HC Deb 24 November 1994 vol 250 cc715-6
5. Mr. Vaz

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the actual number of police officers employed in England and Wales in (a) April 1992, (b) April 1993 and (c) April 1994.

Mr. Howard

There were 127,760 police officers in England and Wales in April 1992, 127,963 in April 1993 and 127,489 in April 1994.

Mr. Vaz

Will the Home Secretary confirm that there will be no further reductions in the number of police officers as a result of the implementation of the core function policy?

Mr. Howard

As the hon. Gentleman may know, we have published the interim report of the core function review, on which we are working very closely with the police. The objective of the review is not to reduce the number of police officers but to enable the police to concentrate on the issues that matter most, and we are taking it forward with the police.

Mr. David Martin

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that a relevant consideration is how police time is used? Will he do all that he can to ensure that the police are not required to pursue to court spurious crimes of rape, such as the one involving a former university student in Portsmouth, especially as the Crown Prosecution Service often undermines police efforts by failing to press proper charges in real crimes of violence?

Mr. Howard

The key to the concern behind my hon. Friend's question lies in the need for greater co-operation, communication and liaison between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. The system works very well in some parts of the country and less well in others, but I am keen to encourage the whole country to emulate the standards of the best as soon as possible?

Mr. Beith

Will the Home Secretary explain why this year he refused requests from almost every chief constable in the country to deploy additional police officers, and why he presented the new police authorities with draft proposals for the limits on their budgets which would have meant that some of them would have to reduce the number of police officers on the beat?

Mr. Howard

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in the first part of his question. The truth of the matter is that many chief constables have been able to employ more police constables by slimming the middle management ranks of their police forces in a way of which I hope the right hon. Gentleman would approve. As for the second part of his question, he will have to await my announcement next week of the detailed financing arrangements for police authorities.

Mr. Butler

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the statistics that he gives are both accurate and misleading in the sense that the true test is not the number of policemen employed but the number deployed? Has not the latter increased significantly and more than pro rata with population growth in most police areas as a result of civilianisation and a reduction in paperwork in the past several years?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is the key test and it is the objective that we seek to achieve. It is shared by chief constables, who are concentrating more and more of their officers on the type of duties that we all want to see them perform.

Mr. Michael

But does not the Home Secretary accept that the effect of the review of core functions will be a further serious cut in the number of police officers available on our streets? Does he accept that the Government reneged on a promise to increase the number of police officers by 1,000 at the last general election, because the actual number of police officers available for ordinary duty fell between April 1992 and April 1993 by 401?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman must have prepared his question not only before he heard my answer to the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) but as long ago as before the publication of the interim report from the core function review. Had he read that report, he would know that there was no substance whatever to his introductory comment. The figures all depend on precisely which month one takes. If one took the month of May instead of April, one would find a steady increase year on year for all three of the years mentioned.