HC Deb 30 January 1996 vol 270 cc884-908
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will note that the Order Paper says that the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments has not considered this report. May I inform the House that we considered it this afternoon, that we found nothing wrong with it and that we therefore have nothing to report?

However, I make the point to business managers on both sides of the House, who expect the Select Committee to scrutinise statutory instruments such as this, that they should wait until we have scrutinised them before they arrange debates in the House, and that the time from 4.30 pm until now would be short if the House expected us to produce a report, and hon. Members to be able to read it. Although on this occasion we have nothing to report, I hope that the business managers will take it into account that that should not happen as a regular practice.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the information that he has imparted to hon. Members through the occupant of the Chair.

10.15 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Maclean)

I beg to move, That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 1996–97 (House of Commons Paper No. 162), which was laid before this House on 29th January, be approved. It is a matter of great personal satisfaction to be opening this debate on police funding. Once again, I can come to the House and tangibly demonstrate the strength of the Government's commitment to the police service in England and Wales.

Since 1978–79, police strength will have increased by more than 16,000. Civilian strength has increased by more than 17,000. Expenditure has increased from just over £1 billion to £6.8 billion—96 per cent in real terms. Since the last election alone, the number of constables in forces has increased by 1,313, boosting the number of bobbies on the beat.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (North Warwickshire)

Not in Warwickshire, it has not. We have lost more than 60 officers from our old establishment rate during the current year, and we expect to lose up to 70 officers. Is that a record of which the Minister can be proud? Is he proud of underfunding Warwickshire constabulary by more than £6 million? What does he intend to do about that?

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman will naturally speak out for his constituency and county—that is his job—and he will try and make the best possible fist of it. He must bear in mind, however, that the funding for Warwickshire went up more than 5 per cent. last year, that Warwickshire has a 3.5 per cent. increase in central Government funding this year, and that Warwickshire police can spend up to 3.9 per cent. more this year if they set their budget at the maximum level. At a time when inflation is so low and when officers' pay, which is the biggest component of a police force's expenditure, has increased by only 3 per cent. —civilian pay has increased by even less—an increase of almost 4 per cent. for the police in Warwickshire is generous, and it is in line with the national average increase.

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

Page 14 of the report refers to indicators such as long-term unemployment and young male unemployment. I associate those two paragraphs with a problem which exists throughout the land, in every village and town where there are unemployed young men who create a nuisance, harassing older citizens and people in small village shops. Does the report contain any hope for us in tackling that real problem?

Mr. Maclean

If I have got the hon. Gentleman's county correct, he represents the North Wales police force area, which this year received a 5.1 per cent. increase, or certainly its budget can increase by 5.1 per cent. Not many other sectors of Government or local government can increase their expenditure by that amount this year. I must make the point again that police civilian pay is increasing by 2.5 per cent. and uniformed bobby pay by 3 per cent., and the average increase in police pay is about 2.8 per cent. For a police force that receives 5.1 per cent. more, that is a considerable advantage.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

Before my right hon. Friend gets away from the initial figures that he was giving, will he confirm that the considerable extra money for Norfolk—some £286,000—has made it possible for the Norfolk police authority considerably to increase the number of policemen? Will he also congratulate the chief constable of the Norfolk constabulary on the excellent work being done there and on the reputation that the constabulary is building up in the local area?

Mr. Maclean

Of course I congratulate Norfolk. One has only to look at its latest crime figures to see the tremendous success that the chief constable and all his officers have achieved. Of course Norfolk will have an extra 6 per cent. this year to build on that considerable success.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Maclean

I would happily stay here all night to take interventions because it is good news from the Government's point of view. I would talk until 2 am if time allowed, but I am conscious that other hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

The Minister referred to the extra money for the North Wales police. There was an extra £200,000 revenue, but is the Minister aware—he should be—that capital has been decreased from £1.596 million to £1.33 million for the coming year? That means, in effect, that there will be no extra policemen on the beat and that any extra expenditure on capital will have to come from revenue. In fairness to the Minister, he responded positively on the revenue side, but that has been negated on the capital side.

Mr. Maclean

Not at all—I shall be coming to that point. I should make it clear, however, that there is no linkage between revenue and capital. I should think that the hon. Gentleman's electors and constituents in the North Wales police area would be rather upset if they found that money was being switched from the funding of bobbies to capital expenditure, particularly since we have protected all major capital works and are encouraging the private finance initiative. I shall come to that in a couple of minutes, if I can make some progress.

I was reminding the House that since the last general election the number of constables has increased by 1,313. They are bobbies on the beat, not bobbies behind desks. In relation to the settlement, a total of £6.8 billion will be available for policing next year, which includes £200 million for capital expenditure. That is an increase of £240 million, or nearly 4 per cent. That increase underlines our commitment to law and order and to tackling crime, and it ensures that the police service can sustain the momentum of its recent successes.

As the Association of Chief Police Officers said in its press release welcoming the settlement last November, a settlement that is above the rate of inflation shows that the Government recognises the special needs of the police service. There is an extra £100 million in the settlement for police pay, which is a 3 per cent. increase on the police pay bill of £3.4 billion. There is an extra £80 million for police pensions, and £60 million more for civilian pay and other price increases. As for capital, we shall be supporting total capital expenditure of £228 million in 1996–97. That will maintain all specific police building projects, just as ACPO wanted.

Some have suggested that the funding that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced for 5,000 extra police officers during the next three years is at the expense of capital funding. There is no such linkage. There will be no enforced cuts in the programme for major building projects. There is no reason why the funding available for extra police officers should be used for capital spending. In fact, police authorities now have the opportunity to extend their capital programmes through the private finance initiative.

The fundamental objective of the PFI is to secure the best possible use of capital resources at best value for the public sector—in this case, for the police service. The public sector does not have a monopoly of knowledge. In many situations, the private sector will have skills and expertise that can help to deliver better deals for the police. Capital resources for the police come in many forms: building, plant, vehicles, equipment and computer software, for example. We want the police to explore the new opportunity that the PFI can offer in making them more efficient and effective.

The private finance initiative is not a substitute for conventional capital spending. It is an exciting new opportunity for the police to enhance, and indeed extend, their capital resources. For example, Derbyshire is inviting private sector proposals to build, design, finance and operate a replacement police station and I congratulate it on that initiative.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn)

The Minister wrote to me in November advising me that an extra £2.5 million was to be made available to the Gwent police force this year. He has assured the House this evening that capital will not be put at risk as a result of that settlement. What extra provision is being made for the Gwent police force to take over the buildings in the Rhymney valley—I understand that the Minister is aware that they are in a seriously deficient state—and bring them up to scratch?

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the £2.5 million in capital that we have been able to allocate. I had an excellent meeting with Gwent police authority recently and we discussed the matter to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I am very conscious of the state of the buildings that it has taken over from the South Wales police force. I was able to give the assurance that if—and it has to be if—we have surplus capital resources, I will consider the buildings in Gwent to be among our top priorities. I said that I would do my utmost to find extra capital for the force if it were at all possible.

