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Special Constables

19. Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the role of special police constables. [147107]

Mr. Straw: The special constabulary has a long tradition of giving valuable public service, but numbers have declined in recent years.

Specials are now being deployed on a wider variety of duties than before, including more front-line duties, where they are exposed to the same risks as regular officers.

Under the Police (Health and Safety) Act 1997, police officers, including specials, were brought within the scope of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Police forces must therefore take the necessary measures to safeguard the health and safety of all their officers, and the training and equipment provided to specials is of the same standard as that for regular officers. The recruiting criteria for specials are now very similar to those for regular officers, and a number of applicants who would previously have been accepted into the special constabulary are now being rejected.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office are reviewing the criteria for becoming a special to see whether they have become unnecessarily restrictive.

Rural Policing

21. Mr. St. Aubyn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on rural policing. [147110]

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Mr. Charles Clarke: All areas of the country, urban and rural alike, are equally entitled to benefit from a modern, effective and responsive police service. This is why we are providing for a real and significant increase in police funding across the board. We are also providing extra funding for rural police forces: £15 million this year, rising to £30 million in 2001-02, to help forces meet the additional costs involved in policing rural communities.

Hilda Murrell

22. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Linlithgow of 11 December 2000, Official Report, column 427W, on Hilda Murrell, when he will provide a reply to the hon. Member, as indicated in his letter of 30 November 2000, on the continuing forensic investigation by the West Mercia police; and if he will make a statement. [147111]

Mr. Charles Clarke: As promised in my answer of 30 November 2000, I have written to my hon. Friend about this case. A copy of my letter of 30 January has been placed in the Library of the House.

Police Administration

24. Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to reduce the time spent by police officers on administration. [147113]

Mr. Charles Clarke: We are implementing proposals from the recent report "Making a Difference: Reducing Police Paperwork", and last November we issued police forces in England and Wales with a revised "Manual of Guidance for the Preparation, Processing and Submission of Files". This will reduce considerably the number of forms officers have to complete when they pass cases to the Crown Prosecution Service.

We are also investing in a range of new communications technology to minimise the paperwork that officers are required to process.

Young Offender Institutions

25. Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what changes he plans in the regime for young offender institutions. [147114]

Mr. Boateng: We have transformed the facilities and regimes for those under 18-years-old. Over £51 million has been invested to achieve this.

The creation of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales sees for the first time a single organisation with oversight and responsibility for the care and well-being of this age group. The board's purpose is to monitor the operation of the youth justice system and to ensure the delivery of the appropriate level of care and standards.

The new regime is based upon providing a

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In relation to those aged 18-20 years, we are considering carefully how this group should be treated in custody as part of our proposals to reform sentencing for this age group. The Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which contains provision to abolish the sentence of detention in a young offender institution (DYOI), provides an opportunity to look at the regime needs of a wider range of young offenders. We recognise that they do have different needs, and our work on regime provision for young offenders, not only the 18-20s, will concentrate on moving them more effectively from custody to work. We have given a commitment that we will not implement the abolition of the sentence of DYOI until we have prepared a Prison Service order to governors covering adult offenders, and we have consulted interested bodies as part of that work.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effect on prisoners and staff in young offender institutions of the no overtime policy. [148174]

Mr. Boateng: Since 1987, the conditions of service for all prison officers have been to work a fixed number of hours per week, averaged over a shift cycle. These flexible shift schemes give the best possible match of staff time available for work to be completed. In circumstances when additional hours are required to meet unplanned and unexpected demands, officers can work extra hours for which they receive time off in lieu. Officers can take their time off at a time that does not affect the running of the regimes in the establishment. In exceptional circumstances, when time off in lieu cannot be granted, ex-gratia payments can be authorised. This system has proved to offer the best possible regimes within the resources available in young offender institutes and other types of establishment.

Hunting Ban (Enforcement)

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prison officers at (a) Feltham Young Offenders Institution and (b) other YOIs in the south-east of England were on long-term sickness leave in each of the last three years in (i) actual and (ii) percentage terms. [148172]

Mr. Boateng: The information requested is provided for 1999 and 2000 in the table. Reliable sickness absence data are not available prior to 1 January 1999. Of the figures above, 15 officer grades from Feltham and 25 officer grades from the other young offender institutions quoted have sickness absence spread across both years and for the purpose of this reply these have been counted in both years. Long-term sickness absence is defined as greater than one month.

1 January to 31 December 19991 January to 31 December 2000
Number of prison officer grades on long-term sickness leave
Other young offender institutions in south-east of England8092
Percentage of prison officer grades on long-term sickness leave
Other young offender institutions in south-east of England14.116.0

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26. Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from the Association of Chief Police Officers about the enforcement of a ban on hunting with dogs; and if he will make a statement. [147115]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The views of the Association of Chief Police Officers were sought during the process of drafting the Hunting Bill. The association was concerned primarily about the need for the police to be given an explicit power of arrest to enforce a ban and for the option which introduced a scheme of licensing.

The association has informed the Home Office that it considers that it is too early to provide a final view on the resource implications of any ban on hunting, or of the other options that were in the Bill. However, if hunting were to be banned it does not anticipate a significant additional burden on the service over its current commitment.

Closed Circuit Television

27. Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to extend CCTV schemes. [147116]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Under the crime reduction programme closed circuit television (CCTV) initiative, we are investing £153 million over three years in new or extended CCTV systems in England and Wales.

Over £60 million of capital funding has already been allocated to crime and disorder reduction partnerships to support more than 350 schemes. Over 750 outline proposals are currently under consideration for funding under round 2 of the initiative.

Police Recruitment

28. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase the level of police recruitment; and if he will make a statement. [147117]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Government want to see police numbers rising.

Our spending plans therefore make generous provision, intended to meet major pay, pensions and other pressures on forces as well as providing ring-fenced funding to increase recruitment through the crime fighting fund (CFF). We anticipate that these measures will enable forces to increase police service numbers to record levels by March 2003.

The CFF will enable police forces to recruit 9,000 officers over and above the number previously planned in the three years 2000-01 to 2002-03.

To help forces to meet their recruitment targets, the first ever national recruitment campaign was launched on 30 August 2000 and the second phase of the campaign commenced on 27 December. By 14 January 2001, there had been 78,000 responses to the campaign and 17,070 expressions of interest had been forwarded to police forces.

The Metropolitan police service and the City of London police have been experiencing particular problems in attracting new recruits. To address these problems we

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agreed to an increase of £3,327 per annum in the London allowance paid to those officers in each force who were recruited on or after 1 September 1994 and who are not in receipt of housing allowance.

In addition, agreement has been reached between the Metropolitan police service (MPS) and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) to provide free rail travel within a 70-mile radius of London for serving MPS police officers. The arrangements will come into effect from Wednesday 14 February. The Home Office will meet the annual cost of £2.45 million.

The police negotiating board is currently looking at whether there should be an allowance for officers in any other forces. We await any recommendations it may make on this or any other issues in relation to police pay and allowances.

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