HC Deb 04 February 1999 vol 324 cc1095-137 1.28 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng)

I beg to move, That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 1999–2000 (HC 179), which was laid before this House on 1st February, be approved. One of the great joys of being the Minister responsible for the police is that one has an opportunity to go around and about our country visiting constabularies and meeting the dedicated men and women who serve as police officers. I have now had the privilege of visiting over a quarter of the constabularies in our country. One gets a sense of the sterling work that is being done up and down the land. The public are taking advantage of the framework now provided by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to build effective partnerships to help prevent and detect crime and to build the safety and security that is the bedrock of successful communities.

At this time, it is encouraging to hear from conversations with chief constables, members of police authorities and the officers on the ground their renewed sense of the importance of budget management and sound financial planning. Financial planning will deliver efficient and effective policing, to tackle crime and disorder and to help create safer towns and cities.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Boateng

I shall, of course, give way to the right hon. Gentleman eventually, but I should make a little more of my speech first.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 puts police at the heart of strategies to combat crime and disorder. However, tackling crime is not the job of police alone—which is why, in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, we placed a new statutory duty on local authorities and police together to create local partnerships to reduce crime. The chief constables whom I have met across the country, and their police authorities, are fully committed to implementing the Government's legislation and to working in partnership with other agencies in their communities.

Today's debate is not about funding police authorities in England and Wales only in the context of the numbers of police officers, but about their funding and their effectiveness. [Interruption.] The shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), with a quizzical look on his face, asks "Why not?" I will tell him why not.

In 1994, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard)—with the right hon. Gentleman's connivance and support; he voted for the change—took away the Home Secretary's right to determine police numbers. It therefore does not sit well for the shadow Home Secretary to ask why today's debate is not about police numbers.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Boateng

In a minute.

The debate is not about police numbers, because you and the previous Government removed—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. I hope that the Minister will give way to me, simply to remind him that he is addressing the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Boateng

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield and the previous Government took away from the Home Secretary the right to determine police numbers.

Sir Norman Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is becoming very defensive very early in his speech. Is he saying that there is no relationship between the amount of resources provided to the police service and police manpower? Is not the Home Secretary the police authority of the Metropolitan police? Does not the Home Office therefore have any view on police numbers?

Mr. Boateng

The relationship has to be determined by the chief constable, as chief officer and as the person with operational responsibility for the deployment of his force. The right hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity eventually—when we debate London, and the Home Secretary's role as London police authority—to make the points that he would like to make.

The shadow Home Secretary knows very well that it is utterly disingenuous for Conservative Members to suggest that the Home Secretary has any power to direct chief constables on the numbers of men and women whom they deploy in their force. Although I have no doubt that we shall return, ad nauseam, to his question on police numbers, he and the House should realise that that is not what today's debate is about.

Today's debate is about how, together—let us explore the matter—we create an effective force to bear down on crime and disorder, we build partnerships between police and public in our communities, and we fund those partnerships. The shadow Home Secretary will recall that the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe, with some pride, said:

In future, the number of constables in a force will be a matter for local decision … It is not a matter for me."—[Official Report, 26 April 1994: Vol. 242, c. 113.] Now the shadow Home Secretary wants to make numbers a matter for me and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. However, we do not intend to allow him to do so.

Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire)

Will the Minister give way.

Mr. Boateng

No, not now.

We have to take a good long and hard look at what the figures tell us. In 1998–99, total spending on policing in England and Wales is estimated to be about £7.5 billion. Around 65 per cent. of expenditure on the criminal justice system goes on policing. The Government's overall spending plans for the police over the next three years were announced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary last July, following the comprehensive spending review. There will be an extra £1.24 billion for the police service in England and Wales between 1999 and 2002.

The total police authority spending for 1999–2000, to which the Government are prepared to contribute their share, will be £7.14 billion. That amount is known as the total standard spending assessment and it represents an increase of £186 million or 2.7 per cent. on the figure for 1998–99.

We have looked beyond next year and announced spending figures for the following two years to allow police authorities to plan ahead with greater confidence—something that they were never able to do when policing was in the stewardship of the Conservatives.

Sir David Model

A few minutes ago the Minister lauded the partnership scheme. He will know that Bedfordshire is at the forefront of that and is probably the best in the country. Why is Bedfordshire rewarded with such a dreadfully poor settlement?

Mr. Boateng

The hon. Gentleman has been to see me with his chief constable and other Members of Parliament, including Labour Members, to pray in aid and make representations on behalf of the Bedfordshire force. I was glad to see them. I am equally glad to say that one of my enduring memories of that meeting is the success of the tripartite relationship in Bedfordshire between the police authority, the chief constable and the Home Office. Central to that tripartite relationship is the fact that it is for the chief constable to determine the level of deployment of the men and women at his command. We have given him and the authority adequate resources to carry that out. They will be able to build on the successful partnerships that they have created in Bedfordshire. I am only too pleased to give them and Members of Parliament representing Bedfordshire full credit for those partnerships.

Looking beyond the coming year, spending on the police will increase by 2.8 per cent. in 2000–01 and by a further 4 per cent. in 2001–02. That represents a real-terms increase, albeit modest, and demonstrates the Government's commitment to helping the police to play their key part in tackling crime and disorder.

The settlement also takes forward the Government's commitment to improve efficiency in the police service. We have set a target of 2 per cent. efficiency improvements year on year from 1999–2000. Importantly, we are not requiring the police to hand back the efficiency savings that they make. On the contrary, by achieving their targets, chief constables will be able to reinvest the savings to help meet front-line policing priorities. Once again, I note a quizzical, even sceptical look passing across the face of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield and his hon. Friends. I have news for them. All the chief constables and police authority chairmen whom I have met recognise the advantage that that will give their local police force and are grateful for it. The hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Sir D. Madel), who prayed in aid his case for Bedfordshire recognises that, as—I do not tell tales out of school—it was the thrust of the remarks made around my table when he came to see me. Of course the police want more and hon. Members will ask for more, but they recognise the value of being able to reinvest the 2 per cent. efficiency savings that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary won for them in the comprehensive spending review. Potentially up to £140 million could be freed up to recycle into front-line policing. That is good news, as I hope Opposition Members appreciate.

In recent years, the police service has been comparatively insulated from many of the pressures facing other parts of the public sector. The efficiency improvements that we are seeking now are no different from those that were expected by the previous Administration of, for example, the prison service, the probation service or the national health service, and then delivered. For example, the probation service has made efficiency gains of over 20 per cent. since 1994, and the prison service has achieved reductions of 24 per cent. in real terms per cost per prisoner since 1992–93. In that context, the 2 per cent. target for the police is reasonable and achievable.

The efficiency planning process is an important step towards the best value regime from April 2000 that will require the police to demonstrate that they are delivering an effective, efficient, and high-quality service.

I now turn to the links about funding and performance. In recent years, national increases in police spending have not always been spread evenly across the service. Some forces have received relatively less than others. That is one of the effects of a needs-based formula, but increased resources do not automatically improve levels of service. That is not simply my opinion. It is the conclusion of the independent Audit Commission. Its latest annual report on police performance published on 28 January said that there is still no direct correlation between increased spending and improved performance at the level of individual forces. It continued: Some of the forces which have improved their performance the most have had relatively modest increases in spending, while others who have increased spending significantly have either improved less than those with smaller increases, or, in a few cases, have seen their performance deteriorate". We have to take seriously that lesson from the Audit Commission.

Undoubtedly, chief constables and police authorities up and down the country are beginning to reflect on their performance. Let us take an example. The spending of Warwickshire constabulary reduced by more than 5 per cent. in the four years 1994–95 and 1997–98, after adjustments for inflation. During the same period, the percentage of all crimes detected by primary means by the force increased. In particular, detections for household burglaries increased by more than 5 per cent.

Despite the operation of the formula, with its aim of trying to balance needs in an objective way, much of the present relative spending levels can only be explained historically. Thus, for example, according to latest Audit Commission figures, Merseyside police spend £158 per head of population—the highest of any force outside London and £43 above the national average of £115—while the next highest force—Greater Manchester—receives £22 per head less than Merseyside.

The Audit Commission also has a number of important points to make about police numbers. There is a general view that more police officers will lead to increases in the proportion of crime cleared up. I hope that Conservative Members do not adhere to that view out of a spirit of party political partisanship and that in their contributions to the debate they will make clear their understanding of—and support for—the Audit Commission's analysis. If they do not, we will know that they are prepared to play party political games with the policing of the country.

I lay down that challenge to Conservative Members, and I expect them to respond to it. If we are to have a rational debate about policing, we must build it on the evidence available; otherwise, we shall not be taken seriously about an issue that matters so much to our fellow citizens and constituents, and which police officers and police authorities have to confront.

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

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Boateng

In due course, but a closer examination of what the Audit Commission has to say on the matter may help the right hon. Gentleman to make his point. The report states: In some forces, there were increases in the number of police officers per 1,000 of the population, but the percentage of crimes solved stayed the same or fell … This reinforces the point … that success in solving crime does not depend solely on the number of police officers available. The Audit Commission made an even more telling finding. It states: Some forces with the biggest reductions in numbers of police officers have also recorded some of the largest increases in the percentage of crimes detected during the same period. That finding requires an explanation from Conservative Members, who would make a totem of police numbers.

Mr. Beith

Does the Minister acknowledge that, for the public, deploying a sufficient number of uniformed police officers in the community is an important factor in reducing the fear of crime and making people feel safe on the streets?

Mr. Boateng

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, as I am about to deal with that precise point.

Of course, the number of police on our streets remains important. The public feel reassured by the visible presence of police officers on patrol. However, people are also concerned about efficient and effective policing. It is clear from the Audit Commission's report that we must move way from sterile and simplistic arguments about police numbers. Rather, we must move towards the efficient and well targeted use of resources, and the imaginative use of technology.

Indeed, what has transformed the public's safety in many town and city centres—and on many estates as well—has not been an increase in the numbers of police officers on undirected patrol, but a huge increase in coverage by closed circuit television, which in turn has freed up officers for detection and prevention duties.

Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the number of officers visible on the streets, it is also important that the police deal with matters that people consider to be important? My hon. Friend was in my constituency last weekend, and he will know that the partnership introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which he mentioned earlier, has enabled the local community to discuss with the police those matters that they feel to be important. The consequent reduction in crime depends not simply on police numbers, but on the police doing their job in accordance with the objectives of the community.

Mr. Boateng

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In Gedling, I saw about 100 people from the police, the public, the local authority, voluntary organisations and neighbourhood watch. They came together, giving up a Saturday, to determine local policing priorities and to build effective strategies to prevent and reduce crime. They did so within the context provided by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, a law that owes its introduction, implementation and success to the return of a Labour Government in 1997.

We must be clear about the context of our debate. It is not only about partnerships such as those. It is also about technology, and about commitments to new strategies for policing being developed by chief officers and the men and women under their commands. It is important to manifest a police presence in different and novel ways.

Yesterday, I visited Stonehouse and Stroud in Gloucestershire, where one of the most successful innovations has been police information posts. The reality of rural policing is that the numbers game simply does not operate in a way that would provide the assurance referred to by the right hon. Member for Berwick—upon—Tweed (Mr. Beith). Information posts are being developed in post offices and shops in rural towns and villages. People are able to make contact with the police, and the use of new technology provides a presence that not only reassures people, but assists in detection and prevention.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

Will the Minister give way.

Mr. Boateng

I am afraid that I must get on. The hon. Gentleman may have a chance to make his own speech.

The Government welcome the Audit Commission's recommendation that local people and the local media should use the commission's report to ask questions about the performance and efficiency of local forces. The Audit Commission has given us an opportunity to stimulate debate about the most effective ways in which to provide policing services.