We also discussed the private finance initiative and looked at the possibilities for Gwent. One particular possibility is in Ystrad—

Mr. Touhig

Ystrad Mynach.

Mr. Maclean

Ystrad Mynach. Some Celts cannot pronounce other Celtic languages. We have offered Gwent police authority help and assistance. If we can help and advise it to put together a private finance initiative, we shall be delighted to do so.

I know that other police authorities are considering a whole range of projects, from major headquarters, to operational buildings such as police stations, to specialist facilities such as firearms training. They will give the private sector the flexibility to design solutions in response to forces' own needs. That in turn will provide forces with increased scope for value for money.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

My right hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary have taken a close interest in the affairs of the Thames Valley force, and all its problems, including pensions. I am therefore extremely grateful—as I think are my colleagues in Buckinghamshire—for the resolution of those problems and for the overall 4.8 per cent increase. No one can complain about that. However, I am going to complain. Could my right hon. Friend possibly see his way to giving a further boost to secure accommodation for under-age criminals, who are causing—even in remote and idyllic parts of north Buckinghamshire—

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

It is not unique to that county.

Mr. Walden

Precisely. Those under-age criminals are causing disproportionate damage. If, in a very humane and educational way, they could be shut away, crime would go down—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is a disproportionately long intervention. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is winding up.

Mr. Walden

If they were shut away, my right hon. Friend would be able to get away next time with less than a 4.8 per cent. increase.

Mr. Maclean

I give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. We are pushing two strands of extra secure accommodation for young offenders—through the local authority route and through secure training centres.

I announced at the start of the debate that £6.8 billion would be available for policing in 1996–97. The distribution of funding between individual police authorities is naturally of great interest to the House and to the public, so I shall explain briefly how it is done.

The bulk of the funding is allocated according to the new needs-based formula, which was introduced for the first time last year. The police service and the Audit Commission have long argued for an objective approach to funding. The formula is aimed at producing such an approach. We are committed to its development.

The formula uses independent demographic statistics to predict each force's relative needs for resources. Hon. Members will be only too aware of the concerns which last year accompanied the introduction of the formula. As I promised then, we have worked hard to improve the formula. Independent consultants from Price Waterhouse audited the formula and concluded that it was technically sound, but that further work was needed on a number of aspects. That has been done by a Home Office-led group of police service and police authority representatives. Not all the work has been concluded, but we have still been able to make changes to the formula for 1996–97.

The formula's establishment element has been reduced from 50 per cent. to 40 per cent. We always intended that establishments should be in the formula only on a transitional basis, and we shall continue to remove establishments from the formula at whatever rate proves to be compatible with the ability to keep stability in policing.

We recognised last year's widespread concerns about provision for police pensions, so we did two things. First, we got police authority representatives to help us to estimate what pensions expenditure would be in 1996–97. The prediction was £800 million—£80 million more than authorities are spending this year—so we put an extra £80 million into the police settlement for pensions next year. Secondly, we changed the funding formula. Now the whole £800 million—about 12.3 per cent. of total police funding—is allocated according to forces' pension needs. Those needs are estimated by the Government Actuary's department, so while we were about it we got some police forces to provide new pensions data to help us to improve the Government Actuary's pensions model. Now we are asking all forces to help us, so that next year we can make the pensions model better still. That raft of improvements in the treatment of pensions expenditure has substantially enhanced the police funding formula's transparency and acceptability.

We have also introduced a sparsity factor, according to which we shall allocate 0.5 per cent. of available funding. For next year it has been done on a judgmental basis similar to that which occurs with other funding formulae such as the education standard spending assessment. The results of research in that area are not conclusive.

Mr. David Faber (Westbury)

My right hon. Friend mentioned the problems and the concerns that were expressed when the funding formula was introduced last year. I hope that he will accept the grateful thanks of my constituents in Wiltshire, because we have seen a generous rise in the police grant this year compared with last year, but will he continue to pay careful attention to the factor for rural sparsity, which adversely affects counties such as mine?

Mr. Maclean

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The argument of rural forces, that there are particular costs involved in policing their areas, is persuasive. Clearly there are much greater distances to travel, fuel consumption is greater, tyre costs are higher— [Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh, but they show their ignorance of police operating practices if they scoff at such ideas, considering that— [Interruption.] I shall happily come back to the House on the point if my figures are incorrect, but I believe that police tyre costs in one year run to £20 million, a not insubstantial sum.

The committee of local police authorities has already said that it welcomes and supports the decision on rural sparsity. Further development work will continue in 1996, and our working group of police service and police authority representatives has already met. I shall wait to hear its proposals, but I expect that we shall consider a programme including the examination of new data on police work and pensions, and will want to investigate further the costs of community relations, traffic policing and operating in rural and urban areas.

Outside the formula, an additional rule ensures that all forces—except the Metropolitan police, for which other arrangements have been made—can receive at least 3 per cent. more funding next year than this year. That rule derives from our belief that it is important to maintain public confidence in policing. In particular, we consider it important for public confidence that police authorities should be seen as able to provide at least the same service in 1996–97 as they did last year. At a time when police authority pay bills are 3 per cent. —the percentage is lower for civilian staff—the 3 per cent. rule reassures the public that their policing service will be maintained.

I have already reminded hon. Members of the commitment made by the Prime Minister to provide funding for 5,000 extra police officers over the next three years. To describe that, there are no words better than those of the chairman of the Police Federation, who said that it was a tremendous boost to the service". In 1996–97 forces will receive the first block of that funding—£20 million. That will help them to meet their key objective of providing high visibility policing. How they do it will be for them to decide, but in whichever way it is done, police forces will be able to ensure that they are more visible to the public whom they serve. That public is therefore the basis for allocating the funding. The resident and daytime populations of each force area determine that force's share of the £20 million. This is the additional rule No. 2 set out in the police grant report.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

To return to the North Wales force, is it true that the increase in the money available for extra policemen and women in the coming year will exactly match the decline in real terms in the police grant available for capital purposes? Is the Minister not robbing Peter to pay Paul? Does he agree that there is no point in having extra policemen if they are not given the funding to do the job properly?

Mr. Maclean

I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman, who has shown uncustomary ignorance about what I said a moment ago about the private finance initiative. There is no need for the North Wales police force to reduce its capital expenditure in the future if it uses the PFI. Other police forces are exploring that option, which will allow forces to have more buildings and more money to spend on capital projects. We must break out—as other areas of Government are doing—from the notion that unless the Government provide every penny of capital, then no other source of capital expenditure is available.

In revenue terms, the North Wales police force has received 5 per cent. this year—way above the national average for police funding. I suspect that that puts that force in the top quarter of all forces in terms of funding, and that is very generous. Hon Members from the North Wales police force area have no cause for complaint about the settlement in their area.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)


Mr. Maclean

Nor have hon. Members from Derbyshire any cause for complaint, as the settlement for that area was more than 4 per cent.

