HC Deb 16 July 1987 vol 119 cc1272-3
10. Mr. John Townend

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give an estimate of the additional man hours required to deal with the extra paperwork and administration resulting from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act; and if he will estimate the effect on the number of policemen on the beat.

Mr. Hurd

The first estimate cannot be given because we do not know how much time the police spent on record-keeping before the Act came into force. In many cases where the Act imposes a statutory requirement the police were already keeping records in order to avoid arguments and get convictions. In other cases, new recording requirements act as necessary safeguards on the exercise of additional police powers. How many police officers are available for beat patrolling in any area at a particular time obviously depends on many factors and no one could estimate reliably the effect of any one of them.

Mr. Townend

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. At a meeting with local Members of Parliament the chief constable of Humberside said that the requirement to take a verbatim record of all statements was taking up a considerable amount of additional time, that it was putting pressure on police manpower and that it was also making it more difficult to get at the truth, because the cross-questioning of suspects became slower and more tedious, those who were prone to lie had more time to think about what they were saying and therefore it was more diffcult to catch them out.

Mr. Hurd

I know of that point, but it is also a fact that in London and Greater Manchester the police forces had already moved to the taking of something like contemporaneous notes, because they had found that, unless they did that, what went on in a police station was afterwards challenged and they were not securing convictions. That was the reasoning that lay behind that provision in the Act. Tape recording is the answer, and as we introduce it steadily throughout the country, as we are doing, it will solve that problem.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

As my right hon. Friend's officials have been unable to provide him with any estimates, why does he not examine the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary? His estimate is that 2,400 man years and £45 million of additional expenditure were required to do the training for the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and that there has been a significant reduction in arrests and clear-ups, which the Chief Inspector of Constabulary thinks must be connected with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. I support the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, but when he considers police manpower I hope that my right hon. Friend will take into account the problems that this legislation has created.

Mr. Hurd

Of course I have read the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. It showed that there was a considerable once-for-all training burden on the police. In some rural areas, the need for custody sergeants produces a demand for manpower that I regard as legitimate. I do not accept that record-keeping in police stations is unnecessary. My hon. Friend will have noticed with pleasure that the clear-up rate after the dip last year has begun to improve. It was 5 per cent. up in the first quarter of this year, compared with the first quarter of last year.

Mr. Corbett

As the Home Secretary does not know how much extra work the Police and Criminal Evidence Act has produced, will he undertake to make inquiries of the police to find out? Does he not recall the Opposition warning predicting that, instead of setting out the responsibilities of the citizen and the powers of the police, the Act would turn into no more than a bureaucratic nightmare?

Mr. Hurd

I do not know how the hon. Gentleman can say that when, day after day and night after night, we faced detailed Opposition amendments to increase the paperwork, to increase the bureaucracy and to load on to the police burdens which their representatives and we decided were quite unreasonable. The general election has given the hon. Gentleman amnesia.