§ 8. Mr. Baldry
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next expects to meet the chief constable of the Thames Valley to discuss Oxfordshire police numbers. 
§ Mr. Straw
I have discussions with the chief constable, Charles Pollard, from time to time, the latest of which took place this morning.
The Thames Valley force is in a strong position in terms of the resources available to it. The force has been allocated a total of 325 crime fighting fund recruits. In the next financial year, the force will receive funding support of £245.1 million, an increase of £13.4 million or 5.8 per cent. over 2000–01. The force will also receive £1.3 million from the rural policing fund. The national recruitment campaign should boost recruitment to the force and has already led to 437 expressions of interest being passed to Thames Valley.
As a result of the range of measures we have taken, the chief constable has told me that he is "quietly hopeful" of the positive impact which they will have on police numbers in his force.
Further to this, I am pleased to announce to the House today that I have accepted the police negotiating board's (PNB's) recommendation that there should be an additional annual allowance paid to officers in eight forces in the south-east.
In the five forces bordering the Metropolitan Police service—Thames Valley, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey—the allowance will be £2,000 per annum. In the 486W remaining three forces in the south east—Bedfordshire, Hampshire and Sussex—the annual allowance will be £1,000. The new allowance will be payable with effect from 1 April 2001 and will be paid to officers and rejoiners appointed on or after 1 September 1994 who are not in receipt of housing allowance.
This is a good deal for forces in the south-east. The new allowance should help them both to recruit more constables and to retain experienced officers, and ensure that officers in these forces can meet the higher costs associated with living in the region.
The allowance, combined with the unprecedented funding that we are now investing in the police service as a whole, will help ensure that the recent upturn in police numbers is sustained in Thames Valley, in the south-east more generally, and across the country.
§ Mr. Matthew Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many serving police officers there were on 31 March and 30 September for each year between 1997 and 2000. 
§ Mr. Charles Clarke
[holding answer 1 March 2001]: Police numbers on 31 March and 30 September for each year between 1997 and 2000 are given in the table.
Police numbers 1997 to 2000 Year As at 31 March As at 30 September 1997 127,158 126,862 1998 126,814 126,679 1999 126,096 125,394 2000 124,170 124,614
Home Office Statistical Bulletin, "Police Service Strength 2/01" (to September 2000)
§ Mr. Waterson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers there were in Sussex(a) in May 1997 and (b) on the last date for which figures are available. 
§ Mr. Charles Clarke
I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) on 7 February 2001,Official Report, column 614W.