Mr. Barnes

Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr. Maclean

No. Hon Members will have a chance to make their own speeches, and I wish to conclude in a moment.

The three elements that I have mentioned—the needs-based formula, the 3 per cent. rule and the extra officers rule—determine the allocations of police grant. The same needs-based formula determines the police standard spending assessment for each force. Police forces also receive a capital financing SSA and, where appropriate, an SSA reduction grant.

I stress that these are methods for carving up the total available funding, and are not prescriptions for the way in which funding must be spent in each force. That is quite rightly to be decided locally, and the granting of that local discretion was one of the key reforms in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994. We have no intention now of trying to intervene to change that.

I have set out tonight an excellent settlement for the police service and a fair distribution of that settlement between the 43 police forces in England and Wales. Let me remind the House what we have done. We have allocated 4 per cent. more money, and forces will get at least 3 per cent. more—some will get much more than that. Forces will be able to recruit at least 1,000 more constables to add to the 900 constables that they have recruited this year. We have listened to criticisms of the funding formula and we have acted. There is more for pensions, rural sparsity has been taken into account and the out-dated establishment factor has been reduced.

We have made progress since last year, and we will make more next year. But I believe that the report will give us in 1996–97 a police service that is both well and fairly funded. That should be a cause for satisfaction on both sides of the House, because it falls to the police service to make the bravest and most crucial contribution to the task of turning the tables on the criminal. I command—or rather, I commend the report to the House.

10.38 pm
Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

I am sure that the Minister of State would like to command this House—he has a remarkable talent for making complacency sound dramatic. He said that the chairman of the Police Federation welcomed the promise of 5,000 extra policemen. Indeed he did, but that was before the Police Federation looked at the detail. I wonder whether the Minister will take so seriously the comments that the Police Federation has made since it looked in detail at the settlement. The federation is very doubtful about the reality of that promise and it is right to be suspicious , as the Government have reneged on their promise at the 1992 general election to increase the number of police officers by 1,000. Indeed, by September 1995, the number of police officers had gone down by 470 compared with the figure in March 1992.

When the Government have failed signally to deliver the promise that they made at the last general election, is it any surprise that there is some suspicion when they say that they are going to deliver a promise of 5,000 additional police officers?

Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the failure of the South Wales police authority, which is controlled by three local, Labour-controlled county councils, was the real reason for the failure to fund the police in his constituency and in mine? Since the Home Office has given money direct to the police, we have had proper funding—an increase of about 19 per cent. in the past two years.

Mr. Michael

It is nice of the hon. Gentleman to wander in and make that convoluted and inaccurate contribution. The problem with the funding of the South Wales police, as he knows, was the failure of the Welsh Office to deliver its share of the money and, indeed, its determined hiding of the standard spending assessment for the police—a matter that he knows full well was raised in the House on numerous occasions. The hon. Gentleman represents the party that damaged the police in his constituency and in mine.

I have some sympathy with the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which had to consider the document so quickly. As was pointed out—last year, as well as this year—the document was published yesterday, which is surely not an aid to considered debate in the House.

I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) about the impact of social factors and unemployment on crime, and I shall return to that issue and its element within the formula.

The formula is not as perfect as the Minister of State made out. I thought that I heard him say that he would make whatever changes were necessary to achieve or maintain stability. The difficulty is getting a fair formula that is also stable over time. He was right to highlight the importance of the pensions element in the formula. I hope that that was a sign that he will move in the way that police authorities have requested and make that element accurate and transparent. It is an enormous burden on police authorities and it distorts all the figures year after year.

I also hope that there will be cross-party unity on police funding. The Minister has shown that he has the capacity to achieve that, for example, in relation to the Gwent and South Wales police and in the debates on the Offensive Weapons Bill and the Security Service Bill.

The fact that we have been given inaccurate information on the number of police is a great disappointment. The Minister was selective when he told us that there were 1,313 more constables, because the total number of police officers has decreased. The Government's claims about what they are doing in relation to the police contain two fraudulent elements: first, that they have increased the number of police officers; and, secondly, that they have given £20 million in new money to assist with the recruitment and employment of new officers.

At the time of the Budget, the Home Secretary claimed that he had increased the revenue cash by £20 million, but he had cut by almost £24 million the capital cash projected within the Home Office's plans—a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Peter less. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but I disagree. It is not funny; it is serious. The taking of money from the capital funds of police authorities will cause problems now and in the future.

Mrs. Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)

On that point, my hon. Friend is aware that a new police station was due to be built in Lewisham—amid some controversy, but nevertheless it was to be built in 1997. He may not be aware that the assistant commissioner, Ian Johnstone, has told us that there has been a reduction in the resources available for capital expenditure and that the police station will not be built before 1999 at the very earliest. Does that not confirm my hon. Friend's views on the changes between capital and revenue expenditure?

Mr. Michael

Yes—that and the inability to undertake capital maintenance or introduce new technology, which, as we have pointed out a number of times, is essential in increasing the efficiency of the police service and the effectiveness with which officers are deployed on our streets. Although capital finances do not seem to be immediately important, they have an impact on the ability of the police to deliver a quality service to the public.

The total number of police officers decreased—the situation is even worse if we consider the number available for ordinary duty—between 31 March 1992 and 30 September 1995 by 860 in England and Wales.

Mr. Mackinlay

How many?

Mr. Michael

I shall repeat the number for the benefit of my hon. Friend. The number has fallen by 860. When one considers that the Government promised an increase of 1,000, one realises what Conservative promises are worth.

The Home Secretary boasted of handing over the cash and giving freedom to chief constables to choose how to spend it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Conservative Members say, "Hear, hear." The point was anticipated in last year's debate when the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) asked the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), to agree that if there are fewer police officers on the street after April this year it will be because of the decisions of chief constables, not because of Government funding. Not surprisingly, the Minister responded: My hon. Friend is absolutely correct".— [Official Report,31 January 1995; Vol. 253, c. 956.] The Prime Minister promised to increase the number of police officers by 5,000, apparently unaware that his Government have passed on the responsibility for deciding police numbers to chief constables and police authorities. He did not appear to know that his Government stopped controlling police numbers last year.

There has been a cut in capital finances this year. To be precise, the cut is £24 million in the planning figure that was given in the Home Office report and £17 million in capital, comparing last year with the next financial year. Either way, there is a considerable cut in the amount of capital available to police authorities. The planning cut is more than the amount given for the theoretical purpose of providing additional police officers.

Mr. Mike O'Brien

May I offer my hon. Friend the words of my local newspaper about the Prime Minister's promise in respect of Warwickshire? The Prime Minister promised lots of extra police officers. Warwickshire has lost 60 officers so far and is likely to lose more than 70 this year. As a result of the extra £181,000 that we are getting this year, we will have an extra nine officers. The Bedworth Evening Telegraph described the Prime Minister's promise as "pathetic". I think that that is the best description.