Only last week, we heard about the radical reorganisation being put in place by the chief constable of West Midlands police. He is streamlining senior posts, restructuring major investigation teams and transferring posts from headquarters to local sectors. All that will release more officers for front-line duties, with up to 300 more constables freed to reinforce local operational command units. The chief constable has said that his decisions have led to a turnaround in performance, with crime levels coming down and detection rates going up. That is an excellent example of well targeted, efficient and effective use of resources.

Similarly, the chief constable of Lincolnshire is restructuring top-tier management and merging some divisions to improve community policing. The local newspaper, the Lincolnshire Echo, succinctly put it: "Less brass means more coppers". [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh dear."' Liberal Democrat Members have made something of a political totem of their press releases to local newspapers such as the Lincolnshire Echo. In Focus, their own publication, they have sought time and again to engender precisely that kind of headline. You should be revelling in it rather than pouring scorn on a headline that, for once, tells its own story. You could learn a lesson or two from it for Focus.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to have to pull the Minister up, but we are trying to encourage all hon. Members to remember the correct forms of address, and Ministers must conform.

Mr. Boateng

I stand chastened. However, there is more than an element of truth in that headline. It is not all about more money. We need to recognise and build on that point.

Let me turn to the details of next year's funding settlement. The police service has given its general support for the continued distribution of police grant in accordance with the needs-based funding formula that was introduced in 1995.

Ms Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) initiated a review on population sparsity, which is part of the needs-based formula. Is that research continuing and when will it be published?

Mr. Boateng

It is certainly continuing. Hon. Members will regard it as particularly important research. If memory serves, that change in the needs-based formula was pioneered by the Minister responsible for police before the general election. The recognition of the significance of sparsity to an effective needs-based funding formula draws support from both sides of the House. We await the outcome of that research. I hope that it will be with us in the coming year. We will reflect on its implications for the formula.

The police service has given its general support for the continuing distribution of the police grant in the way that I described. We therefore propose to continue to allocate virtually all police grant by means of the funding formula. However, we propose a few changes to reflect the latest data available and in response to representations.

There are two principal changes. First, we are reducing the share of funding allocated on the basis of historical manpower levels in forces from 20 per cent. to 10 per cent. The weighting given to this element of the formula, which was introduced to provide some continuity with the old funding arrangements, was first set at 50 per cent. but has been reduced progressively over the past few years. It is right that it should be given progressively less significance as confidence in the needs-based formula continues to grow. The Association of Police Authorities supports the measure.

The other proposed change is to increase from 13.2 to 14.5 per cent. the proportion of funding allocated on the basis of forces' pensions commitments. This is in recognition of the continuing increase in police pensions costs, which I know concerns hon. Members.

I have some words on Metropolitan police funding because two other elements in the settlement are to be introduced next year. We propose that the Metropolitan police should continue to receive additional funding in recognition of its distinct, exceptional, national and capital city functions. It has proved difficult for the principal formula to take account of those circumstances. To maintain public confidence in the capital and its policing, the special payment will be increased next year by £25 million from £151 million to £176 million.

Some chief constables and police authorities have criticised the increase as special treatment for the Met. It is no such thing. The Metropolitan police face extra burdens in policing the capital city and extra national responsibilities, of which all hon. Members are well aware. The overall settlement means that the Metropolitan police will receive funding of £1.744 billion next year, an increase of 1.7 per cent. over the 1998–99 figure and significantly below the national average increase. More than 30 forces will receive larger funding increases than the Met next year.

The financial year 2000–01 will see the establishment of the Metropolitan police authority, which will, for the first time, give Londoners a police authority that is democratically accountable to them.

Policing is rooted in local communities. Any police force will increase its effectiveness if it can secure the support and co-operation of local people. The Metropolitan police authority will give a significant boost to the Met's current programme of work to involve the people of London. It will therefore deliver not only a more accountable police force, but a more effective one.

The MPA will be part of the single financial structure provided by the Greater London Authority Bill. This covers the mayor and assembly, the London development agency, Transport for London and the London fire and emergency planning authority, as well as the MPA. The Greater London authority will set the MPA's budget. However, the Home Secretary will have the power to set a minimum budget to ensure that the MPA is able to secure an efficient and effective police force. There will also be provision for an agreement between the Home Secretary and the MPA to set standards for the Met's performance of its national and international functions.

A further provision of the GLA Bill is the amendment of the Metropolitan police district boundaries. With effect from 1 April 2000, they will be brought into line with the boundaries of the 32 London boroughs.

Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)

The Minister may be about to turn to this issue. Will he clarify why the Met will receive no special transitional funds with which to meet the cost of boundary changes? I met Sir Paul Condon yesterday, and he estimated that the cost to the Met would be about £10 million.

Mr. Boateng

The Metropolitan police have made it clear that they can handle the additional cost—indeed, they are offloading their responsibilities onto the surrounding counties and we are compensating them. That suggestion is a little rich—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will get a Focus headline out of it. [Interruption.] I do not intend to be drawn further down that road.

It is important to recognise that responsibility for those parts of the Metropolitan police district within Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey will transfer to those three police authorities. In the settlement, the Government have recognised that, in making sensible preparations for the change, the three authorities will incur significant additional costs next year. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman should be aware that we have set aside a total of £12 million to help the three authorities prepare for the change and meet those transitional costs. We have awarded an extra £2 million to Essex, £3 million to Hertfordshire and £7 million to Surrey, and those payments are reflected in the grant report.

I know that future changes to the funding formula, are a source of concern to many right hon. and hon. Members. Applying a needs-based funding formula inevitably means that there will be winners and a few losers. Not surprisingly, it is the losers who dislike the operation of the formula—and I fancy that we shall hear from one or two of them today.

I met chief constables from a number of forces during the consultation period on the settlement, along with members of their police authority and, in some cases, right hon. and hon. Members. In each case—I have referred to a meeting that the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire attended—there was no doubt that the police forces were delivering a professional, efficient and effective service with the resources available to them. Each and every chief constable made it clear that he did not oppose the principles of the funding formula. None had come to whinge or complain, and it is correct to say—as I do in the presence of several hon. Members who accompanied their chief officers to the meetings—that none did. That sort of atmosphere did not prevail at any of the meetings. Each set out how they proposed to manage their budget next year and their plans for future years. My officials and I were enormously impressed by their approach to the challenges.

Three recurrent issues emerged: the pressures of policing urban metropolitan areas; the problems of policing sparsely populated rural areas; and the continuation of the old force establishment component in the formula. We have commissioned independent, external research into both density and sparsity and I hope that the results of the research will be available shortly and prove to be conclusive. Meanwhile, we have retained in the formula for next year the sparsity element introduced by the previous Government, even though no objective evidence currently exists to justify it. Although objective evidence is lacking, the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Ms Lawrence) on the value of the sparsity element have been reflected in all the representations made to me.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

In the review of the national formulae, will my hon. Friend examine the implications of the local formulae used within individual police authorities? I accept that the formulae used nationally have to be adjusted in line with changes in density, sparsity and other factors. However, the formula used within the Metropolitan police authority has a bizarre result in that individual divisions are penalised for success: where local partnerships work effectively and crime decreases, there is a loss of staff. My local division, Hillingdon, has lost 91 staff in three years as a result of its success. There is a need to go beyond the review of national formulae and examine individual authority formulae and their implications on the ground.

Mr. Boateng

That is a matter for local decisions: that is the nature of the tripartite arrangement. One of the important aspects that we have preserved in the creation of a Metropolitan police authority is the continued operation of that tripartite arrangement. My hon. Friend has experience of serving with me on a citywide authority at a time when demand for a police authority for London was especially clearly articulated. He will know that the issue he raises is one that the new Metropolitan police authority will want to address with its chief officer, and the Home Office can be relied on to assist in every way possible.

A number of forces have made plain their case for recognition of what they describe as particular funding pressures: for example, Staffordshire and Warwickshire in respect of the Birmingham northern relief road; and Devon and Cornwall in respect of the eclipse. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently met a delegation of right hon. and hon. Members representing Kent constituencies in connection with the extra burdens faced by the Kent force in having to deal with illegal entrants and asylum seekers. We recognise that all hon. Members have views on the issue. I can say only that it has to be understood that, from time to time, all forces have to deal with additional, often unforeseen, pressures. We shall carefully consider the requests made, but I can give no undertakings at this stage. Even if special payments were justified on their merits, it might not be possible to find additional funds until the time of next year's settlement.

Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

My hon. Friend mentions Staffordshire and the Birmingham northern relief road. The police authority faces significant extra expense from having to police the protests that are occurring there, but the 1.7 per cent. increase in Staffordshire police authority funding is well below the national average. I hope that my hon. Friend will give the most sympathetic hearing possible to representations made in respect of the special extra costs that fall on authorities such as Staffordshire, which already suffer from a lower than average increase in the police grant.

Mr. Boateng

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for so clearly making the case for Staffordshire. I have listened to him and other hon. Members and I shall bear in mind their representations.

In conclusion, I turn briefly to capital expenditure. After several years of actual cuts in police capital provision, we are heading for a period of stability. Police capital funding will remain at £144 million next year—the same figure as this year. We have also announced that our plans will allow capital funding to remain stable at £144 million until 2001–02. We have given the three-year figures, again in a spirit of partnership and to allow police authorities to plan ahead with confidence.

Changes in the capital receipts rules mean that forces are now free to use all proceeds of sale. We have freed them from the ridiculous restrictions of the previous Administration. Next year, all funding for major police building programmes is being maintained, as the Association of Chief Police Officers and the police authorities wanted. At the same time, we have been able to increase funding for minor capital works, vehicles and equipment by 2 per cent. for all forces. That is the first such increase for four years. That was never achieved under the previous Administration. [Interruption.] I hear Conservative Members muttering and moaning, but they must face the fact that we have achieved something that they were unable to achieve. They ought at least to have the grace to recognise that.

This Government came into office with a determination to reduce crime levels and the fear of crime, to tackle youth offending and to reform the performance of the criminal justice system overall. We also promised to relieve the police of unnecessary bureaucratic burdens to get more officers back on the beat. We are doing just that. That policy is working; it is delivering to the police and to the public and will continue to do so. This is a Government who take a stand against crime and disorder. This is a Government who put public money to most effective use. The order that we are debating today does just that and I hope that it will receive the support of the House.

2.12 pm
Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

The Minister's speech was very long and did not get any better as it went on. It amounted to a weak defence of the Government's position. The Minister's central point—that there is no relationship between resources and police strength—is ludicrous. At one point, he came near to arguing that fewer police would lead to higher detection rates, which is also pretty stupid. In essence, that confirmed our worst fears about the Government's policy on the police service.

We shall oppose the order on this basis: One of the functions of the House is to judge Governments by what they promise at elections. On that test, they have palpably failed the House—and, more important, the police and the public. Those are the words used by the then Opposition spokesman on home affairs to explain why, in January 1995, the Labour party voted against the police grant in a similar debate. The 1995 order gave more money, not less, to the police than does today's order. That in no way blunted the then Opposition's enthusiasm to take up the police cause.

Who was the Opposition spokesman? Of course, it was the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who is now the Home Secretary. What was his case? It was clear. He said that police services say that they will have to cut police numbers."—[Official Report, 31 January 1995; Vol. 253, c. 962–963.] I am not, therefore, exclusively arguing that case; it has also been made by the Home Secretary. He argued that too few resources were going to the police service.

Let there be no doubt that the strength and resources of the police service were part of Labour's promised policy in the last election. People listened to the then shadow Home Secretary and drew the obvious conclusion that a new Labour Government were promising more police and more resources.

Mr. Boateng

indicated dissent.

