§ Mr. Boateng
On 4 November 1998, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary wrote to all police authorities and forces, with guidance on making efficiency plans to deliver the 2 per cent. reinvestment from efficiency gains which my right hon. Friend required for 1999–2000.
This guidance drew heavily on areas for improved efficiency, suggested by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in its 1998 thematic report on value for money and efficiency, "What Price Policing?". The Audit Commission also report on police performance, as required under the Local Government Act 1992. They compare force date in different police authority areas, and work closely with the Inspectorate to advise and support the Secretary of State. Both HMIC and the Audit Commission have identified that better use of assets and procurement practice, reviewing specialist units and administrative arrangements, reducing sickness and improved management of medical retirements can contribute to improved management of medical retirements can contribute to improved police performance. Copies of all the relevant reports are in the Library.
§ Mr. Beith
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance his Department has issued to police forces in respect of obtaining the 2 per cent. efficiency gains demanded by his Department in each of the next three years; what is his policy towards police forces reducing police officer numbers to achieve these gains; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Boateng
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary wrote to all police forces and authorities on 4 November 1998 with guidance to meet the 2 per cent. year-on-year efficiency target set by Government's Comprehensive Spending Review. A copy of the letter was placed in the Library. The guidance, which was prepared in consultation with Her Majesty's Treasury, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities and the Audit Commission, sets out the information required in the efficiency plan and a pro forma for completion. It also lists areas identified by HMIC and the Audit Commission where there may well be scope of significant efficiency improvements, and which forces are encouraged to consider in preparing their plans.
Police forces can keep the resources released by achieving efficiency gains. The Government expect them to reinvest these resources to help improve delivery of frontline national and local policing priorities. The guidance makes clear that we will not consider cuts in officer numbers as an efficiency gain, except where forces can demonstrate that, in doing so, they have maintained or improved the existing level of service.