HC Deb 18 January 1996 vol 269 cc708-9W
Mr. David Nicholson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many parish special constables are now in place, and in which counties or police areas; how many he expects to be in place by 30 June 1996; and if he will make a statement. [9710]

Mr. Maclean

The parish special constable initiative has been extended to include urban areas and the volunteers involved are now known nationally as neighbourhood special constables. Neighbourhood special constables spend the majority of their time on duty on foot patrol either alone or as part of a policing team within an agreed neighbourhood or geographic area more limited than that in which other special constabulary colleagues are deployed. According to police force returns 1,595 special constables in England and Wales are neighbourhood specials. A breakdown of the numbers by police force areas is recorded in the table.

It is for chief officers to recruit or designate volunteers as neighbourhood special constables, and a forecast for 30 June 1996 cannot be provided. Our initial target for forces of 1,000 neighbourhood special constables by the end of 1995 has been met and we believe that the target of 3,000 by the end of 1996 will also be achieved.

Avon and Somerset 0
Bedfordshire 3
Cambridgeshire 7
Cheshire 7
City of London 0
Cleveland 0
Cumbria 0
Derbyshire 40
Devon and Cornwall 0
Dorset 0
Durham 10
Dyfed/Powys 217
Essex 9
Gloucestershire 0
Greater Manchester 0
Gwent 9
Hampshire 262
Hertfordshire 82
Humberside 0
Kent 81
Lancashire 1
Leicestershire 26
Lincolnshire 47
Merseyside 0

Metropolitan 143
Norfolk 324
Northamptonshire 0
Northumbria 5
North Wales 0
North Yorkshire 6
Nottinghamshire 0
South Wales 1
South Yorkshire 8
Staffordshire 0
Suffolk 18
Surrey 7
Sussex 1
Thames Valley 7
Warwickshire 106
West Mercia 148
West Midlands 7
West Yorkshire 9
Wiltshire 4
Total 1,595

Mr. Nicholson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what difficulties(a) he has experienced or (b) have been reported to him, regarding the development of a network of parish special constables; and if he will make a statement. [9711]

Mr. Maclean

Last September, the Home Office published the results of research into the parish constables initiative, with particular attention given to four schemes at Ironville, Derbyshire; Pembury in Kent; Sleights in North Yorkshire; and Yetminster in Dorset. A copy of the report entitled "The Parish Special Constables Scheme" has been placed in the Library. This was a close look at the initiative in its early days and the study identified a number of important issues; such as the importance of selecting the right person for the job, consultation with local people, and good links with the regular police.

When the initiative was subsumed by that of the neighbourhood special constable in autumn 1994, a proportion of the public mistakenly believed that neighbourhood constables were to be regular officers. This has been addressed by the inclusion of "special" in their title and recent advertising. In addition, some police forces have been slow to identify any of their specials as neighbourhood special constables even though they may perform the neighbourhood special role. This has caused some difficulty in recording accurately the number of specials who undertake neighbourhood specials' duties.

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