclyde is some 180 officers below establishment.

Mr. Hirst

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that it is a matter of serious concern that Strathclyde regional council has persistently refused to bring its police force up to establishment strength? Is my hon. Friend aware that that is causing operational problems for the police? Will he and his ministerial colleagues tell the regional council to do everything it can to bring the police force up to establishment strength as quickly as possible?

Mr. MacKay

I share my hon. Friend's concern. The Government continue to give the highest priority to law and order in their expenditure plans. We are ready to pay our share of the cost of a fully manned force in Strathclyde. It is up to the regional council to show the same determination.

Mr. Ron Brown

Was undermanning the cause of the death of Gary McGregor, a young constituent, who was knocked down and killed by a speeding police car? If I provide the details to the hon. Gentleman, will he investigate the matter?

Mr. MacKay

If the hon. Gentleman provides me with the details, I shall certainly look into the case.

Sir Hector Monro

Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the police forces in Scotland for their outstanding work" Will he encourage all local authorities to do everything they can to keep their police forces up to strength and to provide them with adequate equipment?

Mr. MacKay

I am happy to respond to my hon Friend's invitation to pay tribute to policemen throughout Britain. They do a splendid job, and it is essential that they have the best and most modern equipment available in their fight against crime.

Sir Russell Johnston

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that some of the establishment figures are probably too low? Some regional forces in widespread rural areas, such as the Highlands, are terribly stretched in trying to provide proper cover.

Mr. MacKay

I recall the problems of the northern constabulary. I would not like to say that they were caused by establishment figures being too low. These figures are arrived at with the clear aim of meeting the operational needs of the police forces of the various authorities.

Mr. Ewing

Is the Minister aware that the great surge in recruitment came as a result of the recommendations of the Edmund-Davies commission, which was set up by the Labour Government? Does he agree that the underestablishment at Strathclyde is out of a force of more than 6,000 officers? The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) said that underestablishment was causing operational difficulties. Has the chief constable of Strathclyde approached the Minister or the Secretary of State and expressed anxiety about operational difficulties because of an underestablishment of 100 officers out of a force of more than 6,000?

Mr. MacKay

It is 180 officers out of a force of more than 6,000. The chief constable has not approached me directly and officially about that, but I know from my predecessors that the previous chief constable was worried. We must all share his concern. It is obviously best if the police force is up to its establishment.

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