HC Deb 24 November 1994 vol 250 cc720-1
12. Mr. Rowe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers will be returned to operational duties by his plans to cut paperwork and to reduce the number of police middle-managers.

Mr. Howard

This is a matter for individual chief constables to determine in the light of the particular circumstances of their own forces, but it should be possible over time for some 5,300 police officers to be redeployed to front-line operational police duties.

Mr. Rowe

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, according to the latest information from Kent, not much hope is held out for redeploying police officers as a result of computerising? However, will he commend the chief constable of Kent for redeploying up to 112 officers back to the beat as a result of his management review?

Mr. Howard

I am always happy to commend the chief constable of Kent, particularly for the reason given by my hon. Friend. That is a welcome example of the kind of progress that can be made in increasing the number of police officers deployed on operational duties as a result of the kind of reorganisation which lies behind my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Mike O'Brien

Does the Home Secretary not understand the great concern among police officers about the mountains of paperwork with which they have to deal, much of which has been generated by the 56 Bills, including the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, passed by the Conservative Government since they came into office? The paperwork needs to be reduced.

Mr. Howard

Many of the provisions that have led to extra paperwork were inserted into those Bills at the Opposition's request. Whenever the Government wane to take tough action to deal with law and order, the Opposition always come along with proposals for more and more so-called safeguards, most of which add to the burden of paperwork.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, even before the implementation of those proposals, the City of London police force has cut crime by half over the past three years? Will he congratulate it on that outstanding achievement?

Mr. Howard

I do, indeed, congratulate the City on the success that it has achieved. Other forces throughout the country are also achieving success in the fight against crime and we should all congratulate the police on the progress that they are making.

Mr. Alton

Recognising that the Merseyside police force has also made progress in the fight against crime and achieved a reduction in crime figures, does the Home Secretary agree that it is bound to lead to a loss of morale to publish proposals which the chief constable said could lead to cuts of 500 police officers and 100 civilians? Were that proceeded with, the only people who would benefit would be the criminals.

Mr. Howard

When we publish our proposals next week, the hon. Gentleman will see that the figures that he cited are wide of the mark.

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