Sir Norman Fowler

The hon. Gentleman denies that. Why, then, did the shadow Home Secretary make those statements in the debate four years ago? It does not make sense. Why did the shadow Home Secretary lead his party into the Division Lobby to oppose a settlement more generous than the one that he is making today? Of course the public took Labour's actions into account. They did not believe that when the Labour Opposition said that, in government, they would be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime", they were setting the scene for the biggest reduction in police numbers for 20 years, but let us be in no doubt that that is precisely what is happening today and that it will happen for the next three years.

When the then shadow Home Secretary was asked about his own plans by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce), to whom I have spoken about this matter, he replied: If he retains his seat, I invite him to sit on this side of the House and listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) announcing in his first Budget the details of our spending plans."—[Official Report, 31 January 1995; Vol. 253, c. 964.] My hon. Friend is back, and very welcome he is too, but that is the end of the good news. We all listened to the Chancellor's first Budget and his comprehensive spending review and we have all seen the results.

There is to be the toughest squeeze on police spending for over a decade. There is no question about that whatsoever. The financial commitment of the previous Conservative Government will not be increased as Labour suggested—it will be cut drastically. That is the essence of the charge against the Government. They have broken their promises. They knew perfectly well that if they went to the country saying, "We shall reduce spending on the police and cut police numbers", they would lose votes and they would lose seats, so they did not say that. They hid behind generalised slogans. There is no question but that this settlement marks the worst news for the police since the Labour party was last in government.

Let me remind the House of the record since 1979. Between 1979–80 and 1996–97, there was a cash increase for the police of 354 per cent. In real terms, that is above inflation. Indeed, there was a real terms increase of 72 per cent. during the lifetime of the previous Conservative Government. Under this Government—if they last for five years, as the comprehensive spending review assumes—there will certainly be a cash increase. Not even this Government would reduce the cash, but the real terms increase over five years will be less than 1 per cent. However one does the sums, the Government's financial commitment has been reduced.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can assist me on a point that I have always found slightly puzzling. When in government, his party always demanded, and rightly so, greater efficiency from all areas of public service—with the single exception of the police. The Conservatives have always been willing to overlook, at least in public but not always in private, the scams and rackets that have gone on in the police force and which, in many areas, led to very poor service. Those are now being dealt with.

Sir Norman Fowler

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman raised that matter because I was about to make that point.

We accept the need for efficiency savings. Let us be under no illusion: efficiency savings in the police took place under the previous Conservative Government; they have not suddenly been invented. One need only talk to the Metropolitan Commissioner, the chief constable of West Midlands or the chief constable of West Yorkshire to realise that efficiency savings were not suddenly introduced in 1997. They had been making those savings for years, and rightly so.

In the same way, the Audit Commission is entirely valuable in guiding the police and setting performance targets. We back that process and it is one of the factors that needs to be taken into account.

The question is whether the amount of cash and the efficiency savings will meet the costs of the police, including the unavoidable cost of pay and pensions. We believe that, given the Government's settlement, they will not.

Under previous Conservatives Governments—this cannot be denied—the strength of the police service in England and Wales increased by more than 15,000. No one in his wildest dreams thinks that we shall see an increase of that size under Labour. Indeed, no one thinks that we shall see an increase at all.

Angela Smith (Basildon)

I am listening with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman. He is arguing, quite commendably, for far more money to be put into the police force. Has he checked that with his shadow Treasury Front-Bench team, which described Labour's spending plans as reckless and said that the Government should spend less?

Sir Norman Fowler

I will if the hon. Lady or the Minister concedes that we spent more money on the police service than this Labour Government are spending. I give way to the hon. Lady.

Angela Smith

The right hon. Gentleman is asking me to intervene on him; it is most unusual. No, I will not concede that.

Sir Norman Fowler

In that case, the question does not make a great deal of sense. If she will not concede that we spent more, I cannot entirely understand her point.

Angela Smith

I shall assist the right hon. Gentleman. He is constantly arguing for more money for the police force, yet his Treasury spokesperson, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), described Labour's spending plans as reckless. Has the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) checked his proposal for extra spending on the police service with his shadow Treasury Front-Bench team?

Sir Norman Fowler

The hon. Lady is struggling, but I shall give her a reply.

Mr. Mike Hall (Weaver Vale)

I bet the right hon. Gentleman does not answer the question.

Sir Norman Fowler

Even the Government Whip has broken into verse. I shall reply to him as well. I shall do so by adapting the reply that the then shadow home affairs spokesman, the present Secretary of State for the Home Department, gave in January 1995. I say to the hon. Member for Basildon (Angela Smith): "I share the hon. Lady's confidence that the Conservative party will win the next election. If she retains her seat, I invite her to sit on this side of the House and listen to my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) announcing in his first Budget the details of our spending plans." I would add that, under the Conservatives, the police will have the priority that they have always had under Conservative Governments. That is something that the Minister cannot say.

Mr. Boateng

I can say this: the right hon. Gentleman really must not be disingenuous. He went into the 1992 general election on a promise to increase numbers. We made no such promise in 1997. However, between March 1992 and March 1997, police numbers fell by 500. How does that square with the paeon of self praise in which the right hon. Gentleman has just engaged?

Sir Norman Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is arguing against himself. He talks of a fall of 500, but that is against a net increase in the police service under previous Conservative Governments of 15,300. There is no question about that.

Mr. Boateng

indicated dissent.

Sir Norman Fowler

I do not want the hon. Gentleman to get to his feet again. He has already taken 45 minutes of the House's time, which is far too long in a debate of this length. He has the nerve to say that Labour did not make any pledges on police numbers. What on earth does he think the 1995 debate was about? Why did he oppose the police grant then? Why did his party vote against it? Why did the then shadow Home Secretary say that police numbers were going down? Of course pledges on police numbers and resources were made. The Government are wriggling. They know that they have cut the police force and police services.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

My right hon. Friend probably heard the intervention on the Minister of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), in which he described a 15.7 per cent. reduction in police numbers over three years—it is, in fact, over two years. He omitted to say that the Hillingdon division is now facing a reduction of 11 front-line officers. If the people of Hillingdon were told that at the election, the expression that Uxbridge or Hillingdon deserves better would have rang hollow.

Sir Norman Fowler

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.

It is not only Conservative politicians who are saying that police numbers and police resources are going down. So is every organisation in the police service: that of the chief constables, that of the superintendents and, of course, the Police Federation.

Ms Lawrence

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Norman Fowler

I will not give way again.

Under Labour, police numbers are going down. In the first 18 months of this Government, there has already been a fall of almost 800 in the police service. Among the forces that have been affected are the Metropolitan police in London, Sussex, West Yorkshire, City of London, Kent, Essex, Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire. I know from experience and from letters that I have received that many others, such as Bedfordshire, are feeling the strain.

Ms Lawrence

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Norman Fowler

I will not give way. I thought that I had made it clear that I will not be giving way again. Others want to speak, and we have already had to listen to the lengthiest speech from a Minister on the Government Front Bench in a three-hour debate that I can remember.

The strength of a force such as the City of London is now below the 1979 level, posing the question whether this Government want it to continue. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), who is in Committee at the moment, has already taken up the issue.

Four years ago, the then shadow Home Secretary quoted the views of chief police officers. Those chief police officers have made it clear that they are not remotely happy today. Even more significant is the view of the Police Federation, which represents the bulk of policemen and policewomen. It says: One of this government's main manifesto pledges was to support law and order but Treasury officials have swung the axe on police budgets. This will result in fewer police officers, the closure of local stations and a reduction in front line services. The public deserves a police service which is properly maintained but with this budget they are being short changed. In that, I believe that they speak for a vast number of policemen and policewomen.

Let us not believe that all commitments on police and crime were made before the election. A number have been made since, including a notable one from the Prime Minister himself. In September, on the day before the Prime Minister's speech to the Labour party's conference, the political editor of The Times predicted that the Prime Minister would endorse the zero-tolerance strategy following his talks in New York with the mayor of New York.

The political editor of The Times is a notable safe pair of hands. As it happened, he predicted exactly what the Prime Minister would say. In the unmistakable words of a new Labour scriptwriter, the Prime Minister endorsed the policy of zero tolerance, when he said:

Don't show zero imagination. Help us to have zero tolerance of crime. Three months ago, I went to New York to look at the city's zero-tolerance policing policy, which has been outstandingly successful. Calling it zero tolerance is an inaccurate description. It is, in effect, proactive policing. At its centre are morning meetings, where precinct captains are personally held to account by the chief of police. The number of robberies, burglaries and murders are traced and, above all, the action being taken to solve them is checked. The result is that crime has fallen by 40 per cent. New York, which used to be almost a byword for lawlessness, has been returned to the people, and citizens are moving back into the city.

What was the prelude to that zero-tolerance policy? The strength of the police in New York was increased by 7,000 officers. I met no policemen in New York, nor any criminologist to whom I talked, who would argue that the policy would have been so successful without those new police officers. Indeed, police numbers in the rest of the United States are also going up, and emphasis is being put on that. The Government have no such policy—we have heard it from the Minister. The policy that this Government are pursuing is that numbers will come down.

In New York, 40,000 policemen police a population of about the same size as London. Here, we have 26,000 police officers, but worst of all, the numbers are reducing. Over the past 18 months they have decreased by almost 600, and in my view there are further reductions to come. It is simply not possible to achieve the kind of success that has been achieved in New York with the kind of policies being pursued by the Government.

The issue goes beyond the detection of crime. It affects the nature of our police service and relations between police and public. We do not want a remote a police service. We want a police service as near to the public as we can get it. We await the report of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. One of its central points will be relations between police and public. I shall in no way prejudge the results of that inquiry. We must learn the lessons of it—I make that clear.

I hope it will be recognised that relations between police and public in London are generally better than in any other European capital that I have visited. I have studied the police in most other European nations. I do not argue that things cannot be improved—of course they can—but we must avoid demoralising the police and generalising about the service. It would do the police the greatest harm if they were under the pressure of numbers and could not respond properly to the problems of the public.

In that regard, I say to the Minister that I am opposed to the idea that the police should be replaced, as advocated by one chief constable, by local authority patrols marked "Police Compliant" moving round the high street, drawn from the welfare-to-work programme and funded by central Government. Indeed, I would be tempted to laugh off that suggestion from a chief constable, had not the Home Secretary been quoted as saying that the chief constable's plans were "a real possibility".

We have an organised police precisely because of the breakdown of such arrangements. I am no more impressed when the Home Secretary says: If you talk to the public, they understand that you cannot have a police officer walking up and down their street all day and every day. You never had that. That was a myth about what happened in some golden age. However, the Home Secretary gives a self-evidently absurd example. Of course there never was an age in which every street was constantly patrolled. Everyone knows that. Everyone agrees with that, but there was a time when there were more police patrols than there are now, and when chief constables did not have to envisage local authority patrols in their town centres.

The Government's reply, which we heard again today, is that that has nothing to do with them—it is all up to the chief constables and the police authorities. The fact is that for the Metropolitan police, the Home Secretary is the police authority. He must have a view. He should have a view on police numbers nationally as well. One of the key objectives that he sets the Metropolitan police is to provide high-visibility policing to reassure the public.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the issue is not just numbers, but the abandonment of areas? In my constituency in Essex, we face the closure of a police station in Ingatestone, and the removal of policing from rural areas right across the constituency. As a police officer remarked to me, we will simply move crime around the rural areas.

Sir Norman Fowler

The Essex force is one of those that has been badly affected by the settlement. My hon. Friend, typically, raises an important issue for his constituency. I know from my postbag that the same complaint is repeated time and again around the country. It is not confined to Essex or the home counties. The Government should wake up to the complaint coming from ordinary people throughout the country.

