HC Deb 15 February 1999 vol 325 cc583-4
1. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

If he will make a statement on progress in reducing the amount of administrative work required of police officers. [69104]

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

Good progress is being made in reducing the burden and in streamlining the management of administrative tasks. Developments following the Masefield scrutiny have significantly reduced the number of forms that the police must prepare for prosecuting straightforward cases in magistrates courts. More recently, pilots of new measures recommended in the Narey review of delay in the criminal justice system have introduced further streamlining.

Helen Jones

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Recently, when I went out on patrol with my local police, I saw at first hand the heavy demand on police officers and the response of members of the public when they were dealing with a police officer whom they knew. Can my hon. Friend assure me that the reduction in administrative burdens on the police will lead to more police being devoted to front-line duties, which is what both they and my constituents want?

Kate Hoey

My hon. Friend is right. All of us learn a great deal when we go out and spend time with our local police. The Cheshire police in her constituency are doing well in civilianising the police force; 39 police personnel have been civilianised. That has increased the amount of money that is available to put into front-line and mainstream policing. We are determined to ensure that the administrative burden on our police is reduced to that which is necessary.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

To what extent will police time be occupied in fulfilling the requirements of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, not just in the preparation of audits, which has largely already been completed, but in future?

Kate Hoey

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman will join us in hoping that, if the Act works as it is meant to work— we are sure that it will—crime will be reduced, so the amount of time that police spend on working on the requirements will also be reduced. Under present arrangements, there is considerable duplication in administration between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Those are the sorts of things that the reviews have worked towards trying to minimise. That is what I hope that we will be able to do.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

Has the Home Department considered the amount of administrative time that is spent in following up malicious complaints against the police? Has it considered how it might bite back, so to speak, against those who maliciously try to disrupt policing? Has the Home Office considered the amount of time and money that is spent because of malicious complaints? What steps does it intend to take to counter that?

Kate Hoey

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Clearly, malicious complaints, or abuse of the system, which does happen, is something that no one can support. It is a crime—a criminal offence—to waste police time. I hope that police forces throughout the United Kingdom are ensuring that, where it is possible to prosecute people who have done that, they do so.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Staffordshire police on their recent launch of the new Starnet radio communication system, which was jointly procured and is jointly used by Staffordshire fire and rescue service? Does she agree that such collaborative works between emergency services give opportunities for administrative savings? Will she look favourably on bids from Staffordshire police for limited Home Office funds for similar innovative and successful collaborations?

Kate Hoey

Yes. Clearly, any collaborative work, and the work to which my hon. Friend has referred, is to be welcomed and commended. We look forward to more such innovative initiatives throughout the country.

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