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21 Nov 2005 : Column 1761W—continued

Offensive Weapons

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the coverage of the list of banned offensive weapons. [25881]

Hazel Blears: The Government are considering whether any further categories of knife or other offensive weapon currently being used in crime should be added to the list of banned offensive weapons.

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many stop and searches for weapons were performed by the police in (a) England and Wales and (b) the Teignbridge constituency since the coming into force of the Knives Act 1997. [25891]

Hazel Blears: Information from 1998–99 to 2003–04 (latest available) for England and Wales on stops and searches under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and
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Public Order Act 1994 as amended by section 8 of the Knives Act 1997 is given in the table. The information is available centrally at police force area level only. Data for 2004–05 will be published in December 2005.
Searches of persons or vehicles in anticipation of violence under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 as amended by section 8 of the Knives Act 1997, section 25 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, schedule 7 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and SI 2004/1573—England and Wales


(93) S8 of the Knives Act 1997 came into force on 1 March 1999.

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Operation Kratos

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has held with (a) the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers on extending the rules of engagement of Operation Kratos to other police operations. [24747]

Hazel Blears: None. Operational tactics are a matter for the police. Operation Kratos is a response developed by the police following 11 September which Ministers were not asked to approve but were told about. The Association of Chief Police Officers are currently reviewing the policy in relation to the handling of suspected suicide bombers. I will await the outcome of that review before considering further involvement. All police use of firearms is subject to the usual law on the use of force. In particular, the Criminal Law Act 1967 provides that the police may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances to effect an arrest or to prevent crime.

Parking Offences

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the process by which power was transferred from the police to local authorities following the decriminalisation of parking offences; what steps he took to ensure that this was a smooth transition of authority; and if he will make a statement. [22910]

Paul Goggins: I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Ms Buck) on 31 October 2005, Official Report, column 672W.

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the merits of a national parking offenders database; and what representations he has received on this matter. [27292]

Ms Buck: I have been asked to reply.

The Department for Transport has received no representations about a national parking offenders database.


Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many passport applications have been made online in each of the last five years. [28855]

Andy Burnham: The following table indicates the volume of passport applications received from the online channel since March 2003, the date from which the UK Passport Service has been recording this information.
PeriodOnline applications receivedTotal passport applicationsProportion online applications (percentage)
March to December 200358,4975,904,0461.0
January to December 2004139,2336,162,1982.3
January to October 2005174,4535,825,0503.0

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Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of levels of rejected passport applications due to photographs not meeting requirements; and what percentage of applications were rejected for this reason in each of the last five years. [29196]

Andy Burnham: This data is only available for the weeks commencing 12 September 2005, when the new standards became mandatory, so it is not possible to compare this figure with the last five years.

Reject rates are however showing a decline as the photo booth industry upgrades their booths and the public understand the new standards.

The UKPS are evaluating the guidance in the application pack and continuing to work with both the industry and their partners such as Post Office Ltd. to ensure that inconvenience to customers is kept to a minimum.

The number of applications being rejected because of the photograph not meeting the new requirements is 13.7 per cent. for the last week for which figures are available (week commencing 31 October).


Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his estimate is of the cost savings to the Exchequer of introducing a pension scheme retirement age of 65 years for all police officers, prison officers and staff employed directly by his Department and its agencies from 2025; and if he will make a statement. [21425]

Hazel Blears: Savings to the Exchequer from introducing new pension allowance (NPA) 65 from 2025 have not been estimated and could be supplied only at disproportionate cost. It is, however, likely that delaying the introduction of NPA 65 until 2025 for those who are not police officers would absorb a substantial part of the expected £13 billion savings that will arise from the implementation of scheme reform within the framework of the principles agreed at the Public Services Forum.

In the case of police officers we are introducing a pension age of 55 for new entrants to the service from April 2006. This is in line with the Government's recognition that services like the police and the armed forces have specific needs which make a lower pension age appropriate for their members. If a calculation of the savings of introducing a pension age of 65 were carried out for the police it is arguable that the cost implications for operational effectiveness should also be taken into account


Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many successful prosecutions for perjury there have been in each of the last 10 years. [28449]

Fiona Mactaggart: Data from the Home Office Court Proceedings database, showing the number of convictions for perjury at all courts in England and Wales for the last 10 years, is provided in the table.
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Data for 2004 will be available in late November.
Offenders found guilty at all courts for perjury England and Wales, 1993 to 2003(94)


(94) These data are on the principal offence basis.
(95) Staffordshire police force were only able to submit sample data for persons proceeded against and convicted in the magistrates courts for the year 2000. Although sufficient to estimate higher orders of data, these data are not robust enough at a detailed level and have been excluded from the table.


