HC Deb 24 November 1994 vol 250 cc711-2
1. Mr. McWilliam

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the average cost of employing a police officer.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard)

The present average cost of employing a police officer is £4,200 a year.

Mr. McWilliam

Given the high level of crime and individual risk to which police officers are now subjected, does the Home Secretary agree that that is a small price to pay?

Mr. Howard

I do indeed agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have always maintained that police officers deserve to be rewarded properly for the very considerable risks that they run on our behalf and for the difficult and dangerous job that they do.

Sir Donald Thompson

What will police officers think about the boy in my constituency who committed 130 crimes, who was arrested 88 times, who was a burglar, a shoplifter and a vandal yet who finished up doing 24 hours' community service?

Mr. Howard

I think that most police officers will react to those reports in much the same way as my hon. Friend and I react to them. The courts have powers to commit young offenders who are clearly out of control to the care of local authorities, which can ensure that they are detained in secure accommodation. The powers of the courts to deal with such young offenders will be much increased when the operative provisions of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 are in force.

Mr. Bennett

Given the considerable cost of employing police officers, does the Home Secretary agree that it is very important to ensure that they are employed on police duties and not on minding remand or convicted prisoners in police cells? Given the many occasions on which his predecessors have condemned the practice of holding prisoners in police cells from that Dispatch Box, can the Home Secretary tell us when the practice will stop, at least in Greater Manchester?

Mr. Howard

I very much hope that it will stop as soon as possible. We have provided a great deal of additional prison accommodation. I do not like the practice of detaining prisoners in police cells any more than the hon. Gentleman and I hope that we will be able to stop it quite soon. It occurs much less now than in the past.