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Community Support Officers

3. Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): How many additional community support officers will be recruited in Wales following the 2006 Budget. [66182]

8. Jessica Morden (Newport, East) (Lab): How many additional community support officers will be recruited in Wales following the 2006 Budget. [66189]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): In September 2005, there were 282 community support officers on patrol in Wales. I expect the figure to rise to around 750 by this time next year.

Albert Owen: I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. He will know that the Government are really delivering on community policing. In north Wales in particular, the extra resources from central Government and from the local government precept have produced tangible results. He will also be aware, however, of the concerns expressed by North Wales police authority and local communities that the proposed larger police forces will take resources from local policing. Will he assure the House that any proposed larger force will allow community policing to continue and to be properly funded?

Mr. Hain: I agree that there has been a big increase in neighbourhood policing, and north Wales has led the way in that regard. I want to give my hon. Friend an emphatic guarantee that the proposal for an all-Wales force—if it goes through—will protect neighbourhood policing because the new force will have the capability to tackle new, difficult crimes such as serious organised crime, drug dealing and terrorism that small forces such as the North Wales police force do not have. He should not take my word for that; he should take the advice of Her Majesty's inspector of constabulary. I am confident that the policies being put in place by the Home Secretary will deliver protective policing for those big, serious new threats as well as protect neighbourhood policing, in north Wales in particular.

Jessica Morden: I, too, welcome the new community support officers for Gwent. Does my right hon. Friend agree that CSOs have been a big success in constituencies such as mine? They work alongside the
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police, provide a uniformed presence and spend up to 90 per cent. of their time out on the beat, which has had a big impact on tackling antisocial behaviour. Does he also welcome the further powers proposed for them in the Police and Justice Bill?

Mr. Hain: Yes, I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend. We should remember that when we first proposed community support officers they were not universally popular, and we were criticised, as we often have been when we have introduced new reforms. They are a huge success, and they are not a substitute for police officers, as Wales has also had 1,000 more police officers, which includes Gwent. As a result, crime is decreasing on almost every measure and local communities are feeling much more secure.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that his crowing about the increase in community support officers making our streets safer is pointless when the Home Secretary is letting people out of prison early—

Mr. Speaker: Order. That was out of order.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy) (Lab): I shall try to stick to the question that was asked, Mr. Speaker.

Is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State aware of the excellent crime detection figures in the North Wales police area, especially in the western and central divisions covering my constituency? Will he join me in congratulating North Wales police on such excellent results? Does he agree that they are a direct result of the investment that North Wales police has received from the Government?

Mr. Hain: I do. North Wales police has had an excellent record in tackling crime on almost every measure, especially in community support for policing and community support schemes. I give her the same assurance as I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen). Any changes or reorganisation—especially with the protection for regional accountability, a deputy chief constable now being provided by the Home Secretary, and the costs being dealt with—will be a big boost to policing across Wales, including her constituency.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Recruitment of additional community support officers might suffer unless problems with the restructuring process and its funding are clarified. Early in February, Home Office officials told police authorities in Wales that they would produce detailed information in response to concern about the extra cost to the taxpayer and the impact on precept equalisation. By the end of April, however, that had not been done. Does the Secretary of State know when police authorities will receive the urgently required details from the Home Office?

Mr. Hain: May I start off on a point of agreement? Policing in Wales, and many other services, would suffer if the Conservatives' plans for public spending cuts were visited on Wales. In respect of the costs of reorganisation, start-up costs, the costs of extra protective services for which the whole reform is
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designed and the equalisation of the police precept are all important issues. Home Office officials, together with Ministers, are working on that now with police authorities, and I am sure that a satisfactory outcome can be achieved.

Mrs. Gillan: In other words, those details have not been forthcoming from the Home Office. I further understand that the four chief constables have written to Sir Ronnie Flanagan, head of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, expressing grave concern about the Home Office's 75 per cent. cut in its estimates for the budget required to deliver the protective policing that the Secretary of State mentioned. They ask whether a fundamental change has been made in the national standards. As this is an operational issue, which strikes at the heart of the reason behind the mergers, how can our police forces in Wales deliver protective policing and have confidence in a Home Office that slashes police estimates with no apparent explanation?

Mr. Hain: The hon. Lady must know that all four chief constables support the principle of a single all-Wales force. They, like Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, know that whatever the Conservative and other Opposition parties say, Wales will not have the capabilities to fight serious organised crime, drug dealing and terrorism unless the reorganisation is implemented. She is right, however, to say that they have written that letter, and I share their concerns. I support them in getting those concerns resolved with the Home Office, and I am confident that we can achieve that.

John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab): I welcome the news about the CSOs in Wales. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Superintendent Sue Hayes and her team in the Vale of Glamorgan division of South Wales police on another record-breaking year in tackling crime, with a 4.3 per cent. reduction? Does he, however, share my fear that high-achieving police divisions will find it increasingly hard to hit and exceed their targets when they are doing so well already? Will that be taken in consideration in the drawing up of future targets?

Mr. Hain: I am sure that it will, and I agree that we have many outstanding police officers in Wales. With the extra 1,000 officers recruited under this Government, compared with the Tory Government's record of cuts, we now have a proud record and a proud police force, designed and with the capability to tackle crime through Wales.

Tourist Medical Facilities

4. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What discussions he has had concerning the provision of facilities for the treatment of minor injuries suffered by English tourists while visiting Wales. [66183]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Nick Ainger): I have regular discussions with the Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services on a range of health issues.
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English tourists, like anyone in Wales, have access to the 15 major accident and emergency departments and nearly 40 minor A and E departments and minor injury units.

Michael Fabricant: The Minister will know that during July, August and part of September, the caravan sites, bed-and-breakfast places and hotels start filling up, as do cottages and small hospitals. The Tywyn cottage memorial hospital, for instance, experiences a demand five times as great as it normally experiences during the rest of the year. Will the Minister assure me, and the many people in my constituency who use such hospitals, that the hospitals will continue to be maintained and the minor injuries units will not be closed?

Nick Ainger: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said, and particularly for what he said about Tywyn community hospital. He may not know that it has just been the subject of a review, and that improvements are guaranteed for the future.

The National Assembly recognises the important role that community hospitals play in delivering local services to patients, and there is an investment programme throughout Wales to improve those services. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Assembly values its community hospitals.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that literally thousands of English tourists will visit Cardiff for the forthcoming cup final. No doubt they will receive a warm welcome from the people of Wales, but will my hon. Friend welcome the same English tourists back to Wales after England has won the World cup?

Nick Ainger: Yes, indeed. In view of the Millennium stadium's proud record in providing facilities for the FA cup final and many other major sporting facilities, I trust that the participants will not have to make use of any of the A and E units in Cardiff.

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