HC Deb 09 March 1995 vol 256 cc446-7
4. Mr. Bayley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the police establishment in North Yorkshire.

Mr. Maclean

Since 1979, the approved establishment of the North Yorkshire police has increased by 90 to 1,418. The budget for the North Yorkshire police will increase by 8 per cent. for next year, which will mean a real and substantial increase in resources for the force to spend as the chief constable thinks fit.

Mr. Bayley

According to the most recent figures, 24 fewer police officers are serving in North Yorkshire now than in 1979. How does that square with the Government's manifesto pledges to be tough on crime? Will the Minister give a guarantee to the people of North Yorkshire that when the new arrangements for funding the police are introduced in April, he will increase the number of police officers serving in the county at least to the authorised established figure of 1,418 which he mentioned?

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman has obviously not been following what has been happening in the House for the past year. The Government will cease to set establishment figures. The chief constable can use his 8 per cent. increase in next year's budget to spend as he sees fit on officers, civilians, a mixture of both, or technology. The hon. Gentleman's figures are right, but they are only part of the story. Had he bothered to check with North Yorkshire police, he would have discovered that, while the overall number of officers in the force has declined, it has been at the expense of support and administration staff, and the force assures me that it has 38 more constables out on the streets on operational duties, which is surely to be welcomed.

Mr. John Greenway

Is my hon. Friend aware of the difficulty currently faced by North Yorkshire police in rural areas in policing demonstrations by animal rights activists outside farms? Does he agree that that is yet a further reason why we need to concentrate new and more resources on policing in rural areas which, representing a rural constituency as he does, my hon. Friend knows only too well is so important for farmers and people who live in our villages?

Mr. Maclean

It is important that the law is upheld throughout the whole country, and I am confident that the 43 police forces in England and Wales will continue to uphold people's legitimate right to go about their lawful and legal business. That will be done in North Yorkshire, Sussex, Essex and throughout the country. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that rural areas require adequate policing. The budget increase of 8 per cent. for North Yorkshire police will enable the chief constable to deploy his resources appropriately and in the best possible way, giving maximum coverage to all parts of the county.