§ 6. Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)
What recent representations he has received about police numbers in Sussex.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke)
I have received a number of representations in recent months from residents of Sussex about police 12 numbers, including a petition from the Memorial Square residents action group. The hon. Gentleman also wrote to me on 27 July about the petition and the policing of Eastbourne, and I replied fairly fully in August.
§ Mr. Waterson
Does the Minister accept that the more than 15,000 people who signed the petition are angry? Despite pre-election promises, there are 150 fewer police officers in Sussex than there were at the time of the last election. Those people are sick and tired of excuses from the Home Office, so will he commit himself to ensuring that, by the time of the next election, we will have at least as many police officers on the beat in Sussex as we did in 1997?
§ Mr. Clarke
I made three points clear in my letter to the hon. Gentleman. First, there has been a 3.7 per cent. increase in spending in Sussex in the past year; secondly, we have allocated through the crime fighting fund an extra 206 officers for Sussex over that period; and, thirdly, Sussex police anticipate an increase in police numbers of between 70 and 76 next year. As the hon. Gentleman will understand, it is a matter for the chief constable to decide where he allocates officers within his police authority area, and neither he nor I would want to second-guess him on that. The Government have a strong record of which we can be proud.