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend puts it succinctly and well. That is what the overall figures mean when they are translated into the number of police available on the streets in police authorities.

To fill the gap on capital funding, the Minister relies on the private finance initiative. The amount of capital that the Government are making available is not being cut because there is additional money available from the PFI. The Government are predicating a level of capital substitution in an unplanned way by cutting the money available for police authorities before any money has come from the PFI. It may well be that some good and appropriate schemes will arise next year, but that puts pressure on police authorities to go looking for additional capital. There is always a danger that that will distort police priorities and lead them into inappropriate ways of obtaining money.

We are not against the principle of the PFI. Indeed, the deputy leader of the Labour party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), was one of the first to give examples of how private money could be harnessed to the public good. However, that needs to be done in an appropriate way. There are concerns about the way in which pressure is being put on the police to find money from private sources.

The Minister quoted one comment by a senior official of the Police Federation. The Police Federation has raised some serious issues in relation to the settlement and the promise of increased funding for police officers. It wants to know from what base the additional officers will be recruited; the total number of officers in service against which the increase is to be compared; to which three-year period the Prime Minister referred; how many additional officers the Government expect police forces to recruit in the 1996–97 financial year; and what the Government assume to be the cost over the next three financial years of recruiting 5,000 additional officers.

The figures that we have seen so far assume the employment of new recruits. As those recruits become experienced police officers, they will cost more each year. Will the Government provide the additional finance to retain those trained officers, so that there is stability in the police forces, or will they simply say that it is a matter for police constables to decide? Last year, the Minister gave police constables and local police authorities the freedom to juggle the figures that they must work with this year. That is causing a dilemma for them— [Interruption.] I am happy to give way to the Minister if he wishes to clarify the issue for us.

Mr. Maclean

I was just saying that that is one of the daftest questions that I have heard in my life. If we are providing finance for extra police officers, obviously we must keep it up. We cannot fund the recruitment of bobbies for just three years and not pay them afterwards. We recognise that, if we recruit extra police officers, they will remain in the service for 25 or 30 years.

Mr. Michael

We shall hold the Minister to that statement when we debate the matter in the next financial year. We have no new money this year; money has been transferred from capital to revenue. The Minister has said only that the Government would find the finance to continue employment. The finance required to maintain the employment of those officers will increase year on year as their experience grows. Perhaps the Minister assumes that he will not be here to account for this matter next year.

A number of my hon. Friends have succinctly raised the problems that exist within their individual police authorities. Particular problems arise in relation to policing in London. This debate takes place against a background of increased crime in the London area, a reduction in the number of police officers, and continuing problems of low clear-up rates in key areas. The use of firearms in London has increased and the Metropolitan police, local authorities and the public are worried about the increased rate of drug misuse and fraud. The Metropolitan police fraud squad conducted 323 inquiries in 1994–95 and reported that the value of letters of credit, bills of exchange and other banking instruments seized by the fraud squad amounted to more than £1,000 million. That is a large sum by any estimate.

In terms of this settlement, the Metropolitan police are likely to use £30 million a year for the next few years. Until 1995–96, the funding of the Metropolitan police was not a problem because the Home Secretary set the Met's standard spending assessment at the same level as he set its budget. With the introduction of the new formula in 1995–96, the Metropolitan police lost about £115 million. It has received an SSA reduction—damping—grant of £85 million, which cushioned the loss in 1995–96 to 2 per cent. In the coming financial year 1996–97, however, the Met loses another £30 million from further changes to the funding formula, particularly the phasing of the "establishment indicator". Those serious losses to the Metropolitan police amount to some £60 million. The matter has caused great concern in our capital city.

In the coming year, the importance of partnership will grow again. That was recognised by the way in which the Home Secretary assessed the key objectives for the coming year, especially No. 3: To target and prevent crimes which are a particular local problem, including drug-related criminality, in partnership with the public and local agencies. I note the phraseology. The Government do not appear to be able to use the phrase "local government", which is essential in that local partnership, but the general trend is welcome.

The police must have the resources to be able to play a full part in those local partnerships to reduce and fight crime. We have mentioned the pressure on the police to raise funds in a variety of ways. It is very important that that does not become a distortion in the revenue element of police finances, as it is in capital funding.

I am certain that chief constables and police authorities will seek to concentrate on their core activities and avoid distractions into commercial activity, but there must be a temptation, and removal of £24 million from capital is bound to increase the pressure on them.

In some projects, private finance in partnership is appropriate. I read plans recently for training in arms techniques in synergy with a regional facility for the sport of shooting. Nevertheless, that aspect needs care, and it is important that the Home Office does not disclaim responsibility.

Another important responsibility of the Home Office is that of getting the funding formula right for the long term. All the elements—sparsity of population in some parts of the country, levels of urban crime in others, the impact of pensions, accuracy in specifying the amount of crime that the police are trying to tackle—need to be more accurately reflected in the formula. That has been the subject of representations to the Minister by police authorities and by chief constables. I hope that the Minister only sought to appear over-enthusiastic in his comments tonight, and that he will not be complacent about the quality of the formula that we have achieved to date.

The police need certainty in order to plan to give certainty to the public and in order to tackle crime and its prevention methodically in the long term. They also need to be able to assure police officers whom they recruit that they have a long-term, stable career as an essential part of a service to the public. I hope that the Minister will take that message from tonight's debate.

10.56 pm
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

I want to tell the House what can be achieved with tight resourcing.

Last year, the chief constable of Staffordshire said: the overall workload of the Force has continued to increase and there has been no increase in resources to meet it. Our funding for 1995/96, which was fixed by Central Government, gave no opportunity for expansion and barely amounted to a 'standstill' situation, even though the Police Authority allowed us to budget right up to the Home Office 'capping' limit. It is astonishing what Staffordshire police achieved notwithstanding that tight limit. It achieved an increase in civilian support staff, releasing 21 constables for operational duties; a trunked radio system far in advance of any police radio scheme in the United Kingdom; the provision of new handcuffs, long batons and stab-proof vests, making a valuable contribution to the safety of operational officers; and success in targeting drug dealers and suppliers.

The Audit Commission indicators put Staffordshire above the national average, and surveys have shown a high level of public satisfaction with the service provided by Staffordshire police. That is a substantial record of achievement by a police force that, last year, said that it was strapped for cash.

In the report, Chief Constable Kelly went on to say, very gloomily: the Home Office are now looking again at their complex funding formula and there is a possibility that, because the formula may in future reflect notional rather than actual workloads, Staffordshire may receive less funding in 1996–97. He was much too gloomy. The Government support grant for Staffordshire, applying this year's formula, amounts to an increase of no less than 7.5 per cent., from £101.2 million to £108.9 million. That is the largest increase in allocation of all the shire counties in Britain and, as the Burton Mail put it, a "massive rise in resources" that is likely to produce 100 more policemen over the next three years and boost the county's fight against drugs.

