HC Deb 20 February 1992 vol 204 cc452-3
7. Mr. Roger King

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the civilianisation of police clerical posts.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peter Lloyd)

In the past eight years, some 5,400 police officers have been freed for operational policing duties by civilianising posts which do not require the powers or skills of a police officer, representing an efficiency gain of around £100 million per year.

Mr. King

I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent reply. Will he extend his congratulations to the West Midlands police, who have civilianised 413 posts since 1985? Does not that suggest how we can release police officers to duties within the community at very little cost to the police authority?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly extend my congratulations to the West Midlands police. It has done well and civilianised 73 per cent. of the posts identified, but, even though it has done very well, it has somewhat further to go.

Mr. Alton

In the light of the 86 per cent. increase in robberies on Merseyside in the past 13 years, does the Minister agree that the freeing of police officers through the civilianisation of posts should give Merseyside police the chance to put more policemen back on to the beat? Does he further agree that there is a need to reopen neighbourhood police stations and to put more emphasis on community policing?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman is right about the benefits from civilianisation. That suggests to me that he supports the policy of sector policing that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has put his weight behind. That policy means that the police identify with the local community that they serve.

Sir Peter Emery

In parallel with civilianisation of the police, will my hon. Friend ensure that instructions are given to all chief constables to increase further the designation of special constables and to increase the special constabulary, which would lead to more bobbies on the beat? Is that not the best discouragement to crime and an encouragement to those elderly people who fear being attacked on the streets?

Mr. Lloyd

Our objective is that the number of special constables should equal about 20 per cent. of the regular police force. The campaigns that we have been conducting are moving in that direction because special constables have a particularly valuable part to play.

Mr. Randall

On the question of police numbers, why has the Minister constantly refused to provide chief constables with the number of police officers that they need to reduce crime? Why do not the Government copy Labour's policy of supporting our police forces by substantially increasing the number of bobbies on the beat in a self-financing fashion?

Mr. Lloyd

It is extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman comes to the Dispatch Box to suggest that the Government follow Labour's policy. When the Labour Government left office, they left the police force about 7,000 under strength.

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