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Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. I can understand his frustration, but it is not for me to say whether an Act of Parliament passed by the House has been correctly interpreted and applied. I suggest that he pursue his point with the Information Commissioner and the responsible Minister.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 100(1) (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)),

Question agreed to.

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3.33 pm

The Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs (Mr. John Denham): I beg to move,

In the White Paper on policing the 21st century, published before Christmas, the Government set out a radical programme for police reform with the aim of reducing crime and the fear of crime. The public want criminals caught and convicted. They want to see crime tackled, the fear of crime reduced, and antisocial behaviour and disorder tackled effectively. The White Paper sets out the ways in which we shall raise the performance of the police service across England and Wales and bring all forces up to the standard of the best.

The funding settlement that I am announcing today will help to underpin the process of police reform. Resources have been targeted to support the modernisation process. More officers will be provided through investment in the crime fighting fund, and the police service will benefit from more effective support from science, technology and information technology through Airwave and the national strategy for police information systems. We are also providing investment to enable police officers to make better use of their time and skills, through the DNA expansion programme, and there is an increased provision for capital investment in works, vehicles, information technology and other equipment.

Police resources will be maximised to put more officers on the beat, and to make better use of them when they are there. That will be achieved by better deployment of the increasing number of police officers, tackling unnecessary bureaucracy, and enhancing the capacity of support staff.

Central to that vision is an increase in the number of police officers. Our target is to achieve 130,000 officers by the end of the coming financial year. In the past two years, the Government have provided for an additional 6,000 recruits, and a further 3,000 will be financed in the coming year—all outside the general funding for police authorities covered by the police grant that we are discussing today. The crime fighting fund alone is equivalent to an additional £221 million on the provision for policing.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Is there specific provision in the figures that the right hon. Gentleman is announcing for the additional security required following the events on 11 September? Undoubtedly, there must be police officers at our ports of entry and our airports. In Avon and Somerset, 10 police officers who could be patrolling our rural areas are permanently lost to provide cover at Bristol airport. How can we recover that funding and make up for the depleted number of officers who police our rural areas?

Mr. Denham: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. As in any year, the costs of policing terrorist activities and incidents are in part included in the police grant, but the issue of increased costs is under consideration and consultation is taking place with the Association of Chief Police Officers and others. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have already made

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specific provision of some £30 million over and above the police grant in the current financial year. I am not yet in a position to announce the funding for the coming year.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Denham: I would not mind making a little progress, but I shall take one more intervention.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): I want to give the Minister a word of thanks. His Department has reimbursed North Yorkshire police for the extra cost of policing Menwith Hill and Fylingdales in my constituency, and we are grateful for that. The bad news is that North Yorkshire police have still not been reimbursed the £1 million cost of policing the Selby rail crash. This is now an urgent matter, and unless some reassurance can be given before the police committee meeting next Monday, the precept in North Yorkshire, which is already going up by a third, will increase by even more in order to meet that cost.

Mr. Denham: I shall write to the hon. Gentleman as swiftly as I can on the specific issue of Selby. There may be cause to discuss that problem later in the debate. Police authorities are routinely expected to absorb an element of unprecedented and unexpected costs. It has never been the case that every single penny of unexpected costs is reimbursed from the centre. I shall endeavour to get back to the hon. Gentleman regarding the specific matter of Selby.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): My right hon. Friend talks of unexpected costs. He will recall the disturbances in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley last year, which caused serious problems for the police budgets in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. Is he able to give a positive indication that those additional costs will be met?

Mr. Denham: If I may make a little progress, I shall come to that matter in a moment.

As a result of the Government's efforts, we have turned the tide on police numbers. Increases in police funding have brought about a rise in the number of police officers to 127,200, and we shall continue to build on that success this year. We expect to have record numbers of police officers—more than 128,300—in the spring, and 14 forces already have record numbers. After we have reached those record numbers, we shall need another 1,700 officers to reach next year's spring target of 130,000. Financing 3,000 recruits through the crime fighting fund next year should deliver that target.