I welcome that grant on behalf of my constituents and I know that Chief Constable Kelly and Superintendent Glyn Heyward, the Burton divisional commander, would also want to express their heartfelt thanks. I should like to think that this represents a reward for years of superb policing and it is a tribute to all of those who serve in the Staffordshire force and those who assist it in various ways.

I shall tell the House what has happened to the law and order situation in Burton and Staffordshire as a result of those improvements in service. Crime in Staffordshire has decreased by 15 per cent. in the past two years, with a fall of 14.5 per cent. in Burton alone between January and June last year. There has been a sharp fall not only in the number of burglaries and car crimes but in theft, sex offences and serious violence.

The reduction in crime has been achieved in Burton through 90 neighbourhood watch schemes, which cover 36,000 households, and through the installation of closed circuit television in Burton centre car parks, subsidised to a large extent by the Labour-controlled East Staffordshire borough council, with some—although not enough—contributions from traders and a great deal of encouragement from the Government. The number of car thefts or break-ins has been reduced from six per week in the six car parks to three in six weeks—a decrease of 92 per cent. The town's police commander described the effect of the cameras on crime in the town centre as being "beyond all expectations". He said: It's like having 17 additional police officers spread around the town centre". He then added: More people are coming into the town centre at night believing, correctly, that it is now a safer place to be". The cameras are also helping to bring offenders to justice, so we can expect the conviction rate to rise.

Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton)

I refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the excellent scheme that the Labour-controlled council has introduced in his constituency. How much Government money was allocated to CCTV?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

To be fair, I said that East Staffordshire borough council was Labour controlled, but one does not want to go overboard praising that council. After all, it supports the Labour party, whose slogan, "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" has been shown to be a hollow load of hypocritical twaddle. Labour may be tough on the victims, but it certainly is not tough on crime.

I asked the chief constable to tell me why he believes that he has achieved such a substantial fall in crime in Staffordshire.

Mr. Mike O'Brien

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

No, I must proceed—other hon. Members want to speak in this very short debate.

The chief constable said that the law and order situation in Staffordshire had improved for three reasons. First, he referred to the impact of legislation. He said: I particularly have in mind the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994".

Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

No, I adopt a completely sexless approach to dealing with interventions.

The chief constable continued: The numerous changes in evidential and procedural matters either already have had, or will have, a significant impact on evidence gathering and the more effective prosecution of offenders. The alteration of the law relating to bail was particularly welcome as a means of preventing persistent offenders from continuing to commit crime whilst awaiting trial". The Labour party opposed many—although not all—of those measures. The Labour-controlled East Staffordshire borough council is undoubtedly a strong supporter of Opposition law and order policies, and it must have felt that the Government were being both ungenerous and unhelpful in stimulating the police to the kind of achievements that they have realised in Staffordshire.

The chief constable's second point concerned The impact of crime prevention measures on the reduction of crime in Staffordshire. He wrote: It seems clear that recent crime prevention measures, both at central and local level, have played a significant part in the reduction in levels of crime—particularly in the areas of house burglary and car crime. He also mentioned CCTV.

Thirdly, the chief constable dealt with The impact of improved tactics by the police". The Government have gone out of their way to encourage the police to look at the way in which they practise policing and to take best practice from those forces that have been most successful in activities such as targeting known offenders.

The success in Staffordshire has been outstanding. The chief constable concluded: Looking to the future, there is strong support for proposals, such as the imposition of limitations on disclosure to the defence, which it is understood are under consideration…In addition, there is strong support for proposals to improve the treatment of victims and witnesses within the criminal justice system…In the round, I think that many positive steps have been taken in recent times to tackle the problem of crime. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) said that it is a pity that we cannot all work together to reduce crime. Here is his invitation.

Mr. Michael

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence


Let us see whether the new, tough measures that the Government are about to introduce to deal with the most serious criminals have the support of the Labour party and its spokesman.

11.6 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The police grant settlement is certainly not as difficult to live with as the local government settlement that we shall debate—and no doubt vote on—tomorrow, but it raises several issues that should rouse the Government from the dangers of complacency.

The principal complaint is that, although the settlement looks good in the context of this year's public sector settlements, it does not look so good when it is compared with the needs in the police service. The increase amounts to £235 million in police total standard spending. The estimated increase in pension costs this year is £74 million and estimated pay and prices increases amount to £179 million. The shortfall is even larger when the £20 million that is intended to pay for extra officers is taken out of the calculation and one looks simply at what police authorities have to continue and develop their work.

The settlement cannot make up for the cuts in last year's budget. It does not replace the officers that were lost last year, such as the 34 officers in Dorset, or the "million miles" of police patrols that the authority calculated had been lost as a result of cuts.

The Prime Minister promised 5,000 extra police officers at the last Conservative party conference, but questions remain unanswered and there is unease within the police service. It reminds me of the Conservative 1992 manifesto pledge that stated: We are continuing to increase Police numbers. There will be 1,000 extra officers this year. There were not. Although the number initially increased by 771, there have since been cuts of more than 1,300. The Prime Minister's latest promise must be called into question by the fact that a previous commitment was so clearly broken.

Some areas have been hit harder than others. Merseyside lost 151 officers, the Metropolitan police lost 409 officers and Avon and Somerset lost 82 officers. Those figures demonstrate that there is not much reality behind the Government's tough talk about law and order.

This year's pre-election settlement allows for 1,000 additional officers rather than the 3,000 that chief constables have been seeking for several years. That is what is on the table. The rest are phantom policemen for whom no resources are guaranteed.

The Association of Chief Police Officers questioned the Government's estimated cost of additional officers. It took the view that the figures failed to take into account the full costs involved, particularly the additional infrastructure and pension costs. The Committee of Local Police Authorities pointed out that the average annual cost of a police officer is more than double the £20,000 that is implicit in the Government's figures, and applies to all ranks of police officer. North Yorkshire has been allocated £276,000, which will not even pay for 24 constables at probationer rates when all the on-costs have been taken into account.

There are further concerns about the on-going funding of extra officers. Costs will rise as officers progress through their training and career, and there is concern that the necessary money will not be available for that additional need. There is real uncertainty about what will happen after the three-year package—if it runs for three years—comes to an end. What will the funding be? Note will have been taken of the Minister's strenuous response to the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael). We shall seek to hold him to his commitment for as long as he is the Minister who can be held to it.

There have been considerable cuts this year in capital allocations. The Committee of Local Police Authorities makes the interesting comment that it has noticed an almost exact match between reductions in capital funding and the supposedly additional £20 million for extra police officers.