Those people will not support a policy of smaller police forces, with fewer policemen and policewomen on patrol, and with substitute inadequate patrols set up to fill the gap. The public do not want that, nor do the police. It would weaken the link between police and public, and it would diminish the reputation of the police service in this country.

We will oppose the order this afternoon. We will oppose further reductions in the police service. The Government constantly speak about manifesto pledges and the mandate that they have. One thing is certain: they have no mandate to reduce the strength of the police service.

2.35 pm
Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

I shall raise the problems faced by the Dyfed-Powys police authority, the police force that has responsibility for my constituency, the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Ms Lawrence) and the whole of west and mid-Wales.

The increase in funding that the Dyfed-Powys police authority will have for the coming year raises considerable concern, I am sorry to tell my hon. Friend the Minister of State. The increase can hardly be described as an increase at all. It is close to a standstill or—to use the word in vogue—stability.

Many figures are bandied around about the efficiency of police forces, and one sometimes treats them with scepticism. However, as I understand it from those who are experts in such figures and targets, the Dyfed-Powys police force probably has the highest crime detection rate of any force in England and Wales. It is also probably one of the most efficient police forces, if not the most efficient, in England and Wales.

The published increase in funding is to be 0.8 per cent., but that figure should be halved. I am told that 0.4 per cent. of the increase relates to additional and improved security at ports in the county of Pembrokeshire. Hon. Members will understand that. The increase is thus a mere 0.4 per cent., against a general inflation rate of 2.5 per cent. I would not argue that every public authority should have an increase corresponding to the general rate of inflation, but the Chancellor's target for inflation is 2.5 per cent. The figures provided to me by the chief constable are for an increase of 0.4 per cent.

The national increase for the entire police settlement is, as I understand it, 2.6 per cent.—my hon. Friend said 2.7 per cent. Against that figure, I argue that an increase of 0.4 per cent. is extremely low and, indeed, dangerous. The annual budget is £50 million, and the 0.4 per cent. increase comes to £200,000—merely a standstill, and not enough to enable the force to maintain its efficiency.

My hon. Friend made much of the 2 per cent. efficiency savings. He mentioned a global figure that could be reinvested. What would the figure be for the Dyfed-Powys police authority, if it must absorb that 2 per cent? As it is already extremely efficient, it will be difficult to extract another 2 per cent.

The Dyfed-Powys force will face considerable problems. Next year the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 will have to be absorbed into the system, which will cost money. Sadly, in west and mid-Wales, there is an increase in drug activity. Cases involving heroin and crack cocaine are causing grave concern to the chief constable. No doubt similar problems exist in other parts of the country, but we have not experienced them before in west Wales. If there are cuts in funding, there will have to be cuts in policing. I do not know what effect the settlement will have. Perhaps a number of police constables will be lost.

My hon. Friend, in an engaging and interesting speech, got himself a little lost when he rightly told us that more money does not mean that police forces will be more efficient. I entirely accept that one cannot just throw money at a problem, but I am not sure where his logic, or the lack of it, led him then. Certainly one member of the Bar is not the right person to criticise another member of the Bar for sophistry. I shall be kind and say that, at that point in his speech, my hon. Friend was at least verging on sophistry and casuistry, but perhaps one should not say any more about that.

There will have to be cuts. Perhaps they will not fall on police constables; perhaps they will be across the board. But they will have some effect on my excellent police force, which is probably one of the most efficient in the country. Formulae and needs assessments come and go, but Ministers are there to rise above these algebraic equations sometimes and determine these matters. I ask my hon. Friend to reconsider the matter. The consequence will be that the battle against crime in mid and west Wales will, next year, be less effective.

There is a further consequence. If a force as efficient as Dyfed-Powys is not given any more money, people will start to wonder what is the point of being more efficient, and having better and better target figures for the clean-up of crime as next year they will have less money. I am sure that people will not stop trying to be more efficient, but people do feel that way. Even if the chief constable does not feel like that and operates in a wholly rational way, people lower down may feel that way, and that is bound to affect the morale of an excellent police force.

Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to look at the matter again. I know that Back Benchers always say that they are not talking about large sums of money—but in this case, I am not. At the margin, it is a little sum for the Government but, at the margin, it is a considerable amount for the Dyfed-Powys police force. I ask my hon. Friend to set aside these quadratic equations, these formulae, and try to transcend them a little—

Mr. Boateng

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Davies

In a moment. My hon. Friend has had 45 minutes. He made a theatrical speech, but who am I, as a member of the Bar, to complain about that either?

I ask my hon. Friend to set aside these quadratic equations and to exercise some ministerial discretion.

Mr. Boateng

I have enormously enjoyed my right hon. Friend's important contribution. If I may address him not as a member of the Bar, but as a former Treasury Minister—a distinguished former Treasury Minister—I must say that it is a little disingenuous to suggest that it is possible to put aside the equations and the formulae in the way that he suggests. He knows that a needs-based formula has winners and losers. Of course, it is sad when one's own authority is a loser, but I am sure that he will recognise the force of a needs-based formula of this sort.

Mr. Davies

I was coming to an end. I am sorry that my hon. Friend has raised the question of Treasury Ministers. I thought that he must have been a Treasury Minister when I heard parts of his speech. He said that money is bad for one; that one does not need any money. He implied that if we give more money, less crime will be detected. From the way that he spoke, I thought that my hon. Friend had done the tour d'horizon of the Treasury and was now back at the Home Office. Even former Treasury Ministers perhaps would not speak as he did. He told us we do not need money; we can become more efficient. That may be, but Dyfed-Powys is an efficient force. It now needs a little bit more money to make it more efficient in future and to reduce the crime level in my constituency.

2.44 pm
Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire)

This speech is a last minute appeal to the Minister to rebalance the settlement, which, as it is now constructed, leaves Bedfordshire in an extremely difficult position. But I start by thanking him and his civil servants for their courtesy and willingness to listen when we in Bedfordshire went to see them. They gave us plenty of time and we were grateful for the opportunity to put our case. One of the civil servants present was from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and I shall say something about that later.

The Bedfordshire police force recognises that, in any settlement, there will be winners and losers, but we cannot understand why we have come off worst in the country. The increase for Bedfordshire is only 0.8 per cent. The national average is 2.7 per cent. But among our neighbouring counties, Cambridgeshire has had an increase of 3.9 per cent., Northampton 3.7 per cent. and Suffolk 4.1 per cent. They have thus had increases above the national average. I do not accept for a minute that those counties need increases so far ahead of Bedfordshire in order to deliver an acceptable level of policing.

Next door to us are Milton Keynes and Thames Valley with an increase of 2.4 per cent. That is certainly part of history. As always, Milton Keynes gets its good fair share of state spending, to the detriment of Bedfordshire. Why it wants to burst into Bedfordshire and take part of our area, I simply do not know, but this is the wrong debate for raising that.

If the 0.8 per cent. is turned into cash, it is £0.5 million. Given our pension problems, the salaries and the wage settlements, and the percentage that has to go on them, we cannot make a saving of £3.2 million without major manpower surgery, both officer and civilian. When we went to see him, the Minister listened carefully and courteously to the Unison representative from Bedfordshire who explained what effect the settlement would have on Unison members in Bedfordshire.

We were not sitting around in Bedfordshire last summer thinking, "Oh well, we'll get plenty of money." We were planning for a reduction: for a worst case scenario. We were planning for a £2 million reduction. Last summer, the authority started work identifying cuts and effecting efficiency savings, but in their wildest dreams, the police authority and those interested never imagined that the cut would be £3.2 million.

The unfairness of the settlement is deeply felt in Bedfordshire in view of the successes that we have had and have had recognised in the past two to three years by Her Majesty's inspectorate and the district auditor, as shown by the figures themselves.

The detection rate, which increased from 21 per cent. to 35 per cent., did not just happen—it was hard won. The primary detection rate now stands at 29 per cent., domestic burglary has been reduced by 25 per cent. and non-domestic burglary by 50 per cent. Motor vehicle crime has been reduced by 30 per cent. As the Minister knows, Luton rests on Vauxhall's ability to produce many cars, so we are a high car-owning county. The detection rate for motor vehicle crime has risen from 11 per cent. to 25 per cent. One could go on putting such figures to the Minister, but I know that he is familiar with them.

The Prime Minister said that success in policing would be rewarded. Alas, we have not had a reward. Those improvements have not been achieved by Bedfordshire police alone. The police-business partnership has been an example for the country—a fact that has been recognised by the National Lottery Charities Board. The partnership work extends to Homewatch, of which Bedfordshire is one of the leaders nationally, Victim Support and the Luton crime reduction partnership. The development of all those organisations in Bedfordshire is such that few opportunities exist for them to bid for additional funding, as they are so very far advanced.

The Minister will know of the Leighton Buzzard crime prevention panel. Leighton Buzzard, like all Bedfordshire towns, has a rapidly growing population. Leighton Buzzard's concern is that the cuts in the police budget are not self-contained but will have a knock-on effect on other areas involving partnership with the public.

Moreover, if the reward for increased effectiveness is reduced funding—the Bedfordshire police force was one of the most successful in the country last year at reducing and detecting crime—the willingness of individuals to take part in partnership activities may well be reduced. Morale is extremely important in voluntary activities. Without a good community spirit, it would be far easier for members of the crime prevention panel to concentrate on purely local Homewatch affairs than to spend time on projects of benefit to the community as a whole. Community partnership needs to be fostered, and arbitrary cuts, apparently unrelated to proven increases in efficiency and effectiveness, are not the way to do that.

The immediate future for the Bedfordshire police authority and Bedfordshire police looks bleak, and there is a strong feeling that there has been a great deal of unfairness, given the circumstances that we are in. All we ask is to be treated as others have been treated and to be given equitable treatment.

An increase in council tax is not the way out of this problem. An increase of 2.5 per cent. in spend would be considered quite reasonable by people in Bedfordshire, but when they realise that, because of the peculiar gearing, that translates into a council tax increase of 16.5 per cent., they certainly will not be prepared to accept such an increase for one moment.

We are constrained by the gearing of the system: we cannot shove up council tax in order to continue the good work that we do with the police. I ask the Minister whether, even at this later hour, there could be some marginal relief for Bedfordshire this year or, at the very worst, whether a means could be found of spreading the reduction over a longer period.

I should say a word about the DETR official who was present at the meeting. We in Bedfordshire are doing what people in Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire are doing; we are helping London with its housing. We do not have a standstill population, by any means. As the tragic deindustrialisation of Dunstable goes on, houses spring up like daffodils in April when the firms have gone, so we have to make police numbers keep pace with increases in population.

The Minister knows that. He once stood as a candidate for Hemel Hempstead which, as he also knows, is, to a great extent, about helping London with its housing. Londoners who move to Bedfordshire and to other places expect policing, and police numbers, to be as good as in London's. We in Bedfordshire are therefore somewhat puzzled at the Metropolitan police service's special payment, which has gone up by 16.5 per cent.

This is a terribly disappointing settlement and I am afraid that the Minister cannot match his great courtesy with some practical help and action for Bedfordshire. Let me give one fact and make one prediction. Here is the fact: between March 1979 and March 1997, police strength in Bedfordshire increased by 192, from 902 to 1,094; between March 1997 and September 1998, that strength fell by 43, from 1,094 to 1,051—backwards with Labour.

I remember when Labour activists, some of whom I see in the streets and some of whom come to my surgeries, ran around my constituency with propaganda leaflets saying, "You'll be safer under Labour. We'll do better on the police." They do not say that now; when I see them in the streets, they have a look of injured guilt on their faces because of what has happened.

I think that—deep, deep down—the Minister knows that we should have a better deal. I have given a fact, and I said that I would also make a prediction. Here it is: the headlines in the local papers in Bedfordshire in May will read, "Heavy losses for Labour in the local council elections." We will all know what has caused that.

