HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc413-4
12. Mr. Michael J. Martin

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the present number of police officers currently serving in Strathclyde.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

As at 31 December 1990, 6,804 officers were serving in Strathclyde police. This includes nine officers on secondment, 22 on central service, and 37 serving with the Scottish crime squad.

Mr. Martin

I thank the Minister for his reply. He will know that the chief constable of Strathclyde, Sir Andrew Sloan, complained in his most recent report that he was 210 police officers below strength, despite the fact that other forces throughout the United Kingdom had increased their numbers. The chief constable is alarmed that in some cases he will not be able to answer calls at peak times. Surely a Minister representing the party of law and order should do something about that.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the matter. It is clear that Strathclyde regional council will not allocate sufficient funds to maintain the required establishment. Currently the force is 150 below strength. The Scottish Office, having approved the higher level, has properly budgeted for its share of the cost, so the problem lies wholly at the door of Strathclyde regional council. We have increased our payment from 50 to 51 per cent. The regional council's decision is extraordinary in view of the fact that theft and house-breaking have increased, as have drugs-related offences involving supply as well as those involving possession. I very much hope that the council will consider the matter again with a view to adopting a stronger law and order policy.

Mr. David Marshall

Will the Minister confirm that in many parts of Strathclyde only a handful of police officers are available in the evenings and at weekends to combat the activities of criminals? Is not that a charter for criminals? It is surely wrong for the Minister to lay the blame at the door of Strathclyde regional council in view of all the cuts that the council has suffered as a result of Government policies. Will the Minister give the council sufficient resources to enable it to do all that it can to combat crime?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We have paid our share of the cost in grant and we have increased the grant from 50 to 51 per cent., as I mentioned. The responsibility lies firmly at the door of Strathclyde regional council. I hope that it will take seriously into account what the hon. Gentleman has said, bearing in mind that it is the only regional council in Scotland so far below the required establishment of police officers to do the job properly.