HC Deb 24 July 2000 vol 354 c759
15. Ms Claire Ward (Watford)

What representations he has received from the chief constable of Hertfordshire regarding police numbers in Hertfordshire and pay levels; and if he will make a statement. [130336]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng)

The Hertfordshire constabulary had 1,767 officers on 31 March 2000, which is 43 more than it had 12 months earlier. I understand from the chief constable that he is projecting a further increase in police numbers this year and that the force target for the constabulary is 2,083 officers by 31 March 2001.

The chief constable has written to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about pay levels and the force's concern that the cost of living in Hertfordshire may have an adverse impact on the recruitment and retention of police officers.

Ms Ward

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that many Metropolitan police officers live in Hertfordshire and that as a result of the pay increase for Met police officers serving since 1994 there is now a differential between those officers and Hertfordshire officers of £6,000 a year? That is obviously encouraging many Hertfordshire officers to consider transferring to the Metropolitan police service. Will my right hon. Friend consider these issues and ensure that the police negotiating board deals with them with some urgency?

Mr. Boateng

I understand my hon. Friend's point. The police negotiating board is considering this and a range of other issues in relation to pay and conditions. I will ensure that my hon. Friend's concerns are drawn to its attention.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

Given the pay differential between officers in Hertsmere and Hertfordshire and those in the Metropolitan area, will the Minister bear in mind the need for more police officers in Hertfordshire, especially in view of the growth of offences in violence? There has been an increase of 15 per cent. in such offences; and robberies have increased by 68 per cent. Hertfordshire is rapidly becoming a much less safe place in which to live. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the reliance that he has placed on crime and disorder strategies, and especially the anti-social behaviour order, of which only one has been issued in Hertfordshire in response to all the violence that has taken place?

Mr. Boateng

The level of crime in Hertfordshire is still lower than the national average. Crime is at a lower level now than it was at the time of the general election. There are more serving police officers in Hertfordshire now than when the Conservative party had stewardship of these matters.