HC Deb 10 March 1994 vol 239 cc385-6
6. Mr. Ainger:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many representations he has received on his proposals set out in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill [Lords].

Mr. Howard

I have received about 250 representations from organisations, members of the public and hon. Members since the Bill was published on 17 December.

Mr. Ainger

As the Home Secretary is aware that Dyfed-Powys police and Gwent police are the most successful forces in terms of clear-up rate, will he do another U-turn, or another climbdown, on the provisions in the Bill for ending or amalgamating police forces, especially as such action would be against the wishes of local people and of the local police authority?

Mr. Howard

I do not need to change the Bill to agree with the hon. Gentleman's proposal. The Bill merely changes the procedures for amalgamations and I have made it clear that I have no hidden agenda of compulsory amalgamations. I congratulate the police of Dyfed-Powys on their excellent results, including most impressive crime clear-up rates and the award of a chartermark.

Mr. Jonathan Evans

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that if he had the power to appoint an accountant to the South Wales police authority, the authority might have been able to discover somewhat earlier that it had made a £3 million mistake in its adding up?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend's point is extremely persuasive and it is a matter for great regret that the South Wales police authority has been responsible for such large mistakes. Of course, there is a place, and there will be a place on the new police authorities, for local and independent members who do not happen to be councillors or magistrates. I hope that they will make an effective contribution to the working of those authorities.

Mr. Michael

If the Home Secretary has no hidden agenda for merging police forces—unlike his predecessor, who offered a threat to 39 of our 43 police forces—will he withdraw the power that he seeks in the Bill to merge police forces without being restrained by the wishes of local people?

Mr. Howard

The procedures, for which provision is made in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, make proper provision for giving full weight to the views and wishes of local people. What they change are the extremely cumbersome procedures that have been in place until now, which are long, expensive and unnecessary.

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