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Thirdly, the Home Secretary will apply additional rule 2. In the past, the Home Secretary distributed specific grants such as the rural policing grant, the forensic grant and the initial police learning and development programme grant. Ministers decided to amalgamate those grants, so that police authorities would have more control over how a number of those
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funds were used; that was sensible. The distribution of those amalgamated moneys under the additional rule is determined by the principal formula. Fourthly, the Home Office will distribute specific grants. I will not repeat what the Minister said, but there is, of course, a separate pot for counter-terrorism. He also referred to the crime fighting fund and the ring-fencing of funds for neighbourhood policing, all of which we support.

Finally, the police grant floors are applied. The introduction of the principal formula in 1995 was designed to reflect the resource needs of police forces. However, to ensure that the introduction of the formula did not leave forces facing widespread financial instability, floors have been introduced. They guarantee that each police force receives a minimum percentage increase in the police budget, and we heard something about that from the Minister. Notwithstanding his statement, there remains serious concern among police authorities and police forces, in all parts of the country, about how the police grant formula is calculated; the Minister understands that concern because he is a well-informed and listening Minister.

The floors mean that forces cannot receive an increase below 2.5 per cent., even if the principal formula has determined that they do not require such a level of funding. Equally, a police force that should, according to the formula, receive a higher amount will have its grant scaled downwards. As the Flanagan report illustrated, using 2007-08 figures, that meant, at the extreme ends, that the West Midlands force had its grant scaled down by 11 per cent., or £48 million in nominal terms. Bedfordshire received 6 per cent., and Thames Valley police 4 per cent.—less than they would have done if the formula was applied in its raw form. The funds that are taken away from one force are given to another, and that has meant that some forces, such as Northumbria, have received over 12 per cent. more.

Her Majesty’s Opposition welcome the removal of the ceiling, which the Minister’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), announced last year when he was Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing. However, I think that all of us—this might even extend to the Minister, judging from his comments—remain less than clear about the future for grant floors. It is worth reminding ourselves of what Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s report on the future of policing said of grant floors:

how prescient Sir Ronnie was; he said that in February 2008, before the credit crunch—

He was referring to the floors. He went on to propose the following:

as a result of that relaxation.

The Home Affairs Committee supported Sir Ronnie’s proposal. It produced an excellent report, “Policing in the 21st Century”, and I see that the Chairman of the Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), is present. The report was thoughtful, and
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it avoided party politicking and cheap points. Neither he nor I indulge in that kind of business when we are talking about the serious matter of policing the United Kingdom. The report said:

Can the Minister confirm that the Home Office will implement that proposal, and will he give us his detailed thoughts on it? The Select Committee and Sir Ronnie—an independent adviser to the Home Secretary—think that it is a good idea. Where are we on that?

In November, in a written ministerial statement relating to the settlement that we are considering, the Home Office said:

That is reassuring, but the House would be grateful for a bit more specificity on how far that review has gone. Will the Minister show a bit of ankle—to use a colloquialism—and share a bit more detail on how far he has got with that review? Will he say when we might expect an interim announcement on where the Government have got to? Again, this is not a matter of party politics; all of us with a concern about policing need to hear the Minister say more about the future for the formula on the record.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say something about population figures, because I think that that is an area of technical inadequacy with which all Members on both sides of the House have problems. On 27 November 2007, the then Minister for Borders and Immigration, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne), told the Home Affairs Committee that the funding formula used to allocate money to the police for 2008 to 2010 would draw on 2004 national population projections

Population projection figures form an integral part of the policing formula, as we all know, so is it really acceptable that the budget that we are debating is distributed according to a formula that is fed with data from 2004? I know that the Minister cannot wave a magic wand and get a sub-national version of a census for certain areas, or even a national census before the due date, but he might want to share some of the thinking about the inadequacy of the data, to which his former Home Office colleague, by implication, ’fessed up and drew our attention.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman raises an issue that he knows affects my constituency significantly. The inter-census estimation of the population of Slough underestimates its population substantially. As a result, we, a multiracial community, are under-policed. Although the Minister has confirmed again that the money is in the budget, the situation is made worse by the fact that the south-east allowance is not being uprated because it is stuck in the Police Negotiating Board. Perhaps the Minister could, in his summing up, reassure places such as Slough that he will take into account all those issues to make sure that those places, which face real policing challenges, have enough money to deal with those challenges.