The impact of the reductions on authorities will be notable. In various areas, capital programmes that are of some importance will be delayed. In Hampshire, there has been a cut of £1 million in the capital budget. It is expecting, in three years' time, a £2 million funding gap in its capital programme, including expenditure on buildings, computers and equipment. There are serious implications. In a number of police authorities, the move to install encrypted radios has had to be slowed down because the money is not available. That is extremely important now that the means of breaking into police communications systems are so readily and cheaply available to criminals. It gives criminals an advantage and reduces police effectiveness.

Capital allocation cuts were described by the Association of Chief Police Officers as robbing Peter to pay Paul. One chairman of a police authority commented after the Government had cut its capital allocation and increased its revenue budget: We could have done that for ourselves. There is some confusion about the private finance initiative. The Home Office says that PFI can be used to replace existing capital items, but the Department of the Environment says that it cannot. Clarification would be welcome. How are the police expected to plan their capital programmes when the Government move the goalposts so often?

The problem of pensions is yet to be resolved. There has been some provision within the funding mechanism, which the Minister described, but the real problem remains. It is more to do with the total funding that is provided for pensions. Cutting the cake differently is of only limited value. There needs to be a long-term solution to the problem, and the consultation process that is now taking place must lead to a solution, and to action on it.

The Government's plan for the future involves massive spending on a hugely increased prison population. Our vision is of preventing the crimes that would have put and kept offenders in prison by having enough police officers in the community who are properly equipped, and by tackling the root causes of crime.

11.11 pm
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

I am rather flattered that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) should remember so vividly the discussion that took place during last year's debate on these issues. I had not expected that. However, I shall draw the attention of the House to the accuracy of what I said on that occasion. In effect, my comment was a two-edged sword.

Without question, the provisions of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 give chief constables far greater discretion about how to use their resources. Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), I have discussed with David Burke, the chief constable of the force in the area that I represent—North Yorkshire—how the force is managing to exist under the new policy, which we were told when considering the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill in Committee would be an unmitigated disaster for the police, resulting in huge cuts in police numbers and the police budget. That has not happened.

Having spoken to the chief constable, I find—I shall not suggest that all is rosy, because it is not—that now there is greater discretion when it comes to spending money, and more cash has been found as a result of efficiency. That means that the force will be able to employ more civilians and put more officers back on the beat.

It will also be possible to recruit more officers. I am reasonably optimistic—I wish that I was as informed about the exact figures as I was when I was the vice-chairman of the police authority—that we shall have about 40 extra officers in North Yorkshire in the year ahead as a result of the grant settlement that we are discussing and the greater flexibility that will be given to police authorities and chief constables as a result of the 1994 Act and the changes in the structure of police funding overall.

It is worth remembering not that North Yorkshire county council has had severe problems balancing its budget—I am on record as having said that—but that, in the final year in which it was responsible for setting the police budget, the budget that it set was £2 million less than the standard spending assessment recommended by the Home Office. That has been put right as a consequence of the new legislation.

I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) —we desire a long-term solution to the funding of police pensions. Even so, the change in the formula for police pensions in the year ahead is very welcome. North Yorkshire suffered under the cosh of huge police pension costs that were totally disproportionate to what was in the previous formula. I am told that, now the formula has changed, it is neutral.

Oddly enough, if we had left the formula alone, we would have received the same amount of money, but that is life and I am sure that some police force somewhere is benefiting. It is important that what a police force has to pay in police pensions—lump sums for retiring officers, especially those of senior rank, which can be tidy sums—is more reasonably reflected in the formula.

We still need a much longer-term solution to the problem. It cannot be right that some 12 per cent. of police revenue budgets is spent not on officers who are actively in service but on officers who have hung up their truncheons, whistles and radios and gone to a pasture which, perhaps, is more profitable. It was a long time ago that I did that. As the House knows, my eldest son who, I hope, will be married later this year—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] —is keeping up the tradition of the Greenway involvement in the police service, and he enjoys his career very much.

I wish to make two important points. First, the Government rightly claim some of the credit for the fact that, throughout the country, crime is falling, but as my hon. Friend the Minister knows—I have said this before in the House—the situation in rural areas is less attractive, not least because rural crime is growing. More rural properties are being targeted by criminals from the major cities. It is clear that local police resources are not adequate to deal with the problem.

Secondly, there is a growth in what I call crimes of rural terrorism, such as lampers—people who come on to property in four-wheel drive vehicles, causing mayhem, shooting and killing wildlife with total abandon and disregard for morality. Police resources are not adequate to deal with that problem.

Although I welcome the change in the formula, which has given greater weight to the needs of rural areas, it is not enough. We need to go further. I hope that my hon. Friend will take this on board. He represents a constituency that is much like mine. He knows of the problems that I have mentioned and which are a great worry to rural communities that do not have regular patrols of officers such as we see in urban areas.

I hope that, when we discuss the police grant settlement in a year's time in this Parliament, as this is not the pre-election police grant settlement that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed suggested—there will be another one; I am convinced of that—perhaps it will be even better and will bring in the second stage of the extra 5,000 officers.

I want to return to something that I suggested on Second Reading of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill. The new structure created a mechanism whereby the public could pay more for their police if they wanted to. We should compare what people are spending on insurance premiums, burglar alarms and other security arrangements with what an extra £10 or £20 per annum on the police precept per house would provide by way of additional officers. I rather think that the latter might prove more attractive and sensible.

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed mentioned North Yorkshire, which has a population of 726,000 and, I suspect, some 400,000 council tax paying households. The sum of £10 per property would produce £4 million more for the police. Let us split the difference between the figures suggested by the right hon. Gentleman: let us say not £20,000 or £40,000, but £30,000. We are talking about well in excess of 100 more officers in North Yorkshire for an extra £10 per dwelling on the police precept. I believe that, if that stark choice were put to the voters as clearly as I have put it here, they would opt to pay the £10 and have more police officers.

It may well be possible to deal with the matter through a parish or town council precept, but I must make one crucial point. There is no doubt that, in rural areas, supporters of the party that my hon. Friend the Minister and I represent—although they see that we are doing considerably more to increase police manpower and deal with the tide of crime—would like us to go further. Rural communities in particular want more police officers, and we must find further mechanisms to deliver them. I do not believe that, without them, we shall return to the crime levels that once existed in our idyllic countryside.

11.21 pm
Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton)

Before I comment on the figures, let me pay tribute to the chief constable, all his police officers and the police committee in Warwickshire. I refer not only to the implications of the grant for the coming year, but to the preceding 12 months. The police authority and its officers have put up with a budget £6 million lower than it should have been because of the new formula.

I welcome the fact that the chief constable and the police committee have more freedom to examine their budgets and decide where they want their money to be spent, but the Minister will doubtless recall visits by the police committee and the chief constable—not this year, but last year—when the £6 million shortfall was discussed. I suspect that the Treasury and the Home Office had made their calculations, and Warwickshire police force did not expect the Minister to make too many changes last year to the figures that he had already announced; what they did expect was that the Minister would give serious consideration to the logical representations made to him by the police authority and its chief constable, and would remedy a number of the difficulties in this year's grant.

