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Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the extra police officers whom we have in West Mercia are a direct result of decisions by the police authority to increase council tax? Owing to monstrous underfunding, we could not pay for them from Government support for our local police service. Local people are prepared to spend extra money on a better police service, and have expressed complete contempt for the idea of a merger between police services. Should not those local people, who have put their money where their mouths are, be listened to?

Mr. Paterson: I entirely agree. My hon. Friend's constituency contains West Mercia's headquarters, and he has worked closely with the chief constable and the chairman for many years.I take my hat off to those two men, who have fought their case bravely and politely. They have an efficient force, the best in the country, although they have the least money from central Government. Their proposal that theirs should be a strategic force on the current boundaries should be respected, rather than being dismissed by the Home Secretary in such a cavalier manner.

7.27 pm

James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow that excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr.   Paterson), which summed up the anger generated by the police force reorganisations and the way in which they have been handled. I wish to associate myself with the comments about the sneaking through of today's
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announcement. It is scandalous that such important issues could not be debated on the Floor of the House when so many Members have a direct interest in them, and in the impact on their areas should the proposals go ahead in the face of strong opposition not just here, but in communities outside the House. I hope that the Minister will convey the sentiments expressed here today to his colleagues in the Home Office, and will reflect on the approach that has been taken.

I want to say something about the impact of today's announcement in London. I note the amount that has been allocated to the Greater London Authority, and the fact that it includes a sum to take account of London's own impact as a capital city and its need to fight terrorism. I heard what the Minister said about the allocation of additional funds to the fight against terrorism, and that is appreciated, but it is not clear to me what will happen in outlying areas such as mine, in the suburbs of London, in terms of general policing.

I listened very carefully to what the Minister said about the importance of safer neighbourhoods, and of focusing on antisocial behaviour. However, I remain unclear whether previous promises—on ensuring that each ward of each London borough has its own safer neighbourhood team to ensure direct accountability and a local link—will be met.

I am fortunate in having a safer neighbourhood team in every ward bar one in my constituency, but I hear that although the plan is to introduce new teams in the next 12 months, resources will be drawn away from what are known as the core teams—the main response teams. I am very worried about what that will actually mean, and it is clear from the report that finances are rather constrained. My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) gave us an interesting and detailed analysis of the figures; indeed, he took a scientific, mathematical and erudite approach to them—[Interruption.] His approach certainly was very academic, although I am not sure whether he needed an A-level in mathematics or in physics to deal with the formulae that have been discussed this afternoon.

I have grave fears about what the additional resources will mean for community policing in London boroughs such as Havering. If resources are drawn away into safer neighbourhood teams, police officers will be taken away from the core teams, yet such teams will be required to serve the needs not only of my area but of the capital in fighting terrorism.

I hope that the Minister can respond the concerns that I have expressed about boroughs outside the centre of the capital. We need to know that we will have the real improvements in policing that my colleagues and I want to see; that we will have better, more effective and more accountable policing; and that we will ensure that local neighbourhoods and communities get the standard of policing that they rightfully deserve.

7.32 pm

Paul Goggins: I shall try, in the little time that remains, to respond to some of the many points that were made by Members in all parts of the House. The hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) began by welcoming the two-year arrangement, and we can all agree that that is a good step forward. However, his suggestion that the
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additional funding provided by this Government over a number of years was somehow not real money defies belief. We are talking about a 29 per cent. real-terms increase in central Government spending and grant in 2000–01—a period during which, of course, his party was pledged to reducing the money going into public services. Our investment has resulted in a force of more than 141,000 police officers, and we are well on the way to providing the 24,000 community support officers that we promised.

I was pleased that the hon. Gentleman offered strong support for CSOs. As he pointed out, they stay on the street, where people can seek reassurance from them. For many CSOs, such a role is a route into the police service, and they provide a visible force. Indeed, the emerging evidence is positive. The public value CSOs and regard them as more accessible; they also feel that they spend more time in the community. As the research shows, basing a CSO in a mixed neighbourhood policing team can increase public confidence fivefold. So evidence of CSOs' effectiveness is emerging.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Paul Goggins: I am afraid that I have no time to take interventions; I took plenty during the 50 minutes for which I spoke at the beginning of the debate. I mean no discourtesy.