2.53 pm
Ms Hazel Blears (Salford)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate, because tackling the problems of crime and disorder is probably the No. 1 issue in Salford, the city that I represent. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) is about to leave the Chamber, so I say to him that I was absolutely amazed by his contribution, which was almost obsessed with numbers. The number that he failed to mention was the doubling of crime that he and the previous Conservative Government presided over during the past few years.

I invite the right hon. Gentleman to come to my city to witness the results of the Tory years. Crime and disorder have escalated almost out of control, people are often under siege and there has been a huge increase in burglary, robbery and violent crime. That is the legacy of the Tory Government, and his use of numbers was very selective indeed. We should concentrate not on numbers, but on how effective and efficient we are in providing policing.

I welcome the settlement. The national increase is 2.7 per cent., which will give us an extra £1.25 billion of expenditure over the next three years and will enable police forces to plan ahead. The ability to look ahead with regard to the needs of our communities, and to plan for the policing that will meet those needs, has been lacking.

Unlike Bedfordshire, the increase in Greater Manchester is slightly above the national average, at 2.9 per cent. I am delighted—[Interruption.] It is not a matter of luck. I am delighted that police resources are being targeted on the areas of greatest need. Resources will always be limited, but we need to target the resources that we have on the areas with the highest crime.

I speak for many Greater Manchester Members of Parliament when I say that we have been concerned about the way the budget process has proceeded in the past year. There have been a number of scare stories in the community that we faced budget cuts of £15 million or £18 million and that front-line policing would be slashed. Those stories have caused huge concern to the public, and a great deal of concern to the staff involved, but when the police authority examined its budget—rigorously and in detail—and got down to the nitty-gritty of where it was spending its money, it was able to make £10.5 million of efficiency savings.

The police authority told me yesterday that it will be able to live within the settlement, without any reductions in front-line operational policing. What matters to the people whom I represent is that the police are there, making the community safe. The authority proposes to restructure the tactical vehicle crime unit and to deliver off-road motor cycling facilities through other people. It has looked again at its cleaning and catering services, it has reviewed the traffic warden service and it has even restructured the mounted unit. I hope that nothing painful has been done to the horses.

That shows that, with imagination and creativity, we can reduce expenditure on services, but that need not affect the front-line policing of our communities. It shows what can be done, if we have the time to do it. The difficulty is that these things are done hastily, and not in the best way, when people budget from year to year or from month to month. The Audit Commission report estimates that this country could save up to £80 million in procurement, contracting, sharing training and sharing equipment if we thought about doing things in a different, more creative way.

This is new ground for many police authorities. They have not had to face the same pressures on their budgets as many local authorities have had to face over the past 20 years. It is a challenge for them to get down to the detail of their budgets and examine what they are spending their money on.

The Government, by introducing the best value scheme, are giving police authorities the tools to do the job. I am delighted that the Greater Manchester police area is piloting the best value scheme, and I am even more pleased that F division in Salford is one of the four target divisions where the scheme is moving on apace. The schemes are asking fundamental questions such as, "Should we be carrying out this function? How are we delivering the objectives that we want to achieve, and at what cost? How are our neighbours performing in each of these service areas and how can we ratchet up our performance to meet the standards of the very best?"

That is a methodical and rigorous approach. It has taken far too long for it to arrive, in terms of maximising the effectiveness of the money spent on policing. People in my community are crying out for more effective and more efficient policing that they are able to see in action. The best value scheme has smart objectives, which are supposed to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. As well as smart objectives, I hope that we achieve some very smart policing in the city over the next few years.

We should also be asking some more fundamental questions about the role of the police. Should highly trained and expensive police officers be carrying out routine traffic duties such as monitoring speed traps, which we see around us every day? We should not shy away from such questions and it cannot be right that only the police can carry out certain sacrosanct functions. Provided that we have sufficient safeguards, and provided that we have thought the system through, we must be imaginative and open our minds to different ways of doing things.

Many of my constituents are absolutely enraged when they see six or seven police officers conducting an operation on illegal parking in an affluent part of our borough when they find it difficult to get the police to respond to violent incidents of crime and disorder in the inner city. We must look at our policing priorities. Should the police escort heavy loads on motorways? Should officers police football matches? Should they look after stray dogs or stray people who turn up on their doorstep? It is incumbent on us all to maximise the effect that we achieve from public expenditure, and the police should not be an exception.

The new powers in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 will be absolutely crucial in helping us to rebuild the safety of our communities. The new range of tools that we have under that Act—the anti-social behaviour orders, parenting orders and reparation orders—are key to rebuilding the inner cities. I fear, however, that unless we free up resources by analysing what we spend our money on now, we shall not have the money to implement the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 fully, and to obtain the maximum benefit from the new tools that are at our disposal.

I do not think that we can have "business as usual" in the police force. It must be said that, in some police forces, that simply is not working. Greater Manchester police are improving their detection rate, but they still detect only about 20 per cent. of crime; the national average is 26 per cent. The detection rate for burglary is only 11 per cent., while the national average is 17 per cent. It has risen in recent years, which shows the low base from which we are starting, but the fact remains that performance is not good enough. We must try to ratchet up standards, and ensure that we deliver high-quality services. Our ratio of police to public is higher than the national ratio, but I think that highlights the issue. We are talking not just about numbers, but about how those involved are working, the operations in which they are engaged and how those operations are managed and monitored. That is what delivers the return for our investment.

I want to mention a couple of innovations in F division in Salford which I consider very exciting. The first pathfinder initiative for the new operational policing strategy involves taking officers out of headquarters and on to the streets, and making them take "ownership" of their neighbourhoods. A sergeant and six police officers are now dedicated to each of our neighbourhoods. They have a personal responsibility for every rise in crime; as for reductions in crime, they have a stake in the results that they are able to achieve. That could almost be described as a revolution in policing. The community now sets the priorities, and the police—along with their local-authority, business and voluntary-sector partners—help to deliver what is required. That is the sort of high-value, high-quality policing that we want, and this Government are helping us to achieve it.

Salford has just been allocated part of the burglary initiative moneys that will protect the most vulnerable people in my community. Some 4 per cent. of people in this country are victims of 42 per cent. of recorded crime, which is shocking. People in inner cities, and in constituencies such as mine, suffer a hugely disproportionate amount of crime. Measures such as the burglary initiative, which is intended to make their homes and communities safer, can help to protect them.

Today's debate is about spending our money wisely and well. In that context, I feel compelled to bring to the Minister's attention an important issue that has come to light in Greater Manchester over the past week. It has featured in our local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, and apparently, for the past 12 months the Audit Commission has been investigating it—investigating, that is, alleged mismanagement and waste involving important contracts in the Greater Manchester police area.

It is alleged that the construction of the new crime squad headquarters at Bradford park in Manchester has exceeded its budget by £3 million; that it was necessary to tear out inappropriate equipment, which has cost a further half a million pounds; and that expensive consultants were engaged at a cost of £1.5 million, without compliance with European tendering procedures. All that is of great concern to the people of Greater Manchester.

We are hard pressed enough to need to secure good value from our expenditure. If there is any question of waste or mismanagement in the police force, I ask the Minister to investigate, and ensure that appropriate action is taken. Yesterday I spoke to the chair of the police authority, who gave me an undertaking that the police authority would act swiftly and decisively, and that there would be full and public debate as soon as possible. These matters must not be covered up; they must be properly exposed and investigated.

Finally, let me raise one or two long-term issues that the Government must address if we are to continue to make progress in the policing of our area. The first is police pensions. I know that it affects everyone in the country, but I must point out that, in 1986, police pensions in Greater Manchester cost £12.7 million—7.6 per cent. of the total budget. This year, the cost has risen to the astronomical figure of £59.2 million, 16 per cent. of the budget. That is a doubling in real terms, and constitutes a huge amount to find.

We also need to review the reasons for many retirements and pension increases, to manage sicknesses and medical retirements, and to ensure that our police forces are monitoring such developments as rigorously as possible. Given that pension costs are likely to rise by another £8 million next year, and by a further £10 million the year after that, the issue is clearly important.

The second issue is the renewal of the public communications system in Greater Manchester. At present, we use local wavelengths, which costs us about half a million pounds. In future, there is to be a nationally imposed system. I understand that the annual running cost will be about £8 million, and that the capital cost has been estimated at about £22 million. Those are large sums for a police authority to find. I understand that our police authority will be asking for a meeting with Ministers in the next few months to discuss some of the larger-term issues, and I hope that it will be possible to arrange such a meeting. Another issue that concerns us is the policing of the Commonwealth games in Manchester.

As I said at the outset, nothing is more important to the people of Salford than effective, efficient policing that will help to provide a safe community. Certainly, today's settlement will help my police authority to establish the necessary structure. The requirements are demanding and challenging, but they do not come before time. We must ensure that the police, like everyone else, provide value for money, and that we obtain the maximum return for every investment that we make.

The Government have said that there will be extra funds, but it is something for something, not something for nothing. We must ensure that we deliver efficiency, effectiveness and value for money—and then the Government will support the police. We are determined to tackle the Tory legacy of crime and lawlessness in our cities. The statistic that we should never forget is this: crime doubled under the Tory Government, and that is what we must deal with now.

3.6 pm

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

This is a short debate on a big subject. I am especially pleased to follow the hon. Member for Salford (Ms Blears), who always manages to deliver a large amount of information in a relatively short time. I am particularly pleased that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) did not manage to escape without being given his share. I certainly agree with the hon. Lady's sentiments with regard to the last Government's performance, although I disagree with her about the nature of the settlement. I shall say more about that later. I accept that she is sincere in wanting better policing in her area, but I do not believe that the settlement will lead to that.

I had hoped to return upstairs with the Minister and others for some more gentle consideration of sexual offences, but I understand that is now not going to happen—although we shall not have any more time for our debate in the Chamber. [Laughter.] When I say "upstairs", I mean "in Committee". I am glad that the debate so far has not become too partisan, except in regard to police numbers. I am not ashamed of my wish to dwell on that issue, as it is a key issue for my colleagues and me. The number of police officers has fallen by 781 since the general election, and we predict a further fall of at least 500 over the coming years following our analysis of the facts and of the implications of settlements under the last Government.

I was interested to learn that the Minister now believes that arguments about numbers are sterile and simplistic. I assume that they were not sterile and simplistic when they were employed by Labour spokesmen in opposition. I am thinking in particular of the current Secretary of State for Wales who, as recently as 1996, used similar arguments against the Tory Government.

The Government certainly deserve praise in one respect: they have learnt lessons from previous political mistakes. They decided not to make any commitment on numbers, because they saw what political difficulties that would cause. We heard a bizarre argument from the Minister about the Home Secretary's powers to dictate or not. He seemed to want a return to the former position—[Interruption.] Perhaps I misunderstood. He seemed to want to disclaim responsibility because he no longer had the power, but did not go as far as committing himself to taking the power back.

We find ourselves in a looking-glass situation. I think that, if my mathematics is correct, it would be possible to spin the Chamber round 180 degrees to hear arguments opposite to those advanced in 1995 and 1996, before the change of Government, from hon. Members on both sides of the House. What we have learnt in this debate is that, while the Conservatives tried to increase police numbers and failed abjectly, the current Labour Government are simply refusing to make any commitment to increase them.

Sir Norman Fowler

The hon. Gentleman speaks of abject failure. Does he deny that, under the last Conservative Government, police numbers increased by 15,300?

Mr. Allan

I was referring to the period between 1992 and 1997, which is recent enough to judge the performance of the previous Government.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

Having been a chairman of a police authority during the period of the previous Government, having gone every year to the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) to say that we needed more police in Avon and Somerset, and having received every year the answer, "No," may I corroborate the points that my hon. Friend makes? Police numbers did fall.