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Mr. Ruffley: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I have heard her talk in many forums, not least fairly recently on Radio 4, about her constituency and the problems that she outlines. She is a doughty and persistent debater on that point, drawing to the attention of Ministers what needs to be done for her constituency—and there are others in the same position.

The second point that the hon. Lady raises is also tremendously important. I pay tribute to the Minister, because this time last week, in a debate held in Westminster Hall on the Thames Valley police force area, he said something interesting in response to a question from the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter). It was along the lines—we have new information from the Minister—that the PNB could be talked to by the Minister. I paraphrase his words. He undertook to have a word about what the PNB was doing in relation to the south-east allowance. Like the hon. Lady, I wonder whether the Minister could give us an update on any discussions that he or his officials have had since last Wednesday in relation to the PNB and the south-east allowance. That is hugely important for all Members in that region. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for reminding me of that point, so that I can remind the Minister of what he said last Wednesday.

According to ACPO, police forces in Kent, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire have suffered particularly from underfunding. By “particularly” I mean that they have gone out of their way to send briefing to me on these issues, which other police force areas also face. The problem that they have is the gap between predicted and real population figures. Their concerns were drawn together in a presentation given by Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell to the Home Office migration impacts forum on 16 July 2008. There was also a report in The Sunday Times on 27 January last year, in which Kent police observed that the total additional cost caused by immigration at that time stood at £34 million over the three years to that date.

The extra costs of immigration have not been fully recognised in the funding settlement. The chief constable of Cambridgeshire famously gave oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee. It strikes me that that Committee teases out some interesting evidence and findings, which provide those who scrutinise Ministers with a great deal of ammunition. Chief Constable Spence said:

in 2007, when she gave evidence. She went on:

Even the former Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing, the right hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) said in oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee at the end of 2007 that

That was refreshing candour from the Minister’s predecessor, but we need to hear from the Minister today what has been done. That statement was made at the end of 2007, and there is something on the record about technical changes. We need to know whether it is just down to the Home Office, or to the Home Office together with other Departments, to get this sorted.

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The costs to police forces caused by migration, and the translation costs flowing from that, are an extra specific cost of policing. Under a freedom of information request that I issued to forces in United Kingdom, among the 44 forces that responded, there had been a 63 per cent. increase in the cost to those forces of providing interpretation and translation services. In Kent, there had been a 30 per cent. increase, from about £320,000 in 2003-04 to more than £422,000 in 2007-08. In Thames Valley, there has been a whacking 127 per cent. increase in that period. In my constituency in Suffolk, there has been an 86 per cent. increase in translation and interpretation costs in that period—from £113,000 to £210,000.

A report by KPMG in 2007 concluded that Cambridgeshire required an additional 100 police officers to cover the additional work load generated by policing foreign nationals—that was their definition, not ours. The report, “The changing demography of Cambridgeshire”, September 2007, is published by Cambridgeshire constabulary. The methodology behind the funding formula will mean that an additional work load is not being taken into account when these grant moneys are calculated.

On 11 June 2008, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a cross-departmental migration impacts plan that sets up a transitional impacts migration fund from 2009-10. Although the report acknowledged the cost to policing, it was not clear to me whether police authorities could apply for money from the new fund to mitigate the cost of immigration. That was until I heard the Minister’s remarks earlier in today’s debate. For the sake of clarity, can he explain how police authorities can apply for that money? Is there any limit on the amount they can apply for? When can they apply for it? What criteria need to be met? Above all, we need a clear statement of what the review status of the funding formula will be before the next comprehensive spending review starts its progress inside government. Will a new, more dynamic projected population methodology be utilised—yes, no or maybe?

The Flanagan report said:

That is my real concern, as that is not always flagged up in debates such as this. We have heard about neighbourhood policing, which is hugely important for level 1, but let us not forget level 2 and level 3 resourcing, as Sir Ronnie Flanagan urges.

The Bill that the Minister and I are spending many enjoyable mornings and afternoons this month debating in Committee Room 11 refers to mandation powers relating to collaboration arrangements between forces in England and Wales. Part of the debate tomorrow relates to the level 2 gap in protective services, which is acknowledged by the Government, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, the Opposition and everyone else, but it is not clear to me how the funding formula and the statement from the Minister take account of the resource implications that specific forces mention when they are trying to improve their policy and operational response to serious and organised crime across county and national borders.

