HC Deb 13 February 1995 vol 254 cc647-8
3. Mr. Llwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received on the current allocation of money for police forces in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Redwood

I had a number of representations on the police settlement. I am sure that the House will welcome the £15.1 million increase in the settlement as a result of those representations and my reconsideration of the position.

Mr. Llwyd

I readily acknowledge that the recent settlement is a great improvement for policing. I accept that it is an improvement in north Wales, and that it has been acknowledged to be so.

I remind the Minister, however, that, unfortunately, there is a great and increasing drugs problem in Wales, and the police officers with whom I spoke recently said that tackling it is beyond their current resources. It behoves the Welsh Office to take a strategic approach to that increasing problem, and to give some direction for police officers to follow?

Mr. Redwood

The hon. Gentleman is right that there is a worrying drugs problem. The Welsh Office is co-ordinating work on how best to tackle it. The £15 million extra for the police, in addition to the original settlement proposals, is very helpful in that respect.

I should like to pay tribute to the excellent work of the north Wales police in relation to the Owens family. I am sure that the whole House will join me in saying that we are delighted that the family is reunited and that we are grateful to the police and the medical staff who helped.

Mr. Sweeney

Will my right hon. Friend note the considerable relief and pleasure in the Vale of Glamorgan at the substantial increase in funding for South Wales police? Will he further note that the action taken by him and our right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary was necessary because of the deplorable underfunding of South Wales police, and that we are grateful for his action now?

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend is quite right. I had wanted local government to do the decent thing by the police; it had plenty of money to do so, but it chose to spend it on other things, so, with regret, I took the matter out of its hands. The House approved my proposals, which will lead to many more policemen on the beat, especially in south Wales, but perhaps throughout Wales. I think that is what the public want.

Mr. Michael

Does not the Secretary of State recognise that everyone will regard his regret as lacking in sincerity? The funding shortfall for the police force in Wales—particularly South Wales police—is due to the failure of the Secretary of State and his colleague the Home Secretary to provide the money. Is it not curious that this year, when the need to set an SSA has forced clarity into the allocation of funds, he has finally come up with the money that we have been telling him to allocate for two years?

Mr. Redwood

There was money in the original settlement that was left to the discretion of local government to spend. I freely accept that it was uncomfortable for me to defend for many months the proposition that Labour local government should do the decent thing and give the right answers when the House had voted freely to make the money available. Local government refused to give that money to the police and wasted it on other things. That is the scandal and I am glad that we have resolved it—although I wish that local authorities had resolved it themselves.