Mr. Allan

That is true. In 1992, the previous Government made a clear commitment, of which the Labour party in opposition enjoyed reminding them at the time, that they would increase police numbers by 1,000 over their period in office; they fell by 500. It is fair to say that that commitment was broken.

Perhaps one of the most amusing pieces of evidence that we have had in the debate was the Home Office press release that talked about a "fair and challenging settlement", which is a triumph of the spin doctors' art. "Challenging" is not the adjective that would have been used by Labour in opposition to describe the settlement. In essence, challenging means that it will be extremely difficult for police forces to meet their targets with the settlement. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield has already referred to the Police Federation. Other organisations do not describe the settlement as challenging. They use much stronger language.

I should like the Minister to confirm a point of detail, if that is possible; she can certainly do so in her winding-up speech. We have examined the figures and believe that they represent an increase for this year of only £176 million, with the extra £10 million that has been factored into the Home Office press release being forms of grant other than police standard spending.

We believe that that gives an inflated impression of the settlement, which we calculate represents an increase in real terms of only 0.001 per cent—1,000th of 1 per cent.—not the 0.1 per cent. real-terms increase that the £186 million figure would give. Again, there has been manipulation to make the settlement appear better than it is.

When we look at the next few years of settlements, the picture is no rosier. Although the comprehensive spending review is trumpeted in many other service sectors, it does not give a particularly good deal to the police. As I have said, our estimate is that, over the coming years, police numbers will fall yet further under the figures in the CSR.

Mr. Brake

Is my hon. Friend aware that, yesterday, Sir Paul Condon estimated that Metropolitan police numbers would probably fall by about 100 in the next year?

Mr. Allan

As we all know, the Met has taken the brunt of the cuts so far. That further cut will come when we are trying to introduce new measures. We have heard evidence of the things that have happened in New York, where they have been able to increase police numbers and succeed in their aims. It will worry all Londoners to hear that further cuts in the Met are forecast.

We have looked at the things that the police force will face in coming years and will have to cope with. Policing the millennium will obviously be a one-off in the next year, but the pensions issue is an on-going problem. As yet, there is no sign of an ultimate solution. So long as it remains unresolved, it will continue to hit police budgets. I understand that the auditors have expressed significant concern about the level of police budget reserves because they have been spending over and above what they should—in particular, to meet the costs of pensions.

The ability to put in new information technology systems is important. I was interested to hear the Minister refer to his visit to Stonehouse in Gloucestershire to look at some of them, but the response from the chief constable of Gloucestershire police in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) does not paint such a rosy picture on what it is able to do. He says: The latest settlement is a very tough one for the Gloucestershire Constabulary. We have been allocated substantially less money than we had feared we would be allocated. He says that there are severe funding problems in Gloucestershire, so at the same time as we hear praise for those exciting new initiatives—we all want to see them happen and succeed—practitioners on the ground tell us that it is a difficult settlement. We have to ask how far they can continue to innovate given such funding pressures.

We are concerned about the transfer of costs from central Government to the local taxpayer. Again, the Labour party in opposition was robust on the issue, accusing the previous Government of a con when they announced settlements that increased the standard spending assessment for the police, but kept the police grant increase relatively low, so that the costs were passed on to the taxpayer.

Again, the chief constable of Gloucestershire police says that it will need a significant increase in its council tax contribution in the precepts—he talks about a 22 per cent. increase—to recover all the funds, which it is entitled to do. The Government need to be more explicit about who is actually paying for the settlement and about the fact that there will be an increase in taxation locally, which should not be hidden by the fact that they can say that general taxation nationally has not been increased, so taxes have not gone up. The Conservatives tried local tax increases year on year, and the Labour party in opposition rightly attacked them for it, yet we hear silence on the issue when it comes to this year's settlement.

I refer to those who have criticised the settlement. The Association of Chief Police Officers was robust on the issue: Let's be realistic. Government cannot expect any public service, least of all the police, with their wide responsibilities, to meet all the public's expectations with such a shortfall. Law and order is a high public priority. This settlement means the Service may have to cut back its front-line services. The association is not talking about administration or back-room staff. I do not think that it is talking about traffic wardens putting tickets on cars. It is talking about front-line policing services. ACPO believes that cuts there may be the consequence of the settlement.

Again, the Association of Police Authorities, which does much work in the sector, has been clear about its view: The overall national increase of 2.75 per cent. in police spending is less than half what the APA calculates forces need to maintain their present levels of service. With all the pressures that I have talked about, forces need twice the settlement that they have been given. Costs that simply cannot be avoided—police pay and pensions—are not covered by the latest settlement. The Association of Police Authorities, which has to set the budgets and which has the greatest in-depth knowledge of how police budgets work, is making a clear statement that the settlement is not enough.

The police have a vital role to play in fighting both crime and the fear of crime. We have been clear about the role of police officers on the beat in combating fear of crime. We believe that the Government share our objective of combating fear of crime. We wholeheartedly support some of the developments recently through the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, local policing audits—the crime audits—and local community safety plans, which are wonderful innovations, but we want the police to have the resources to implement them. Our greatest fear is that public expectation has been built up by the Government and that the Government are prepared to will the ends but not the means to support the police. On that basis, we feel unable to support the police settlement.

3.17 pm
Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston)

I wish to raise an issue of general public importance that was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Ms Blears), but in respect of a more specific example. The issue is how police authorities account to the public for the way in which they spend their money and how transparently they do so.

The example involves South Yorkshire police and the on-going reverberations following the Hillsborough disaster, which happened almost 10 years ago; I am sorry that they are still going on, but they are. This is a matter of great importance to the people of Merseyside and my constituents, even though it relates to the South Yorkshire police authority; it also illustrates the more general point of public interest that I wish to raise.

A number of my constituents are families bereaved as a result of the Hillsborough disaster. I know that they feel that, after all this time, the full truth of what happened has still not emerged. They feel that they have still not had the answers to all the questions that they have raised and that they have never received justice.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but she may be labouring under a misapprehension as to the scope of the order, which is confined to consideration of the size and distribution of the grants that are proposed in the report before the House. I am not sure that she can extend quite into the area that she thought she might.

Maria Eagle

I hope that I can, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am aware of the scope of the order. Of course, I will be guided by you, if you feel that I cannot, but I felt that I needed to set scene. I wish to discuss the way in which South Yorkshire police authority is spending its grant and the value for money that that spending represents. If you wish, I could move straight on to that, although, without a little background. hon. Members may find it a little more difficult to follow my points. Obviously, I am willing to be guided by you.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand what the hon. Lady is saying, but she must keep within the spirit and scope of the debate. She can give a short preface to the point, but then I must require her to come well within the terms of the order.

Maria Eagle

I am grateful for your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Following the scrutiny of the evidence surrounding the Hillsborough disaster, a vast volume of documentation was placed in the Library. As a result of information arising out of that documentation, the families of the victims decided that they wanted to conduct some private prosecutions of retired officers, Mr. Duckenfield and Mr. Murray, of South Yorkshire police—now long retired. I want to raise the way in which the defence of those cases is being funded by South Yorkshire police, whether it is transparent and whether it is an effective use of money.

Those two defendants have the same rights to a proper defence as anyone else accused of criminal offences, funded publicly if that is necessary. The legal aid fund exists to facilitate just such cases. Also, I have no objection to the general policy operated by most police authorities. They take the view that it is proper to spend some of the money allocated to them in their grant to fund, in appropriate circumstances, the defence of police officers accused of criminal offences. I am aware that there is Home Office guidance in relation to just that issue, considering when and whether funding of that nature should be provided. It is for the chief constable to decide whether it should. We can all think of circumstances in which the funds should be provided—for example, when an officer is accused of a criminal assault when making an arrest and is then pursued by private prosecution. There are some clear cases on which we could all agree, but there are some circumstances in which the money should not be provided.

In this case, the officers concerned retired on health grounds. In one case there were serious outstanding disciplinary offences and, in the other, the disciplinary offences were dropped because of the retirement of the other officer. The officers concerned and the force were severely criticised by Lord Taylor in the public inquiry following the disaster. He said that the main cause of the disaster was a loss of police control.

As a result of the retirements, nobody within the police force was ever held to account for that loss of control. That is one of the main reasons why the families concerned still feel a grievance.

I recognise that some hon. Members may disagree with me and that there are arguments on both sides about whether funding should be forthcoming, even though we may all agree that there are some circumstances in which it should. If there is a decision to provide funding in such a case, it has implications. The funding as it appears to have been granted in this case is without limit. The force has made it clear that it intends to fund the defence right through to the final trial. The funding has been provided without proper review or checks for value for money being put in place. It seems to have priority over all other policing issues. The many members of the Bar who were referred to earlier could attest to the fact that the final cost could be millions of pounds. I am not exaggerating. I am not a member of the Bar, but—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have given the hon. Lady enough scope. She must now come to the substance of the matter before the House, which is the size and distribution of the grant to police forces for the coming year.

Maria Eagle

My point is that, potentially, millions of pounds could be spent on those cases with no checks having been put in place, despite the fact that South Yorkshire police authority has written to the Home Office in respect of the adequacy of its funding for the coming year.

I have a written answer which suggests that there has been a letter from the clerk to the South Yorkshire police authority raising a number of issues about the proposed funding settlement for the following year. That is in spite of the fact that the funds seem to have been provided without any proper checks or balances.

I wrote to ask about any checks being placed on the potential spending by South Yorkshire police authority. I asked what procedures the authority and the force had put in place to ensure that the funds were spent appropriately and to ensure that they represented good value for money. I asked when the arrangements would be reviewed, given the open-ended nature of the commitment. I received a reply from the assistant chief constable which referred me to the clerk and treasurer of the police authority. Unfortunately, the reply from the police authority answers none of the questions that I raised.

I hope that the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) will be able to refer to my points, at least in part, in her reply to the debate. Can she tell me how the Government can be assured that the police authority is spending its money appropriately and achieving value for money, since it has undertaken such an open-ended commitment while seeking further funds from the Government in order to carry out its basic duty, which is to provide policing services to south Yorkshire?

3.25 pm
Mr. John Horam (Orpington)

My constituency featured heavily in the Christmas television schedules in relation to crime and the police because the Christmas edition of the long-running and excellent series "The Bill" was shot on Orpington high street. If that was the only connection that my constituency had with the police, my constituents and I would be delighted. My constituents were thrilled to have the leading actors in the high street for quite some time.

Of course, even in leafy Orpington, there is theft, burglary, violence and bad behaviour, as there is in every other constituency in the country. My constituents have been extremely concerned about the number of recent incidents, and many elderly residents, in particular, are concerned about the level of crime.

I have two concerns. First, after several years of real progress in combating crime in Orpington and Bromley more generally, that great improvement seems to be being reversed. The figures for last year, which have only just been released, show an increase in crime, even in the Bromley division of the London area. It is a matter of great concern that things have suddenly begun to unravel in entirely the wrong direction.

Secondly, police resources to deal with the increase in crime are being cut. As we know, the settlement for the Metropolitan division shows a cash increase of 1.7 per cent. That is not much for a cash increase. The real figure shows a substantial decrease after taking into account necessary increases in salaries, pensions and so on. We are facing not stability, as mentioned by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), but a decrease in the provision for my area.

This year—not just next year—the manpower available to the Bromley division decreased by 10. Over London as a whole, the number of police has decreased by 571 since the general election. During the debate, the Liberal Democrat spokesman said that it is expected to decline by a further 100 over the next 12 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) pointed out in an article in the Evening Standard only yesterday that the age profile of the Metropolitan police is such that the number leaving the force over the next few years will increase considerably. That, too, poses a potential crisis in London. All those factors are having an effect and are damaging people's confidence in the ability of the police to deal with crime effectively.