The number of civilian support staff now stands at 56,644, which is an increase of 2,788 in the year to September 2001. Those extra support officers mean that police can spend more of their time on visible operational policing.

Police authorities and forces have pressed for funds for additional officers for many years. We have provided those funds. Indeed, had we included them in the general

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allocation of grant this year and next, the increase in resources going directly to forces would have been not 2.9 per cent. but about 3.9 per cent.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) rose

Mr. Denham: I will take one more intervention, but I hope that Members will then let me make a little progress. I suspect that many of the issues that they want to raise will be covered later in my speech.

Mrs. Campbell: My constituents are grateful for the 40 extra officers that the Cambridgeshire police have had since September 2000. The police authority, however, maintains that unless the police rate goes up by 10 per cent., Cambridgeshire stands to lose up to 100 officers. Does my right hon. Friend regard that as scaremongering?

Mr. Denham: As my hon. Friend will know, the Cambridgeshire force is one of those that have already achieved record numbers. The determination of the exact precept is a matter for the police authority, but the settlement commits substantial resources to the police in England and Wales as a whole.

The grant allocation does not include the large amount in the crime fighting fund that will pay not just the costs of recruits in the coming year, but the salaries of those recruited in the previous two years of the fund. When that money has not been taken fully into account in the presentation of figures, the true resources available to police authorities are inevitably understated.

The police funding settlement for the coming year builds on last year's record level. Overall provision for policing will increase by 6.1 per cent., to £9,010 million. That is an increase of over 16 per cent. on the provision for 2001. By 2003–04, police funds will have risen to £9.3 billion. That is an increase of more than 20 per cent., or 12 per cent. in real terms, on provision in 2000–01. Most will be paid to police authorities as grant, either for general purposes or to support specific initiatives.

The police grant report deals with Home Office support for revenue expenditure, but revenue spending is not the whole story. I am pleased to say that we have been able to increase the provision of capital grant and supplementary credit approvals from £157.43 million in 2001–02 to £209.43 million in 2002–03. That is a substantial increase—33 per cent. Most forces will receive more capital grant and credit approval for general capital expenditure than they did this year, and none will receive less. With part of the £209 million, we will establish a £20 million grant fund to improve the police estate. The Audit Commission has remarked on the condition of police properties. The increased provision, and the opportunities for forces to bid for more from the capital fund, will lead to modernised working conditions and improved services for members of the public who go to the police.

Let me now deal with general funding. For 2002–03, the total amount of police authority general expenditure to which the Government will contribute police or rate support grant will be £7,831 million. That is an increase of £217 million on this year's provision, adjusted for the move of the National Crime Squad and National Criminal Intelligence Service to central funding. The increase

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amounts to 2.9 per cent., but Members should bear in mind the fact that when provision for specific initiatives and capital is included, it becomes 5 per cent.

I have taken account of a number of factors in the grant settlement. On 1 April 2000, the boundaries of the Metropolitan police district were brought into line with those of the 32 London boroughs. That meant that Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey took over responsibility for the policing of areas that were formerly in the Metropolitan police district.

We have taken account of transitional costs incurred in the last three years. We had intended to discontinue the additional payments for 2002–03, but I have recognised that transitional costs will continue to be incurred, and have extended the payments for one further year. We will therefore be making special payments of grant in 2002–03 totalling £1.1 million in recognition of the additional costs resulting from the boundary changes. Hertfordshire will receive an additional £0.3 million and Surrey an additional £0.8 million.

We accept that the police funding formula is not sufficiently sophisticated or flexible to respond to the distinct characteristics and responsibilities of the Metropolitan police in carrying out capital city and national functions. For that reason, each year the Greater London Authority receives a special payment of grant on behalf of the Metropolitan police authority in addition to that provided through the funding formula.

In recognition of the Metropolitan police service's specific needs, the Metropolitan police special grant will be increased from £191 million this year to £197 million for 2002-03. That is paid as 100 per cent. Home Office grant and is not charged to London council tax payers.

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