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In his final report, Sir Ronnie stated in paragraph 2.61 that

Will the Minister comment on that? Will his funding review, not just the statement in the House today, say something on Sir Ronnie’s point about protective services?

I know that other hon. Members wish to make a contribution, so I shall draw my remarks to a conclusion. There is the added cost of dealing with alcohol-related crime. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) on the Front Bench has done much valuable work in drawing attention to the huge policing cost of alcohol-related crime, as has the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, in the report to which I referred earlier.

The most recent British crime survey, from July last year, stated that 45 per cent. of all victims of violence described their assailant as being under the influence of alcohol at the time. There is a wealth of evidence from chief constables as well. Chief Constable Stephen Otter of Cornwall and Devon Constabulary, said that since 2004-05 there has been a

Indeed, a Cabinet Office review as far back as 2003 said that, on average, it costs £59 more to process an arrestee who has committed an alcohol-related offence than a comparable arrestee whose offence is not alcohol-related. I am sure that the figure is a lot higher if the figures that we have all seen on the costs of bureaucracy and process are anything to go by.

There is a problem with the 24-hour licensing laws. Is the Minister considering Her Majesty’s Opposition’s innovative, radical and much-needed call for discretion to be given to local authorities in new legislation so that they can decide how the 24-hour licensing rules are applied in their areas? The policing formula does not take into account the extra cost of officers trained by forces around London who move to work in the Met; that was the subject of our debate last week, and we have heard about the allowance for the south-east.

In conclusion, in its own right the grant settlement is tight, and we understand why. Given the additional pressures from the economic collapse that this country is experiencing, police authorities face and will face severe financial pressures if they just maintain the current levels of service to local people. We have to make sure that the current structure for distributing the police grant is robust and fair. As I hope I have made clear, there are serious concerns about how the funding formula operates. The review of the police funding arrangements in advance of the next comprehensive spending review provides an excellent opportunity to address the deficiencies, to which I and other hon. Members have drawn attention, in the current distribution process. I look forward to the Minister’s response to our challenge to him—that is, to explain his current thinking.

1.41 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley), who is shadow police Minister. I probably
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agreed with almost everything that he said. Either I am on the wrong side of the House or he is; I cannot decide who is in the right place. On behalf of members of the Select Committee on Home Affairs who are not here, I thank him for his kind words about the Committee’s report, “Policing in the 21st Century”.

I have had conversations with the hon. Gentleman about the report; he told me that he had read it with great interest. I know that the Minister has as well, and we look forward to the Government’s response and to the Minister’s appearance before us to answer questions about it. There is absolutely no point in such kind words being said about the report, and its being generally well received by the Government and the Opposition, if our recommendations are not implemented. We look forward to that process happening.

I repeat what I said in my brief intervention on the Minister. He knows that I am a great fan of his. Since he has taken on his portfolio, he has been very willing to discuss policing issues with all Members of the House, especially members of the Select Committee. The way in which the Government dealt with the whole process is a good model for the future. If I can be partisan for a moment, I should say that when the Minister announced that Leicestershire was going to be capped, there was great worry among Members from all parties from the city and county, who had been concerned about the possibility of the cap. The Minister for Local Government, who was here at the beginning of the debate, had meetings with those Members and the present Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, the police Minister’s predecessor. The Minister for Local Government listened to our points about the special case of Leicestershire, and I am pleased to say that he accepted that case. Far too often, Governments make decisions and say that they want to consult but do not do so; this Government and these Ministers, however, have shown that they are prepared to consult and listen.

Leicestershire is aware that, in a sense, the party is over. There are no unlimited funds available for policing. I shall not repeat the statistics mentioned by the Minister and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, but there has been a large increase in the police force budget in the past 10 years. There have been more police officers on the beat and more police community support officers—a role that we invented. The increase has been extremely important and positive. The overall allocation this year is £8 billion-plus and a few hundred thousand here and there, which is a huge amount of money. In Leicestershire, we welcome the 2.8 per cent. increase that we are to have, because that will allow us to continue the services that we provide.

I wish to make only three points during my brief contribution. Originally, I thought that this debate would last an hour and a half—hence my glares at both Minister and shadow Minister. I then realised that there were another two hours to go. Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be pleased to hear that I am not going to speak for that whole period, because other Members wish to participate and I am sure that there will be a wind-up from the Minister.

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