§ Ms Lawrence
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on progress in introducing a sparsity factor into the budgets for rural police authorities. 
§ Mr. Boateng
The formula which distributes resources between police authorities in England and Wales already contains an element for rural sparsity. This year, 0.5 per cent. of available resources have been allocated on the basis of population sparsity. This element has been retained in our proposals for 1999–2000 which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced on 2 December 1998,Official Report, columns 194–97.
We have commissioned external consultants to find out whether there are additional costs involved in policing sparsely populated rural areas. We are expecting their report shortly. The results of this study will be available to inform funding settlements from 2000–2001.