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28 Apr 2003 : Column 201W—continued

Special Constabulary

21. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is his policy to restore the strength of the Special Constabulary to the number of officers who were in post at May 1997. [109775]

Hilary Benn: The Government are committed to increasing the size and effectiveness of the Special Constabulary so that forces and communities are working in partnership together to reduce crime. We have not set specific strength targets, but the good practice guidance being produced is designed to improve all aspects of the recruitment, management and deployment of specials.


22. Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police numbers in Somerset. [109776]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Police numbers in Avon and Somerset are at record strength. On 30 September 2002 the force had 3,119 police officers, 78 more than in September 2001. In March 2002 the force had 1,611 civilian support staff, 159 more than in March 2001.

I also understand from the Chief Constable that the force has recruited 12 Community Support Officers.

23. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what priority the Home Office attaches to rural policing. [109777]

Hilary Benn: We are very aware of the differing needs of police forces that cover predominantly rural areas. Following the consultation on the Police Funding Formula last summer my right hon. Friend the Home

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Secretary decided to retain the £30 million Rural Policing Fund in its present form. Police forces that cover most sparsely populated areas continue to benefit from additional funding through this fund.

25. Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what actions are open to him upon receipt of reports of HM Inspector of Police. [109779]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary prepares reports on inspections of forces, Basic Command Units, Best Value Reviews and other aspects of police performance and efficiency. Those may be used by the force, the Police Authority and the Home Office to improve performance.

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much was spent by the Metropolitan Police on rental vehicles in the last 12 months. [107300]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis informs me that final figures are not yet available, but estimated expenditure on the hiring of vehicles for the whole of the Metropolitan Police Service for the period 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003 is approximately £7 million.

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the oral Answer of 2 December 2002, Official Report, column 500, on police, what discussions he has had with the Thames Valley police force in relation to housing. [108588]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 10 April 2003]: We have been working closely with Chief Constables and Police Authorities from a consortium of London and south east forces, including Thames Valley, to address retention problems.

On 13 March we announced a package of measures including the allocation of £3.7 million of capital grant to Thames Valley police to provide housing assistance for officers.

This package was welcomed by the consortium of forces and we shall continue to work with them to monitor the effectiveness of these measures and to consider any further steps that may be necessary.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many facilities have on-going arrangements for levy payments for police coverage, with particular reference to airports. [109387]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: This information is not in general collected. I understand that those airports which are designated under s25 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 have agreed Service Level Agreements with their local police force in respect of policing provision and their obligation under s26(3) of the Act to meet the cost. The current arrangements for designation are under review following recommendations made in Sir John Wheeler's Report on Airport Security.

Where special police services are needed at other airports, sporting events and other events (such as pop concerts) the Police Authority and the Chief Officer of

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Police would negotiate an agreement and charge for the special police service in accordance with the charging provisions of s25 of the Police Act 1996.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to provide private sector funding for police forces. [109388]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Police authorities can submit proposals for capital projects for support through the Government's Private Finance Initiative, which encourages a partnership approach with the private sector to the delivery of public services.

Section 18 of the Police Act 1996 allows police authorities to enter into agreements to supply certain goods and services.

Section 25 of the Act charge allows authorities to charge for 'special police services'.

Section 93 of the Act also provides that a police authority may, in connection with the discharge of any of its functions, accept gifts of money, and gifts or loans of other property, including commercial sponsorship.

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers additional to the complement on 1 May 1997 were appointed to the Durham constabulary in each year since 1997. [108600]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The information is set out in the table. Police strength details are not collected in May.

Year(42)Police strengthIncrease in strengthCivilian support staff strengthIncrease in civilian strength

(42) At 31 March

(43) 30 September

(44) Not available

Durham Constabulary has a record number of police officers. The net increase in force strength since March 1997 is 194 officers, or 13.3 per cent. which is nearly four times the average increase for England and Wales (3.4 per cent.) over the same period.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police stations manned (a) 24 hours a day and (b) part-time have (i) opened and (ii) closed in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [91674]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Information in this format is not held centrally.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police stations have (a) opened and (b) closed in (i) West Sussex and (ii) the United Kingdom in each of the past five years. [92690]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Chief Constable of Sussex informs me that there are 15 police stations in West Sussex. This figure has remained the same for the past

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five years. No police stations have opened/closed during this time. A new police station will open in Selsey around April 2003.

Information on the number of police stations opened and closed in the United Kingdom is not available centrally.

The Secretary of State is not responsible for policing in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Unlawful Residents

24. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his most recent estimate is of the number of persons unlawfully resident in the United Kingdom. [109778]

Beverley Hughes: There is currently no official estimate of the size of the illegal population in the United Kingdom. The Home Office has commissioned research into the methods used in other countries to estimate the size of their illegal populations, in order to define methods appropriate for the United Kingdom. On the basis of this information we will actively consider the next steps.

Off-road Vehicles

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what review he has undertaken of the powers to enforce fixed penalty notices since 1 August 1999 for contravention of section 72 of the Highways Act 1972 by off-road motorcycles; and what lessons have been learnt from the four years of the scheme. [108611]

Hilary Benn: Driving on the pavement contrary to Section 72 of the highways Act 1835 as amended became a fixed penalty offence on 1 August 1999. The offence applies to all driving on the pavement including by off-road motorcycles and no special review of the use of the measure has been undertaken.

Driving on the pavement is recognised as a problem in some areas and one that presents a hazard to pedestrians. The fixed penalty provides an additional means of dealing with it. With effect from January 2003 the police may also use powers under the Police Reform Act to seize off-road motorcycles driven illegally on the footway in a manner that causes alarm, distress or annoyance.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many successful prosecutions have been brought against owners of off-road motorcycles under the amendment to section 34 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; [108675]

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Hilary Benn: Information is not collected on the Home Office Court Proceedings database on the type of vehicle (i.e. motorcycle or car) involved in an offence unless specific to the legislation.

In addition information collected centrally does not identify these offences separately from other summary motoring offences.

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