I also welcome the comments of the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs on reducing bureaucracy. The programme in which we are engaged will put the equivalent of 12,000 police officers back into front-line policing. He gave some very good examples of how reducing bureaucracy can lead to efficiencies. We should not underestimate the scale of the efficiencies that, if we look hard enough, remain to be gained.

We have heard many figures cited this afternoon for financing restructuring. The group looking at this issue—it was set up by the Home Secretary and includes the Home Office, the police authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers—has had estimates ranging from £430 million to £600 million. It is simply too early to say precisely what the figure will be, but as I said earlier, the financing will come from a variety of sources: the £125 million that, as I confirmed earlier, the Home Office will make available, the reshaping of some existing commitments, and further local investment, which will yield savings in the longer term. By the longer term I mean a three-year period, no more. It is clear that that combination of investment can cover the costs of restructuring.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell) told the House, he and I have discussed these issues before. His constituents need be in no doubt that when it comes to arguing for policing resources, he always makes an effective case. He celebrated, as I do, the extra 480 police officers serving in his police force and the additional CSOs. We have seen the fall in volume crime as a result. I acknowledge, as I did during his earlier intervention, the gap between what the formula would have given his police force and the actual amount that it will receive. I say again that that is to the benefit of 24 other police authorities; we have to achieve stability, as well as meeting need. I should also point out
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to him that pension costs are covered in the settlement, and that discussions are ongoing about a counter-terrorism unit. The further announcements that the Home Secretary made at the end of January will be helpful in taking that issue forward. We continue to look at the costs associated with post-7 July activity. Stephen Boys Smith is examining airport policing generally, and the question of designation will also be dealt with.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) if I did not make the figures sufficiently clear, but in fact they are very clear: the total amount of central grant that we are providing is £10.574 billion. I am, of course, happy to explain how wider funding assists our policing effort. For example, the £1.5 billion that we are investing in the drugs programme in the coming year will help enormously in dealing with some of the criminality linked to drugs. On the £125 million available to help with the costs associated with restructuring, the Home Secretary has made it clear that he will consider applying some of that funding to stand-alone forces that meet the acceptable standard for protective services. I hope that the hon. Lady will take some encouragement from that. I disagree, however, with what she said about the Government's policing policy hitting the poorest hardest. The central thrust of that policy—neighbourhood policing—is about ensuring that the poorest people in the poorest communities, who are often those most affected by criminality, are given the policing service that they deserve. That goal is at the heart of all that we do.

The police force in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods) will gain from the floor that we have put in place—to the tune of some £4.6 million—which will help it to meet the needs in her area. The force in the constituency of the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) will also gain from that floor—to the tune of some £1.3 million. I am glad that he welcomed some of the measures that we are putting in place, particularly those relating to pensions. I am in awe of his A grade in
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maths, so I hesitate to tell him that some of his figures were wrong. I shall take the opportunity to write to him and to ensure that the correct information is available. The Secretary of State for Transport is reviewing the British Transport police, which is another issue that the hon. Gentleman raised. Doing so is sensible in the context of the Home Secretary's ongoing review, but nothing that I have announced today relates to the British Transport police.

I point out to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) that the additional £3.7 million for Dyfed-Powys police, the £2.7 million for Gwent police and the £7.2 million for North Wales police takes them to the floor and means that in that regard, they are on an equal footing with the English authorities. I hope that he welcomes that. I am sorry about the way in which he and others found about these developments. However, last Thursday's Order Paper made it clear that the Home Secretary was going to make an announcement. If a journalist puts two and two together and rings the hon. Gentleman up, that is a matter for the journalist and for him. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary did not sneak out a statement today; he made a statement that had been advertised on the Order Paper. It was freely available, and hon. Members had access to it.

It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Order [31 January].


Mr. Deputy Speaker then put the remaining Questions required to be put at that hour.


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