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Lincolnshire Police Authority

10. Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): If he will make a statement on the funding of Lincolnshire police authority. [6862]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): Lincolnshire police authority is receiving £63.4 million in general grant funding this year—an increase of £2.8 million or 4.51 per cent. over 2004–05. That is substantially above police pay increases of about 3 per cent. and non-pay inflation of about 2.6 per cent. It is also well above the minimum floor increase of 3.75 per cent., which is guaranteed for all police authorities.

Mark Simmonds: In the financial year 2003–04, the Lincolnshire police force was the only one in England and Wales to have its funding per head cut. In the current financial year, there have been further financial reductions. Lincolnshire now has the lowest spending per 1,000 of population of all police authorities. It has a pension deficit of £3.5 million in this financial year, resulting in more than £2.5 million of reserves being used. If further cuts are required, there will be reductions in police staff, taking officers off the beat. Will the Minister ensure that Lincolnshire police authority's funding is looked at? Will he ensure that the people of Lincolnshire get their fair share of funding? Will he ensure that all rural police authorities receive appropriate funding, which they do not get at the moment?

Andy Burnham: I heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say, but the truth is that there has been substantial investment in community policing. In addition to what I described a moment ago, Lincolnshire has received £8.5 million in specific grants and capital provision in recent times, which accounts, I think, for some of the revenue increases about which the hon. Gentleman was talking. The settlement has provided good funding for the force this year. There are pressures on the force to do with a particular operation being mounted at present, and it is in contact with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety to see whether some help can be given on that. On the whole, however, the 77 community support officers that the hon. Gentleman's force now has and the overall level of investment represent a good deal for Lincolnshire.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Will the Minister consider the fact that in rural areas such as Lincolnshire the special constabulary has a very important role to play? Would it be sensible to embark on a vigorous policy of paying people to join and serve in the special constabulary? After all, we do that for retained firefighters and for the Territorial Army, so why not for policemen?

Andy Burnham: The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes a valid point, but in the course of the past year the number of specials employed across the country has increased by 1,000. In general, as he will know, the Government have taken steps to respond to the need of rural police forces through the rural policing fund. Overall, the package is right, even if we have to
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respond to some particular pressures that the force faces at this juncture. We are listening to concerns and I put it back to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and to the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds), that questions have to be asked about how the force got itself into the position it is in with both the local authority precept and the prudent management of resources.

Stop and Account Form

11. Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): What assessment he has made of the impact of the new stop and account form for police officers since its introduction; and if he will make a statement. [6863]

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): The requirement to record stops, as per recommendation 61 of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report, was implemented by all police forces across England and Wales on 1 April 2005. We have asked that the process by which the police deliver that level of accountability should continue to be monitored so that if there are any ways to increase efficiency, such as through the use of IT, they are acted upon.

Greg Clark: Is the Minister aware that it takes four minutes to fill in one of those forms, which means that it takes 20 minutes if a police officer is to stop a group of, say, five people? Does he agree that that 20 minutes is time away from policing the street, and is that not a great disincentive to the sort of active community policing that our constituencies need?

Mr. McNulty: No, I am afraid that I do not. Part of the route to community policing lies precisely through the sort of intelligence gathering, accountability and other forms of activity that are exemplified in the stop and account process. The hon. Gentleman cannot have one without the other; they are all of a piece with community policing.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab): While my hon. Friend is collating the monitoring of the record on stops, will he take into account how much time is saved by speedily settling complaints made against the police, often maliciously, because of the very fact that the police can produce a record that demonstrates their reasons for a stop? Is not that a good way to save police time and unnecessary attacks on good police officers?

Mr. McNulty: My hon. Friend is entirely right. We have to view all aspects of the impact of stop and account forms on policing. My earlier point about IT is equally important: one of the pilots in the North Wales force has meant that almost 70 per cent. of stops were carried out in under three minutes, notwithstanding the time saved in the way that my hon. Friend suggests.

Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) (LD): Have the Government any plans to introduce religious self-definition alongside self-definition of race in regard to recommendation 61?
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Mr. McNulty: It is certainly a matter that we have already considered. The hon. Lady will know that it is sensitive and that we keep it constantly under review. As I said in my initial response, there has been nationwide implementation only since April, although some forces implemented it before that—indeed, in Kent it was in place by February. The system has been in place for about three months and we shall constantly take stock. The hon. Lady will understand that these are controversial and sensitive matters.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Is not the Minister worried that increasing bureaucracy and political correctness are inhibiting police officers from dealing effectively with some worrying offences, whether vandalism, property destruction or even violence at a local or individual level? Is he not even more worried that that is beginning to affect public confidence in the police? If we cannot restore proper effectiveness to our police at local and ground level, that loss of confidence will, sadly, continue.

Mr. McNulty: The right hon. Gentleman based his question on about four premises, all of which are in one way or another flawed. The whole purpose of the project is to reinvigorate the faith and confidence of communities in our police forces. It is being done in a way that minimises bureaucracy. It might be a nice cheap Daily Mail headline to talk about police political correctness, but it is not a fact and the right hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of his simplicity.


16. John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): What recent research he has evaluated on possible links between cannabis use and psychotic illness among young people. [6868]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to conduct a comprehensive review of the links and associations between taking cannabis and developing mental health problems. The advisory council has been specifically asked to assess whether the emerging evidence changes its overall assessment. We expect its recommendation by the end of the year.

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Is he aware of the evidence shown in the BBC "Panorama" programme on that subject? Will his investigations look into the effect of cannabis on young people, in particular psychotic attacks, and if it is proven that cannabis is causing the problems that eminent professors say it does, will my hon. Friend reclassify it?

Paul Goggins: I know that my hon. Friend has strongly held views on the issue, and I can assure him that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will be looking into all the available evidence. He referred to the "Panorama" programme, which included information about a study undertaken by Professor Hurd. I am sure that the council will look carefully at
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that, as the Home Secretary has asked it to do, and will give him their recommendations before the end of the year.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con): As someone who watched the programme, I stress to the Minister that it produced powerful evidence about the effects of cannabis, especially on teenagers, due to the chemical development that is still going on in their brains. Will the Minister take that fact fully into account and accept that the evidence is becoming stronger and stronger that the Government's decision to declassify cannabis to class C was a mistake and should be reversed?

Paul Goggins: The advisory council was careful in its recommendations to the Home Secretary. It accepted that in a few cases cannabis can produce a psychotic state, which can be the start of long-term psychotic illness, and unquestionably, for those who have an existing mental health problem, cannabis can have a very negative impact indeed. However, I point out to the hon. Gentleman and to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West (John Robertson) that the course of action taken by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was entirely right—to seek the independent advice of the advisory council. Once we have received it, we shall make decisions in due course.

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