Mr. Carswell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress his Department has made in making the police more accountable to local communities. [25449]

Hazel Blears: The Government are committed to strengthening accountability at a local level by introducing dedicated, visible, accessible and responsive neighbourhood policing teams in all areas by 2008. In the White Paper, 'Building Communities Beating Crime', published in November 2004, the Government set out proposals for strengthening the role of the police authority to ensure communities are policed effectively and to increase the public visibility of police authorities, including through the publication of an annual local policing summary. In the light of police force restructuring, we are reviewing the White Paper proposals in relation to the role and composition of police authorities and examining ways to strengthen accountability arrangements at the basic command unit/crime and disorder reduction partnership level. In addition, the White Paper set out proposals for a mechanism to trigger action by the police or other community safety partners in response to unresolved local problems.

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the merits of allowing police officers to use hand-held electronic devices to record evidence. [25675]

Hazel Blears: The use of hand-held technology continues to play a vital role in modern-day policing. The technology affects the full range of policing activity, from public order operations and road traffic accident investigations to witness statements and recording the identity of suspects on the street.

Hand-held electronic devices enable police officers to access databases, receive and transmit data, and complete forms while out of their stations. Wider use of wireless technology across the forces has the potential to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on the police, enabling them to spend more time patrolling. Reducing bureaucracy and increasing the number of officers on
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patrol are two key government commitments. A number of options are being explored by the police service to determine the most appropriate way of meeting their needs.

The Home Office continues to work with the police to develop and pilot new uses of technology to support detection and enforcement on the street.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has appointed specialist advisers to review the business cases submitted as part of the police force merger consultation process. [26137]

Hazel Blears: I have brought together a multi-discipline team to support the review of police force structures under the leadership of John Giffard, Chief Constable of Staffordshire. The team includes Home Office officials, officials from other partners in the criminal justice system and seconded police officers. Among the Home Office officials are specialist financial and economic advisers to conduct the analysis of the business cases submitted by police forces and authorities.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers worked overtime in each of the last 10 years; and what the cost of police overtime was in each year. [26446]

Hazel Blears: The table gives estimates of overtime payments made to full-time police officers in England and Wales in each of the last 10 years.
Number of full-time officers in receipt of
overtimes payments
Rest days with less than eight days noticeRest days with between eight and 14 days noticeOther overtimeTotal amount paid out to full-time officers for overtime
(£ million)

1. Only full-time officers are included.
2. Annual figures are extrapolated from a sample drawn from November pay bills in each year.
3. Individual officers can receive more than one type of overtime pay.
Police Negotiating Board annual survey of hours and earnings

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what minimum educational standards are required for recruitment to the police force; and if he will make a statement. [26564]

Hazel Blears: Although there are no minimum educational standards required to be a police officer, numeracy and literacy are tested early in the application process. Behavioural competencies needed to carry out the role of a police officer are assessed during the recruitment process. However in practice approximately a third of recruits are graduates and 98 per cent. are qualified at GCSE level or above.
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John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new methods of police engagement his Department is supporting to lead to the deeper and stronger connection with the public referred to on page 93 of the 2005 Departmental Report. [26699]

Hazel Blears: Visible and responsive neighbourhood policing teams will be key to building a deeper and stronger connection with the public. Every area in England and Wales will benefit from these teams by 2008. The methods of engagement used by these teams will depend on local circumstances, and on the needs and preferences of local communities; there is no uniform way of engaging successfully with every community.

To support this, the National Practitioner Panel for Community Engagement in Policing has created a Guide to Community Engagement for policing practitioners containing practical and strategic advice, supported by case studies, for neighbourhood policing teams and practitioners.

In addition, the Government's Respect Task Force sets out to improve our communities and the lives of people in them by tackling disrespect for others. This includes working together on the neighbourhood renewal and antisocial behaviour agendas, highlighting respect for others and the community, and a key role for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in tackling antisocial behaviour. As part of this we will enable community groups to trigger action in their local areas so that, via their local councillor, they can secure a response from the police or relevant local authority in cases they feel have not been adequately addressed.