We had a very good meeting with the Minister some months ago. He said, "We are looking after you very well in Warwickshire." I did not accept that, but the Minister made a cogent argument and said that the Government were looking after Warwickshire well. In response to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), he said that Warwickshire's grant had been increased by 3.5 per cent. and that, with wage levels forming the majority of the constabulary's costs, Warwickshire should be able to look favourably towards expanding its services.

It was only during this debate that I learnt that colleagues were complaining that North Wales had had only a 5.1 per cent. increase, that Buckinghamshire had had only a 4.9 per cent. increase, that Derbyshire had had only a 4 per cent. increase and that Staffordshire had had only a 7.5 per cent. increase. In this year's grant settlement, Warwickshire has had an increase only of 3.5 per cent, but even a 7 per cent. increase would not have matched the £6 million shortfall that Warwickshire constabulary faces in 1995–96.

Warwickshire constabulary is losing 61 personnel. That does not square with the Prime Minister's much-vaunted announcement of 5,000 additional police officers. There may be extra officers in some police authorities that have had these marvellous increases, but not in Warwickshire. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire said, the public, the media, the chief constable, the police authority and, more important, police officers know that they have had a raw deal from this Government, not only on last year's settlement but on this year's too.

I remind the Minister that, in our discussions, he said that, when setting its budget, the police authority had to consider not only the money that it receives from the Home Office in the form of grant, but its income generation. I agreed with him—we must consider income generation. I do not know whether we will push every council tax payer into paying additional money to assist the police authority, but I know that Warwickshire police authority considered offering businesses a key holder scheme.

At the meeting a few weeks ago, the Minister said that Warwickshire was £500,000 down on its estimated income. It is that much down because businesses, especially those in my constituency of Nuneaton, will not accept a two-tier policing system. Business rate payers and council tax payers pay their taxes. They expect police authorities to be adequately funded by the Government and by other means. That £500,000 shortfall in revenue is due to businesses' massive objections to paying into the two-tier system that the Government are proposing or forcing the constabulary to introduce in Warwickshire.

I earnestly ask the Minister to reconsider closely his settlement figures for Warwickshire. Last year represented a bad deal, but this year represents only less of a bad deal than that one.

11.28 pm
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham)

I shall be brief, but I shall take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister of State, Home Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), on behalf of my constituents and of those who live in the area served by the Northumbria police force on what he has done for policing in north-east England. The change from the historic method of funding police forces to the needs-based formula resulted in an increase of £15 million in the police budget last year and a further budget increase of £10 million this year. That is a substantial sum for the Northumbria police force and will translate into at least 35 extra officers this year. I hope that John Stevens, the chief constable, understands what my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) said about the need to put some of the extra resources into rural areas.

Mr. Beith

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the chief constable has done precisely that and released officers for rural areas after a long period when there were far too few.

Mr. Atkinson

I agree that our present chief constable has shown a strong commitment to rural areas.

I can give my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale some good news about crime in rural areas. In the Hexham division, the number of burglaries and car crimes has fallen and thefts from agricultural buildings and factories are down by nearly a third. That is very good news for the people of rural Northumberland, and I hope that the trend continues.

I fear that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) did not understand the point of the new arrangements for policing. We have given chief constables power to organise their own establishments. In Northumberland, that has resulted in a number of senior officers and part of the hierarchical chain of command being removed from the service. As a consequence, some officers have retired early, so numbers have fallen. At the same time, however, the chief constable is recruiting new officers, so there are bound to be fluctuations in the number of officers in the force at any one time.

In Northumbria, there is a steady upward swing in numbers, which will mean an extra 140 officers in the next three years.

Mr. Michael

The Northumbria force has grown in number but the overall picture has been one of decreases between 1992 and September 1995. I understand the point, but the trouble is that in many areas there has been a drop; perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not appreciate the overall picture.

Mr. Atkinson

I make no pretence of doing so, but I was trying to explain the method whereby police numbers will sometimes go down but then go up, depending on the way in which a chief constable decides to organise his force structure.

The deal for the people in the Northumbria police area has meant an 18 per cent. drop in crime since its peak in 1991 and a further 5 per cent. drop this year. We are getting a very good deal from our police force and we are also encouraged because arrests and the detection rate are up substantially.

The overall detection rate in Northumbria is the highest of any force in England and Wales. John Stevens, the chief constable, and the men and women of the Northumbria force deserve to be congratulated. I think that their final plea would be that a few more of the people whom they arrest and charge be convicted by the courts.

11.32 pm
Mr. Mike O'Brien (North Warwickshire)

The House will know that for the past two years I have had the honour to be Labour's parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation. I shall hold that post for only another two days, at which time I shall hand over the position to my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig). I am sure that he will be successful and even more popular than I have been.

In Warwickshire, crime in general has trebled since 1979 and the number of burglaries and car crimes has quadrupled. However, in the past couple of years crime has started to decrease as a result of police work and, particularly, the introduction of the new community beat officer scheme, Operation Claw, which targeted burglars. It has also decreased as a result of the massive public support that was so apparent in the recent report by HM inspectorate of constabulary on Warwickshire police force.

I am angry that our force, which has been so successful in fighting crime, should be penalised by the Home Office's failure to fund it properly. The chief constable and the police authority have said that the force has been underfunded to the tune of £6 million. According to the chief constable, in this financial year 61 posts have been lost from the previous establishment figure. The previous establishment was 1,045 but by November it had fallen to 984. The chief constable anticipates that it will have fallen to 945 by April 1997—a loss of 97 officers. That is not all due to Operation Sapphire—the Minister will know what I mean by that—which involved only 22 officers. Our constabulary has experienced a significant reduction in the number of officers. The Home Office is undermining the fight against crime in our county.

There have also been increased costs to my constituents. Many of them are very angry at the constabulary's new key holder policy, whereby people have to pay £50 plus VAT for something that previously was free of charge. They understand that the constabulary is under great pressure to introduce such policies, but they are angry that it is being forced to do so by the Home Office.

Warwickshire has been hit twice—first, by the Government's overall settlement for police, which is very tight, and, secondly, by the formula. The force says in its report to the Home Office that it hopes to stabilise the reduction in service in the medium term, but that a further decline in uniformed officers in 1996–97 is inevitable unless there is a significant shift in the spending power available to the force.

Her Majesty's inspector of constabulary said in his report on Warwickshire in 1995: The freeze on recruitment, elimination of overtime, depletion of staffing levels most acutely seen on public holidays, postponing IT developments, abandoning of much of the training programme and over-reliance on the Special Constabulary will have an effect, in the longer term, on core policing in Warwickshire, and thus, on the service to the public". The Minister should be thoroughly ashamed of such a report, yet he obviously does not seem to appreciate its importance. He says that the Prime Minister's promise of thousands of extra police officers will be fulfilled. It is clearly not being fulfilled in Warwickshire. Force morale, as the police authority so graphically said, is in real danger.

