HC Deb 18 February 1988 vol 127 cc1133-4
2. Mr. Leigh

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he last met representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers; and what was discussed.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

I met the president and senior officers of the Association of Chief Police Officers on 25 January. We discussed the problems caused by the need to accommodate prisoners in police cells and also crime prevention initiatives.

Mr. Leigh

Did my right hon. Friend convince chief police officers that calls for more manpower in the police, as in other public services, can be tolerated only in the context of greater efficiency and effectiveness and more modernisation and rationalisation?

Mr. Hurd

Chief officers are well aware of that fact. They know that, although we are in the middle of a further stage of expansion of police numbers in England and Wales, which are already a record, the applications that police authorities put in will be judged on the criterion that my hon. Friend mentions—whether they are making the best use of existing resources, for example, by employing civilians in jobs which they can do at about half the cost of a police officer.

Mr. Boyes

Nevertheless, is the Home Secretary aware that Northumbria's chief constable has carried out an exercise on his manpower needs and has determined that he needs an extra 529 police officers in order to police my constituency and those of my hon. Friends in Tyne and Wear? Does he also realise that if the chief constable uses the measure of serious offences per police officer, he needs an extra 800 police officers? Will the Home Secretary let me take a message back to the chief constable that he will agree to an extra manpower quota?

Mr. Hurd

The problem in Northumbria is not so much the manpower levels but the precept which the House approved on 8 February. I have looked into the matter, because I have had various representations about it. The maximum precepts for the four joint police authorities concerned, which the House approved on 8 February, should enable them broadly to maintain their present level of service if they get their sums right and take wise decisions.

Mr. Conway

When my right hon. Friend was discussing manpower requirements with the chief police officers, did he urge them, as he has done in the past, to make greater use of special constables, particularly in rural areas, because they can play a useful part, particularly in street patrols, and so ease the burden on regular police officers?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, my hon. Friend is right. That issue did not come up at the meeting, but we believe that possibility to be so important that we held a special conference, presided over by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, designed to bring home to chief officers and others concerned the fact that special constables can be a real asset, and, in many places, are still under-used.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

When the Home Secretary next meets the chief constable of West Yorkshire, will he put it to him that there is a responsibility placed upon him to stop the leaks, from the West Yorkshire constabulary of smears — such as the one in the Yorkshire Post in an article written by Mr. Roger Cross—against Mr. Stalker by linking him to the death or murder of a Sergeant Speed? Will he tell him to stop the leaks because they are unfair on Mr. Stalker?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman is in no position to lecture anybody on smears and insinuations. The chief constable of West Yorkshire has handled himself with high distinction and professional care throughout the whole business and I reject any insinuation directed either at him or the members of his force.