There has been a major reorganisation in my area over the past two or three years. It is not a question of efficiency having been ignored and now suddenly being taken into account. That reorganisation affected all sectors of my constituency and Bromley more generally and we hoped that it would lead to more efficient situation for the police in which they could settle down and operate for some time with no further exhortations to reorganise even more.

This is a short debate and we will not all get an opportunity to speak. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) want to be associated with my remarks.

The current situation, together with the new settlement, will lead to a further reduction in the number of police in the Bromley area. We expect to lose another 10 officers in addition to the 10 that will have been lost by the end of March. Moreover, we are facing the possible closure of four police stations. We believe that two of those police stations, one in my constituency at Biggin Hill and one in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, are almost certain to close. Furthermore, we expect additional police station closures, including one in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham and another in my own constituency, at St. Mary Cray.

The possibility of closing the St. Mary Cray station is very distressing, as it was opened in only 1992, after a long public campaign by me, the local newspaper and local councillors, to their credit. So, in 1992, we managed to obtain a new police station at St. Mary Cray; seven years later, we are faced with the closure of that self-same station. Closures are possible even in Bromley, which has hitherto been in a well-resourced part of London.

The Minister will understand the dismay with which Opposition Members are greeting the Government's proposed settlement. Under the previous, Conservative Government, police resources, new police stations and police numbers all increased. Now, within 18 months of a Labour Government being elected, we are faced with the possibility of four police station closures, fewer police officers and an increase in crime. That is the reality facing Bromley.

I am concerned also about the effect of the Government's changes on the community's institutional structures supporting efforts to deal with crime. As the Minister rightly said, fighting crime is a matter not only for police but for local authorities and local people. The effort to develop community action has been made faithfully for many years, at the behest of successive Governments, and has done well in Bromley.

The focus of efforts to build a partnership in Bromley has been the Bromley police-community liaison group, which meets regularly. I attend its meetings, as do, my colleagues, local councillors and local people. The mood at its meetings has been grim. I received a report of the most recent meeting from a resident whom I know well, who is a responsible and public-minded person who does not reach judgments lightly. He said that Overall the members of the public are not happy with the way the Group runs. He was referring to the liaison group, and continued: While the police listen to what is said, there is seldom any sort of positive response which we would like…It seems that all we can look forward to is a continually diminishing police force even less able to enforce all the laws and discharge matters which they, and no one else, currently have responsibility for. The liaison group notes, among other things, that people are less willing than they were to turn out for consultative meetings. People no longer see the point of the meetings, at which police listen politely and all local concerns are voiced, but after which nothing happens. Police, quite frankly, say that they do not have the resources to respond to local concerns. That is the reality of life on the ground floor.

I can only say to the Minister that the situation in my constituency paints a grim picture that does not offer much hope. I strongly support my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) in opposing the motion.

3.33 pm
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

In last year's police grant debate—in which I was, I think, the only Front Bencher now in the Chamber to participate—I warned that the Government's failure to provide adequate resources for our police service would result in fewer officers. We are now beginning to see the full realisation of that prediction.

Since 1 May 1997, there are 780 fewer police officers. The hon. Member for Salford (Ms Blears) seemed to think that police numbers declined under the Tories. The fact is that the Greater Manchester force gained 500 more police officers during the Tory's 18 years in office. Now—already, since the general election—it has 30 fewer officers.

The number of police officers leaving the police service grows daily, and those officers are not being replaced. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) reminded us in his speech of the problems in the Metropolitan police.

The settlement will make matters significantly worse. Clearly, a 2.7 per cent. increase is nowhere near enough to maintain the police service. Moreover, all police organisations are making the same gloomy forecast. As the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) reminded us, two months ago, the Association of Chief Police Officers warned that a 6.1 per cent. funding increase was necessary for police forces simply to maintain current services. I should remind the hon. Gentleman of how well his own police force, in South Yorkshire, did during the Conservatives' years in government, when that force increased by 600 officers.

Chief constables have rightly questioned the basis for the Government's demand for 2 per cent. efficiency savings, whereas the independent Audit Commission—which the Minister prayed in aid—found scope for savings of only 0.25 per cent. Police superintendents are predicting significant manpower reductions—of thousands, not hundreds of officers. Across the country, one has only to tot up the manpower levels that police forces predict they will have in a year's time to realise that we are talking about manpower reductions of thousands, not hundreds, of officers.

It is predicted that, by the end of this year, North Yorkshire will have 50 fewer police officers. North Yorkshire police comprise 1 per cent. of the police service. If its cuts were repeated across the country, there would indeed be 5,000 fewer officers nationally.

It is predicted that there will be 100 fewer officers at Thames Valley police, which comprise just under 3 per cent. of the police service. A similar cut made nationally would entail 3,000 fewer officers.

Police superintendents have branded the settlement as

the worst spending round in a generation". The grant shows a complete lack of political commitment to the police and demonstrates that police are not one of the Government's priorities. Ministers have the cheek to challenge us about providing resources to police. Special advisers, focus groups and lavish parties for pop stars at No. 10 Downing street are the Government's priorities, as are the more than 180 new task forces that the Government have established. Ministerial office refurbishments are the Government's priority, as is so much overseas travel by Ministers that some Ministers are refusing to answer questions about it, as we saw today. But the Government do not include the police service among their priorities.

The Government are running down the police service—but why? What is the plan? Will beat officers be replaced, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) asked earlier, by neighbourhood wardens? Will unemployed people be recruited to patrol local estates, with powers to intervene and arrest? The police service is predicting that that may happen.

Mr. Boateng


Mr. Greenway

The police service is making such predictions to Opposition Members. It is what we have been told by Surrey's chief constable, the other Mr. Blair.

Did the public vote for such changes? They were never asked about any such proposals. In her reply, perhaps the Minister will tell us the Government's hidden agenda. Surely Ministers cannot fail to notice the effects of their policies and mismanagement on the numbers of serving police officers.

The Association of Police Authorities questioned how a cash increase of £186 million can pay for spending commitments of £438 million. Pay and pension costs alone will rise by £250 million. The fact is that the resources of 10 police authorities will grow by less than 2 per cent., and that they will face a stark choice between cuts in police numbers or a massive hike in council tax precepts—or both: fewer police at greater cost.

The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) reminded us of the plight of one of our smallest police forces, in Dyfed Powys, in west Wales, which has barely more than 1,000 police officers.

The police authorities that will be worst affected by the settlement will be those that have already had a shake-out and made savings. How are they supposed to make further savings?

The cuts will not be painless for anyone. As my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington said, police stations will close across south-east London. Cumbria—which is another of our smallest police forces—will close 10 stations. People may say, "Those will be mostly rural beat houses, which went in North Yorkshire more than 10 years ago." The Minister may think that that is the right approach, but it is not popular and results in a serious diminution of service.

Some forces have already stripped out large numbers of senior ranks. There has been a reduction of approximately one in four ACPO ranks across the country, with 700 fewer superintendents in the past six or seven years. I am glad that the Minister agrees with that. As he told us earlier, a flattening out of the rank structure in the police service is needed. However, he should read the report of last year's debate. When I pointed that out to his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), he bluntly disagreed.

The Government are trying to have it both ways. It is on the record in Hansard that there was an increase of 2,300 in the number of constables between 1992 and 1997, but the Government and the Liberal Democrats trot out the statistic that the number of officers fell by 500. Of course that is the case, because 2,700 senior ranks were stripped out. Any further pressure for efficiency savings will result in fewer officers.

Much of the restructuring that happened in the 1990s was a direct consequence of giving greater freedom to chief constables to manage their resources. The Minister could not tell us whether he agreed with that. Chief constables were enabled to do what was best for their force and their local needs. The Government have triggered off a frantic scramble to meet the straitjacket imposed by the requirement for 2 per cent. efficiency savings year on year, regardless of circumstances. The scope for saving varies from force to force, yet all must meet the same 2 per cent. target regardless.

How will delivery of the 2 per cent. efficiency savings be judged? If it is not manpower-related, how else? Some 80 per cent. of police funding is spent on staff costs, most of which funds police activity. With very few exceptions, the police are unable to measure policing activity. How will years two and three be measured? How will the financial sanctions threatened by the Home Secretary work? They will be a double blow for already hard-pressed local communities, whose police force will be penalised. Given how much police spending goes on paying officers, is it any wonder that staff associations are questioning the Government's intentions on pay? Rumours are rife throughout the police service that the Government are set to renege on the pay formula that has lasted for 20 years. Will the Minister take the opportunity of this debate to give them some reassurance and deny the rumour?

Memories of the collapse of police morale under the Labour Governments of the late 1960s and 1970s have been rekindled by the Government's obvious lack of commitment to the police service.

Mr. Boateng

Get real.

Mr. Greenway

The Minister should go and talk to the police service. I did so yesterday and was told

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. The Minister should not speak from a sedentary position.

Mr. Greenway

Summing up the feelings of the police service, a serving officer told me that morale was at rock bottom and spiralling downwards. The House should take seriously the real danger of a demoralised police force. The only gainers from that will be the criminals, while the general public will be the losers—the people who were taken in by the language of the Prime Minister when he was shadow Home Secretary. They are beginning to see that "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" was a slogan for opposition, but not a policy for government.

Being tough on crime under Labour means releasing prisoners early to reoffend within 24 hours. We have warned for 18 months that that would happen. The Minister shakes his head, but it is happening. A prisoner released under tagging has reoffended within 24 hours. It is clear that he should never have been released.

What about being tough on the causes of crime? The settlement shows that that has turned into being tough on the people who fight crime. The Government's comprehensive spending review, which lies behind the settlement, has resulted in a comprehensive betrayal of the police. By voting against the motion, we shall be urging the Government to think again.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield reminded us, four years ago, when the Home Secretary was the shadow Home Secretary, he sought to justify voting against the police grant settlement because he said that some police forces would have to cut numbers. That year the Government gave an increase in grant of nearly £295 million—50 per cent. more than the current Government say is acceptable. The Home Secretary's words should haunt him when we vote against the settlement. We shall do so, not just to register the deep-seated concerns of the police service, but because we believe that the people of this country do not want the police service to be cut to the bone.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the former Prime Minister, said just two afternoons ago that the Prime Minister was a prisoner of the mob mentality. The public have yet to realise the damage that the Government are doing to our police service. When they do, they will hold the Prime Minister responsible. Perhaps then Ministers may come to the House to announce a better settlement for our police.

3.47 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kate Hoey)

This has been an interesting and informative debate, although it has been slightly heated at times from the contributions of those on the Opposition Front Bench. We have heard a wide range of contributions, giving many examples of good practice in police forces throughout the country. This is an opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members from across England and Wales to make their views known, as is right and proper. They are close to their local police force. They know what their officers are thinking and want to make those views known. I should like to respond to the questions that have been raised.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Kate Hoey

Not just at the moment. Let me get some way into my speech. I do not have a lot of time.

The support for local police forces should not always be uncritical. It was interesting to hear some hon. Members recognise that perhaps the police had been insulated from the pressure that has been put on other parts of the public sector.

The figures in the report represent a fair settlement for the police in 1999–2000—fair but challenging. We have heard about the financial pressures that individual police authorities are facing. I fully accept that some authorities have fared better than others. That is one of the effects of the funding formula that we inherited from the Conservatives. We continue to refine it and it now commands general acceptance in the police service. It is based on the relative needs of forces, so those faring less well can be reassured that a disappointing settlement in comparison with that of a neighbouring force is down to objective evidence, not the whim of Ministers.