I ask the Minister to consider whether it is necessary to review the funding formula. I think that it should be reviewed to take into account adjacent metropolitan populations. Warwickshire has the west midlands, Leicester and a number of large metropolitan authorities nearby. We have crime problems from those authorities, but they are not reflected in the funding formula. Warwickshire also has miles of motorway—it is probably the county with the most miles of motorway. They need patrolling, and that factor should be properly recognised in the funding formula.

The funding formula should also reflect previous years' major operations that had an overall long-term effect on the budget—the Coventry airport animal rights demonstrations, which were enormously expensive, the Wardell murder inquiry and the tragic Naomi Smith killing in my constituency. They have all been an enormous drain on the constabulary's reserves and that must be recognised when the funding formula is reviewed.

I also condemn the way in which the Home Office has failed properly to fund closed circuit television in our area. The Home Office said that it was making funds available. Nuneaton and Bedworth and North Warwickshire applied for that funding and were refused. From Home Office replies, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) has been able to show that of the funding available for CCTV more than 70 per cent. went to the very few Conservative authorities in the country. That is discrimination against Labour authorities such as Nuneaton and Bedworth and North Warwickshire. Thankfully, the council can claim that, as a Labour authority, it has properly and fully funded the introduction of CCTV despite the handicap of the Government.

The results of the severe damage to funding in Warwickshire are clearly set out by Superintendent Gordon Wilson, who is in charge of Nuneaton police—the area of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Olner). I am sure that Mr. Wilson spoke for all the officers in Warwickshire when he was quoted in the Bedworth Telegraph on 8 December. I have already drawn the House's attention to the article, which suggested that the promise of 5,000 officers has resulted in the loss of 60 so far this year and the introduction of only nine. The Prime Minister's promise was pathetic.

Superintendent Wilson said: The simple fact is that if you don't pay, you don't get the service. If the proper funding isn't forthcoming from the government, there is going to be a reduction in the quality of service to the public. Our officers have responded admirably this year to a lack of funds, which has meant some working unpaid overtime to make sure the job gets done. But they can't keep doing that. Something's got to give‖ It's a vicious circle: The more the officers are stretched at work, the more likely they are to get sick and need time off, leaving fewer officers even more stretched and even more stressed". That is a senior police officer talking about the failure of the Government—a failure of which the Minister should be thoroughly ashamed.

Cuts in the police in Warwickshire, and the failure to back Nuneaton and Bedworth council's proposal to introduce closed circuit television in the town centre, mean that the Home Secretary is performing the job of the criminal; he is undermining the police. We have lost 60 officers in the county. The Home Secretary has ignored pleas to resource Warwickshire constabulary properly, and that is not all. When the Home Office announced that the funds were available for CCTV, our local councils did not obtain any, although Conservative councils did.

I am appalled at how badly the Home Secretary has failed people in Warwickshire. He has handicapped the police and the fight against crime. In Warwickshire, we know who the criminals' mate is—it is the Home Secretary, who is not funding the police in our county properly. When the general election comes, we shall remember the way in which the Minister of State and the Home Secretary undermined the fight against crime in Warwickshire.

11.40 pm
Mr. Maclean

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. Seldom has the House been treated to such a ridiculous little speech as that made by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien). I shall treat his remarks about closed circuit television with the contempt that they deserve. Warwickshire did benefit from two Home Office funded CCTV schemes in the most recent round, and if it submits any good schemes in the next round those will be considered equally and fairly.

Mr. Mike O'Brien


Mr. Maclean

No, the hon. Gentleman talked and bored the House for long enough. With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall try to reply to the interesting points that were made in the debate.

Last year Warwickshire had a 5.3 per cent. increase in its funding. Note the weasel words of Opposition Members. They do not talk about the Government's "cutting" Warwickshire's funding, but you can bet your bottom dollar, Madam Deputy Speaker, that if the Government had cut the funding that word would have been used ad nauseam. Instead, Opposition Members talk about a "funding shortfall".

What does that mean? It means simply that, despite the fact that the Government are giving Warwickshire 5.3 per cent. more, it had a wish list costing even more than that, and it could not get all the funding that it wanted. I do not know of any police authority in the country that has ever received all the money that it would ideally like to have. I suggest that, with a 5.3 per cent. increase, and with police pay rising by only 3 per cent. last year, Warwickshire should have lived within its means. This year it will receive a 3.4 per cent. increase in funding.

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) asked a good question about the funding of an officer. We have agreed with the Association of Chief Police Officers that the additional funding of £20 million next year will be sufficient to recruit 1,000 more constables.

ACPO agrees that the marginal cost of taking on a new officer is £19,738. I have already set out that figure in a detailed parliamentary answer, and it comprises salary of £16,117, national insurance contributions of £1,251, training costs of about £2,000 and uniform costs of £370. Those are the figures for a whole year, but 1,000 officers will not all be recruited on 1 April. They will be recruited throughout the year, so all the costs will not be incurred by the police force on day one. The provision that we are allocating is more generous than the figure of £19,738 would suggest.

We know that in the second year an officer's salary will be a bit higher, in the third year it will be even more and in the fourth year it will rise again. By the time he has done 25 years' service an officer is an expensive but a very worthwhile commodity. There are also the pension commitments. Of course we know that we must also consider the additional costs in future years.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) made an important point when he talked about the doom and gloom that came out of Staffordshire last year. But that was not true of Staffordshire alone. Let us remember all the doom and gloom that we heard about this time last year. There was an ACPO forecast that 900 jobs would be lost in the forthcoming year.

The Independent was not to be outdone. If it can peddle a bigger lie, of course it will do so. It said that not 900 but 1,500 jobs would be lost. Then, Police Review—I give the magazine credit for caring about the facts, as The Independent did not seem to do—did a survey that concluded that there was likely be an increase of about 400 officers in the coming year with the money that the Government provided last year. But Police Review was too dashed conservative—we are heading for an increase of 900 constables in this financial year.

Mr. Olner

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Maclean

No, I have only one minute left. It is not just a matter of those 900 extra constables, because there are extra civilians too. Opposition Members quibble about whether the Government will meet our target of getting 900 extra officers. When Labour left office, the police force was 8,500 bobbies under strength. With the Labour party, it is not a case of do as I do, but do as I say. I can tell the Opposition—

Mr. Michael

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Maclean

No. Since we came to power, an additional 33,000 people have joined the police force—16,000 uniformed officers and 17,000 civilians. We are providing the manpower. We have done it before and we will do it again. We will honour our commitments.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14B (Proceedings under an Act or on European Community documents).

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 1996–97 (House of Commons Paper No. 162), which was laid before this House on 29th January, be approved.