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Dr. Julian Lewis: The problem is not lack of visible police numbers when it comes to policing the steam rally.

2 Nov 2001 : Column 1190

The problem is whether the police are visible when people feel intimidated late at night in their local area. Is the visibility in the right places?

Mr. Bradley: That is an important operational matter for the local police in Hampshire. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make that point directly on his next visit to them. We all know from our own communities that the fear of crime is as important as crime itself. The visibility of police on the streets is only one element, but it helps to overcome the problem.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned again the Netley steam rally, and in the short time that I have left, I should mention that event. The allocation of police resources to particular events is an operational matter for the chief constable to decide. He must determine within the overall policing priorities for the area and the needs of the particular event the level of resources that can be devoted to it. Where special police services are provided, the Police Act 1996 enables the police authority to make a charge for those services. The rationale for this is that the taxpayer should not be expected to pay for police services at private events or events that benefit only a small section of the community.

However, I accept that Netley Marsh steam rally raises significant funds for charity. It is also a commercial opportunity for other organisations. At the same time, the police have to consider their own set-up costs, including adequate safety and security measures. The cost of policing the rally this year was £3,500. I understand that the local police have been meeting the rally organisers to help put strategies in place to reduce future policing costs for the event. Many useful suggestions have been made, including high-visibility stewarding, that have been favourably received by the organisers. Costs for next year have not yet been agreed and will depend on the outcome of the discussions with the police. I understand that a further meeting has been arranged for 8 November, where I hope that satisfactory arrangements can be agreed. This is clearly an important local event and the cost of policing should not impede its continuing. These are complicated matters, and we have to recognise that local arrangements and local operational needs should be the guiding principle.

Policing throughout the country is a high priority for the Government. We are putting extra resources in and extra police on the street, but the important thing is that we all work closely together to ensure that in local partnerships between all the relevant agencies we have a common view about how we properly tackle the important issues that the hon. Gentleman raised today.

Question put and agreed to.

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