We have allowed the formula to operate objectively without political interference or tinkering and resisted the temptation to interfere with it or override it to produce results that Ministers might find more attractive for their area. The Metropolitan police—my local force and that of my hon. Friend the Minister—will get a funding increase of 1.7 per cent. next year, which is well below the national average. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's local police in Lancashire will get a funding increase of 1.9 per cent., which is again below the average. We have been scrupulous in avoiding subjective intervention in allocations to individual police authorities.

The funding provided by central Government is not the end of the story. Forces will have more money at their disposal if they improve their performance and efficiency. Efficiency savings of 2 per cent. across total police authority spending represent about £140 million in cash terms—a significant sum by any standard. As we have heard already, the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary have pointed to areas where significant improvements can be made, including better management of sickness or medical retirements and better use of assets. Changes in the rules on capital receipts mean that, for the first time, police authorities can reinvest in capital projects all that they generate from the sale of surplus assets.

Police authorities can also consider increasing their spending a little more through the council tax. Unlike in previous years, they are not constricted by crude and universal capping limits.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

The Minister will be aware that the Gloucestershire police had one of the lowest settlements—an increase of only 1.4 per cent. Recently, the chief constable wrote to me saying that, in real terms, that represents a cut of 4 per cent. in its budget and that making that up fully would involve an increase in the council tax precept for the police of a staggering 27 per cent. I have written to the Minister—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has pushed the boat out too far.

Kate Hoey

If the hon. Gentleman has written to me, I certainly have not received his letter. However, only yesterday, my hon. Friend the Minister met the deputy chief constable, who is quite confident that the police will be able to manage on this year's difficult but challenging settlement.

As I mentioned, there will be no capping. However, the Home Secretary expects police authorities to balance the needs of the force for extra resources with the interests of local council tax payers and set budgets that are responsible, prudent and do not impose excessive increases in council tax. The Home Secretary has asked me to point out that we shall be monitoring the position closely.

Another innovation for next year is the link between the settlement and our commitment to improving police efficiency. We have set all police forces a target of 2 per cent. efficiency gains year on year. They will then be able to plough the money back into front-line policing. Hon. Members should understand that, for the first time, there is a real incentive to meet this modest target.

Mr. Allan

The Minister gave us an assurance that in setting the budget using the formula, no account was taken of the political make-up of a particular area. Can she give us the same assurance in respect of the capping process—that the political complexion of an area will not affect the Government's consideration of whether or not to lift a cap?

Kate Hoey

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should even think that there is any political consideration in the capping formula.

I shall now respond to some of the specific points that were raised in the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)—I have been practising pronouncing the name of his constituency, but I am not sure whether I have got it right—talked about his local police force in Dyfed Powys. He made an interesting speech, but he did not mention that his local police force has the lowest crime rate in the country and should be congratulated. It also has the highest percentage of crimes detected, and that is an excellent achievement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, the previous Home Office Minister, listened to the concerns of the four Welsh forces and found additional money for them. As a result, the Dyfed-Powys force will receive an increase of 1.2 per cent. instead of 0.8 per cent. and that is a positive step. My right hon. Friend also asked about the 2 per cent. efficiency target. If his force were to achieve that target, it would have an extra £1 million to reinvest.

The hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Sir D. Madel) gave us a sincere presentation of the particular difficulties affecting Bedfordshire that he has discussed with my hon Friend the Minister of State. Bedfordshire has achieved success in fighting crime, although it has been affected by the formula. As I said, a formula means that some forces fare worse than others. However, the formula is based on population. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the extra housing that is being built in his area. The formula is population based and so there is no doubt that any increase in the population will be reflected in the allocation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Ms Blears) made a positive speech recognising that police forces sometimes need to be challenged. She raised questions about how the police work and whether more imaginative ways of working—and indeed the role of the police—should be examined. She saw what the Opposition did not see—that there needs to be a change in culture and we all have to work with the police to bring that about. Clearly, if there is mismanagement we shall look into it as it is a serious issue.

As she has done on many occasions, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) referred to Hillsborough. I do not want to get into that now, but she asked how we measure whether police grant has been used appropriately. That is a matter for the police authority and the district auditor.

The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) painted a grim picture of his area. I do not agree. There has been some exaggeration and I am absolutely confident that his area will respond to the settlement.

I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that tackling crime is not a job for the police alone. In many areas the police are already working in co-operation with local authorities and others to reduce crime. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 has provided the police with new powers and opportunities. Working with the local community, they are able to focus responses and target local crime problems. The police are already doing an excellent job. The legislation means that crime can be tackled at its roots, in local communities. The police have a major part to play in that work.

The settlement provides the police service with extra resources to carry on its excellent work in tackling crime and disorder in our towns and cities. It includes efficiency targets that will enable forces to focus their resources on meeting the concerns of local people. The Audit Commission report shows that success in solving crime does not depend solely in the numbers of police officers available. Partnerships, targeted policing, better use of information technology and the efficient use of available resources all have an important part to play in improving police performance.

Both Opposition spokesmen were full of doom and gloom, particularly the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway). However, police authorities across the country do not share that view. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government have no hidden agenda. Our only agenda is to tackle crime effectively. I know that the Opposition have a job to do, but I genuinely wish that they would work with us on that agenda to tackle crime and disorder because that is what the public want. The Government are confident that the police will rise to the challenge—it is a challenge—and show the public that they can deliver an effective, efficient and high-quality service. That is what we expect to happen, so we should like the House to support the settlement today.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 282, Noes 143.

Division No. 57] [3.59 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Ainger, Nick Darvill, Keith
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Allen, Graham Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dawson, Hilton
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Dean, Mrs Janet
Ashton, Joe Denham, John
Atherton, Ms Candy Dismore, Andrew
Atkins, Charlotte Dobbin, Jim
Austin, John Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Barnes, Harry Donohoe, Brian H
Barron, Kevin Dowd, Jim
Bayley, Hugh Drew, David
Beard, Nigel Drown, Ms Julia
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Bennett, Andrew F Efford, Clive
Benton, Joe Ellman, Mrs Louise
Berry, Roger Ennis, Jeff
Best, Harold Fatchett, Derek
Betts, Clive Field, Rt Hon Frank
Blackman, Liz Fitzpatrick, Jim
Blears, Ms Hazel Fitzsimons, Lorna
Blizzard, Bob Flint, Caroline
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Flynn, Paul
Boateng, Paul Follett, Barbara
Borrow, David Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Foulkes, George
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Fyfe, Maria
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Galloway, George
Buck, Ms Karen Gapes, Mike
Burden, Richard Gardiner, Barry
Burgon, Colin George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Butler, Mrs Christine Gerrard, Neil
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Gibson, Dr Ian
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Godman, Dr Norman A
Campbell-Savours, Dale Goggins, Paul
Cann, Jamie Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Casale, Roger Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cawsey, Ian Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hanson, David
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hepburn, Stephen
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Heppell, John
Clelland, David Hesford, Stephen
Clwyd, Ann Hill, Keith
Coaker, Vemon Hinchliffe, David
Coffey, Ms Ann Hoey, Kate
Cohen, Harry Home Robertson, John
Coleman, Iain Hoon, Geoffrey
Colman, Tony Hope, Phil
Connarty, Michael Hopkins, Kelvin
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Howells, Dr Kim
Cooper, Yvette Hoyle, Lindsay
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Corbyn, Jeremy Humble, Mrs Joan
Corston, Ms Jean Hurst, Alan
Cousins, Jim Hutton, John
Cranston, Ross Iddon, Dr Brian
Cummings, John Illsley, Eric
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Pond, Chris
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Prescott, Rt Hon John
Kelly, Ms Ruth Primarolo, Dawn
Kemp, Fraser Prosser, Gwyn
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Quinn, Lawrie
Khabra, Piara S Radice, Giles
Kilfoyle, Peter Rammell, Bill
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Rapson, Syd
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Raynsford, Nick
Kingham, Ms Tess Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Kumar, Dr Ashok Rooker, Jeff
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Rooney, Terry
Lawrence, Ms Jackie Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Laxton, Bob Rowlands, Ted
Lepper, David Ryan, Ms Joan
Leslie, Christopher Salter, Martin
Levitt, Tom Sawford, Phil
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Shaw, Jonathan
Linton, Martin Sheerman, Barry
Livingstone, Ken Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Shipley, Ms Debra
Lock, David Singh, Marsha
Love, Andrew Skinner, Dennis
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McCabe, Steve Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
McFall, John Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Snape, Peter
McIsaac, Shona Soley, Clive
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Mackinlay, Andrew Steinberg, Gerry
McNulty, Tony Stevenson, George
MacShane, Denis Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mactaggart, Fiona Stoate, Dr Howard
McWalter, Tony Stringer, Graham
McWilliam, John Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mallaber, Judy Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Temple-Morris, Peter
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Touhig, Don
Martlew, Eric Trickett, Jon
Maxton, John Truswell, Paul
Meale, Alan Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Milburn, Alan Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Miller, Andrew Vaz, Keith
Moffatt, Laura Vis, Dr Rudi
Moran, Ms Margaret Walley, Ms Joan
Morley, Elliot Ward, Ms Claire
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Wareing, Robert N
Mountford, Kali Watts, David
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) White, Brian
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Naysmith, Dr Doug Wicks, Malcolm
Norris, Dan Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Wills, Michael
Olner, Bill Winnick, David
O'Neill, Martin Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Osborne, Ms Sandra Wise, Audrey
Palmer, Dr Nick Worthington, Tony
Pearson, Ian Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Perham, Ms Linda Wyatt, Derek
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L Tellers for the Ayes:
Plaskitt, James Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Pollard, Kerry Mr. David Jamieson.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Allan, Richard Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Amess, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Lansley, Andrew
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Leigh, Edward
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Letwin, Oliver
Baldry, Tony Lidington, David
Ballard, Jackie Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Beith, Rt Hon A J Livsey, Richard
Bercow, John Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Beresford, Sir Paul Loughton, Tim
Blunt, Crispin Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Boswell, Tim McIntosh, Miss Anne
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Brady, Graham Maclean, Rt Hon David
Brake, Tom McLoughlin, Patrick
Brazier, Julian Madel, Sir David
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Malins, Humfrey
Browning, Mrs Angela Maples, John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Mates, Michael
Burnett, John Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Burns, Simon May, Mrs Theresa
Burstow, Paul Moss, Malcolm
Butterfill, John Norman, Archie
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Chope, Christopher Ottaway, Richard
Clappison, James Page, Richard
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) Paice, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Paterson, Owen
Collins, Tim Pickles, Eric
Colvin, Michael Prior, David
Cotter, Brian Randall, John
Curry, Rt Hon David Redwood, Rt Hon John
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Rendel, David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Robathan, Andrew
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Duncan, Alan Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Duncan Smith, Iain Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Evans, Nigel St Aubyn, Nick
Faber, David Sanders, Adrian
Fabricant, Michael Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Fallon, Michael Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Fearn, Ronnie Spicer, Sir Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Spring, Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Fox, Dr Liam Steen, Anthony
Fraser, Christopher Streeter, Gary
Gale, Roger Swayne, Desmond
Garnier, Edward Syms, Robert
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Tapsell, Sir Peter
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Gorrie, Donald Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Gray, James Taylor, Sir Teddy
Green, Damian Tonge, Dr Jenny
Greenway, John Townend, John
Grieve, Dominic Trend, Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon John Tyler, Paul
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Viggers, Peter
Hammond, Philip Walter, Robert
Harris, Dr Evan Wardle, Charles
Harvey, Nick Waterson, Nigel
Hawkins, Nick Webb, Steve
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David Whittingdale, John
Horam, John Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Wilkinson, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Willetts, David
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Willis, Phil
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard Tellers for the Noes:
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Mr. Oliver Heald and
Key, Robert Mr. Stephen Day.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 1999–2000 (HC 179), which was laid before this House on 1st February, be approved.