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the Police Standards Unit to complete its assignment with Northamptonshire police. [27293]

Hazel Blears: The Police Standards Unit has been engaged with Northamptonshire police since spring 2004. The criteria for disengagement have been agreed by the Force, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Police Standards Unit. The position of the Force in relation to these criteria is regularly monitored, and disengagement will take place when all parties are satisfied that the criteria have been met.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) civilian staff and (b) police officers are employed by each police force. [29193]

Hazel Blears: The breakdown of police service strength for 31 March 2005 was published on 25 July 2005 and is available in the Library and on:

Within this publication, the numbers of police officers are provided in Table 1 and the numbers of police staff in Table 8a and 8b.

John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will revise the Police and Criminal Evidence Code to facilitate the re-interview of terrorist detainees after charge; and if he will make a statement. [29012]

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Hazel Blears: During Report Stage on the Terrorism Bill on 9 November 2005, my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary agreed to look at whether it might be possible to extend the circumstances in which post charge interviewing can be used in terrorist cases. We are currently reviewing existing legislation in consultation with the police and the CPS.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers have been found to be using their siren inappropriately in the last five years. [27122]

Hazel Blears: The Government keeps no central record of occasions when a siren has been inappropriately used. The use of sirens on police vehicles is controlled by the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. These provide that such sirens may only be used either to indicate to other road users the urgency of the purposes for which the vehicle is being used, or to warn them of the presence of the vehicle on the road. Training and guidance on when it is appropriate to use police sirens for these purposes is a matter for individual chief officers of police.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what regulations govern the allocation of cells in police stations; [18277]

(2) what assessments are made to determine whether those being held in police stations should share a cell and with whom they should share; [18278]

(3) what the procedures are for allocating shared cells in police stations; [18279]

(4) whether he intends to extend the recommendations concerning the allocation of cells made by the Zahid Mubarek Inquiry final report to police stations. [17794]

Hazel Blears: The PACE Code of Practice on detention, treatment and questioning Code C) requires that as far as is practicable, not more than one person should be detained in each cell; and that a juvenile is not placed in a cell with an adult. The use of police cells is an operational matter for the chief officer of the force concerned. When one person to a cell is not practicable, consideration would be given to moving a detainee to another designated police station. A risk assessment would be carried out in relation to the options available including any risk associated with individual suspects sharing cell accommodation and the impact on the overall safety and security of the custody suite.

Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps the Government are taking to improve the quality of local policing in Bedfordshire following the Police Performance Assessment 2004–05; and if he will make a statement. [24370]

Hazel Blears: The Government are committed to a major programme of police reform, to help build safer and stronger communities. This will help to drive performance in every force and includes building a more responsive, citizen-focused police service with neighbourhood policing at its heart.
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Instilling a strong performance culture is an important part of ensuring the police deliver an effective service in their local area. This is taking hold, delivering real and sustainable improvements.

In terms of Bedfordshire police's performance and how this is enhanced, as for any force this is principally a matter for the Chief Officer team and the Police Authority.

The Home Office has recently published assessments for every force in the country. Bedfordshire police received the following assessments from the Police Performance Assessments 2004–05.
Performance areaDeliveryDirection
Reducing crimeFairImproved
Investigating crimeGoodImproved
Promoting safetyFairImproved
Providing assistanceGoodStable
Citizen focusFairStable
Resource useGoodStable
Local policingPoorImproved

The force received its only poor grading in the Local Policing domain, for performance in comparison to its peers. It is, however, important to note that this is an area where the force showed improvement for the assessment period.

The Government's work with all 43 forces to develop neighbourhood policing, initially within pathfinder areas, will enhance the quality of local policing. In Bedfordshire, this is Luton Division.

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions police officers from outside the North Wales police area were deployed in the North Wales area in each of the last three years for which records are available; and from which forces those officers were deployed in each case. [24733]

Hazel Blears: Information is only available for secondments coming into a force. Since 2003, North Wales police had no police officers seconded into the force.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many criminal investigators there were in the Milton Keynes division of the Thames Valley police force in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [27182]

Hazel Blears: Information on the functions to which police officers are deployed is collected annually and is only available from March 2000. The deployment of officers to CID and other police functions is an operational matter for the Chief Constable of the Thames Valley police (Mr. Peter Neyroud).

Information on the number of CID officers is collected only at force level. CID officers in the Thames Valley Police are those staff mainly employed in plain clothes for the investigation of crime and who are not part of a specialist unit. More police officers are available to investigate crime with CID, but it is not their primary policing role within the force. Details of the number of CID officers in Thames Valley Police are set out in the table.
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Thames Valley police—Number of CID officers since 2000

As at 31 March:Number of CID officers

1. Data for 2000 to 2002 was collected annually by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
2. Data from 2003 is collected by Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate annually.

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