HC Deb 05 December 1991 vol 200 cc389-90
9. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the allocation of police officers to West Yorkshire.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Fourteen additional police posts were approved with effect from 1 October 1991, providing for an establishment of 5,295. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced on 28 November that he had not approved the police authority's application for 79 additional police posts in 1992–93.

Mrs. Mahon

The victims of crime in West Yorkshire will not be satisfied with that answer. The Minister must be aware that, because of the threat of poll tax capping, by April 1992 we will have lost 200 police personnel on the beat and 200 civilian personnel. As the Government, with their policies of dividing society, have been responsible for the breakdown in law and order, cannot we at least expect bobbies back on the beat to protect us?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not accept that capping, or the threat of capping, is responsible for West Yorkshire's inability to recruit its full establishment. I think that the hon. Lady will find the answer in Her Majesty's inspector of constabulary report for 1991, which notes that West Yorkshire has one of the highest levels of expenditure per head of any police authority. If it could bring its cost-effectiveness nearer the average, it could recruit up to the establishment that the Home Secretary has recommended. The hon. Lady mentioned policemen on the beat. West Yorkshire has a smaller percentage of its force on the beat, which no doubt is partly due to its slow pace in the civilianisation of its various police activities.

Mr. Donald Thompson

Is my hon. Friend aware that the chief constable of the West Riding and one of his policemen wrote to me recently to say that there are no outstanding matters with the Home Office and that they welcome the £3.16 million to fight crime and the refurbishment and establishment of new police stations in Bradford, Leeds and Pontefract? Will my hon. Friend do his best to ensure that constituents and police combine to spend the extra resources wisely?

Mr. Lloyd

I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned the extra expenditure under the urban crime fund, which is designed to tackle crime in particular areas. West Yorkshire has had the benefit of that. He is right that there are no outstanding issues with the Home Office. The outstanding issue is using the resources that the police authority has effectively.

Mr. Corbett

Does the Under-Secretary accept that in the face of a tidal wave of crime there must be better planning in police manning in West Yorkshire, as everywhere else? Instead of the piecemeal approach, cannot he offer a three-year rolling programme of force levels to assist chief constables to make more effective use of manpower in a bid to prevent and combat crime?

Mr. Lloyd

Of course, but decisions on the effective use of manpower are taken by the police authority and the police force. The inspector's report shows that there is room for improvement. As I said, there is certainly scope for further civilianisation.