Mr. Michael Foster
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of police officer recruitment for West Mercia police. 
§ Mr. Denham
Police strength in West Mercia increased by 125 between the end of March 2001 and the end of January this year, when it reached 2,012 officers. The force plans to have record police numbers in the course of 2002–03.
The Government's Crime Fighting Fund (CFF) has played a major part in driving up the number of officers. It is enabling forces to take on 9,000 recruits over and above previous plans in the three years to March 2003. In the first two years of this recruitment initiative West Mercia appointed 109 CFF recruits and they will be able to take on a further 43 CFF recruits in 2002–03.
Overall, I understand that West Mercia Police Authority's budget will support a planned increase in strength of 300 officers in 2002–03. I congratulate the police authority and the force in setting itself this goal, which will contribute to our target of 130,000 officers in England and Wales by spring 2003.