HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 cc8-10
5. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)

If he will make a statement on the funding of Greater Manchester police. [134162]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing, and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears)

The budget for the Greater Manchester police this year is £450 million, an increase of 8.6 per cent. on last year. Government grant for Greater Manchester is £380.8 million this year, an increase of 4.9 per cent. over 2002–03. In addition, specific grants of £28.9 million give an overall increase of 6.7 per cent. The police authority will also receive over £9 million in capital funding. We shall announce details of the provisional funding settlement for 2004–05 in mid-November.

Tony Lloyd

While I recognise the enormous increase in funding, does my hon. Friend accept that it is a colossal waste of resources to pursue the makers of "The Secret Policeman", the documentary about Greater Manchester police and other police forces? Is it not a phenomenal betrayal of the people of this country and of Manchester, and of many in the police service, that they are stigmatised as racist because of the failure of those at the very top to deal with racism among our police? I welcome the Minister's strong words in the House today, but what steps will the Home Office take to make chief constables deal with racism effectively?

Ms Blears

Like me, every Member who saw that programme last week will have been sickened and outraged, but the documentary also revealed that many, many serving officers certainly do not share such racist beliefs. It is crucial that we support the officers in the service who have done a great deal to tackle racism in recent years while redoubling our efforts—at ministerial level, chief constable level and throughout the service—to weed out racist recruits. I am delighted that all the chief constables have written a public letter to that effect and signed up to a seven-point plan. We will ensure that the new police assessment and recruitment process for probationers is rolled out across the country because, wherever we can, we must send out a clear message, both in principle and in practice, that racism has no place in the British police service.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)

Did Greater Manchester police ask the permanent secretary at the Home Office to write to the BBC, and, if not, why did he do so?

Ms Blears

The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are questions on that further down the Order Paper. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will answer in detail the questions that have been raised in relation to the permanent secretary's letter.

Mr. Letwin

The Minister cannot escape answering the question. If the permanent secretary was not seeking to stop the film, what was he doing writing to the BBC a month before it was shown?

Ms Blears

Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. [Interruption.] Order. The question is about funding. The Minister will answer.

Ms Blears

It is my understanding that the permanent secretary was not requested to write, but chose to do so because of the difficulties that he had experienced in obtaining access to the material involved. That was the basis on which he wrote the letter.