Police Uplift Programme Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police Uplift Programme

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement about the Government’s police uplift programme.

Today is a significant day for policing. We can officially announce that our unprecedented officer recruitment campaign has met its target. We said we would recruit an additional 20,000 officers, and we have. We have recruited 20,951 additional officers. This means that we now have a record 149,572 officers across England and Wales.

This is the culmination of a colossal amount of work from forces, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing, the Home Office and beyond. They have my heartfelt gratitude and admiration. I feel honoured and privileged to be holding the baton as we pass the finishing line. I am especially grateful to my right honourable friends the Members for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Witham and North West Hampshire. Their vision and leadership were instrumental in helping us reach this point, and I know they will share my delight today. I pay tribute too to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, who has energetically steered the campaign to its successful conclusion, and to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for his continued support and encouragement.

This was not a simple task. There have been challenges along the way and people doubted our prospects of success, but by sticking to the course and believing unequivocally in the cause, we have done it. To every single new recruit who has joined up and helped us reach our goal, I say thank you. There is no greater or more noble example of public service, and they have chosen a career like no other. Not everyone will be as happy as we are today. Criminals must be cursing their luck, and so they should, because we are coming after them.

Not only are there more officers than ever before but the officer workforce is more diverse than it has ever been. There are now 53,083 female police officers in post, compared with 39,135 in 2010. There are 12,087 officers identifying as ethnic minorities, compared with 6,704 in 2010. There are more officers working in public protection, in local policing and in crime investigations. There are now 725 more officers working in regional organised crime units tackling serious and organised crime, as we promised.

While it is right that today we pause and reflect on the success of the uplift programme, this is not the end. This is not just about hitting a number. It is about making a real and tangible difference to the lives of people we serve and the communities they live in. It is the latest step in our mission to crush crime and make our country safer. The public want to see bobbies on the beat; we have delivered. The public want courageous and upstanding public servants in whom they can have pride and, most importantly, whom they can trust. Now the public quite rightly expect forces to maximise the increased strength and resources available to them. They want to see criminals caught and locked up, and to feel safe and secure, whether in their homes, online or out and about. They want the police to focus on the issues that matter most to them.

We have made good progress already. Crime is going in the right direction, falling in England and Wales by 50% since 2010, excluding fraud and computer misuse, with burglary falling 56%, robbery by 57% and criminal damage by 65% over the same period. Figures also show reductions in homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime since December 2019. On homicide, reductions are being made, with the numbers 6% lower than in December 2019 as of September 2022. Now we need policing to work with partners to ensure that these reductions are maintained.

Crime is a broad and ever-evolving menace, which is why we are addressing it from all angles. We are acting to turn the tide on drugs misuse through our 10-year strategy, and our crackdown on county lines has yielded excellent results. We have stepped up efforts to tackle domestic abuse, violence against women and girls, and child sexual abuse. Our twin-track approach to tackling serious violence is bedding in and having a real impact. We are supporting law enforcement in the ongoing fight against serious and organised crime, terrorism, cybercrime and fraud. We have shown that when our constituents raise concerns about an issue, we listen and we act. That was demonstrated recently with the publication of our comprehensive plan to drive anti-social behaviour out of our communities and neighbourhoods.

We will keep up the momentum. We will challenge and support the police in equal measure. We expect police forces to maintain officer numbers at the levels delivered by the uplift and are pushing them to drive up standards and drive down crime. It is vital that forces seize this opportunity. As the Home Secretary has made clear, common-sense policing is the way forward. This is our mantra, and it should be a guiding principle for forces too.

For the Government’s part, we are holding up our side of the bargain. That includes measures I announced earlier this month to cut red tape that gets in the way of real police work. It includes the steps we are taking on ethics, integrity and conduct, as policing strives to secure and retain public trust, which has been shaken by recent reports and cases. Before I finish, I want to highlight that I will be holding a drop-in surgery here in the large ministerial room from 3 pm today for any colleagues who wish to discuss the uplift programme.

We said we would recruit 20,000 additional police officers; we have delivered. We said we would bear down relentlessly on crime; we have delivered. I am proud of what we have achieved, but there is more to come. To the decent, law-abiding majority, I say this: we have got your back. Your safety is our number one priority. My message to the criminals is this: we are coming for you, you will be caught and you will face justice.

More police, less crime, safer streets and common-sense policing: those are the pillars upon which our approach is built. Today, as we mark another hugely significant step forward in that mission, we reaffirm our commitment to do everything in our power to protect the public. I commend this Statement to the House.”

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Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, this is obviously a Statement that the Government are pleased to make but, unfortunately, the rhetoric does not lead to change, which is what the public will be looking for. A huge number of questions fall out of the programme and tell you something about the way in which policing takes place in this country.

What we are seeing, of course, is that record numbers of police are leaving the police force while new people come in. Does this record number of police leaving mean that we are basically trading inexperience for experience? In 2021-22, the last year for which figures are available, 8,117 police officers left the profession; that is a 20-year high. Can the Minister tell us whether that figure is reflected in the figures up to the end of March this year and whether, again, we are seeing that change? Clearly, what we need is an experienced profession.

The second thing that the uplift programme shows is the number of people in various age groups within the new police forces around the country. If you look carefully the figures for those aged 55 and over, you see that they represent only some 1.8% of the police force. Has that figure been shared, not in this financial year but in previous years? Is that an accelerating figure, with the number of older police officers declining? At present 38% of the force are aged 45 or over. Was that figure higher or lower in the past?

The other question that needs raising is how police officers are recruited. We have had a series of questions back and forth with the Minister about the way in which police officers are recruited and we know that some 50% of all recruited police officers do not have a face-to-face interview with another police officer. I know that the Minister has replied to my questions and said that this is being altered. I have read what the Government intend to do with the police college and to make that change work, but we certainly need to be reassured that the right people are getting into the police force and we are not seeing the sort of problems that we have seen in the very recent past.

If you want true community policing, what sense does it make to lose all the community support officers that we have had? Since 2015, 4,000 police support officer posts have been lost and since 2019, given that that is the bedrock date that the Minister wants to work from, 1,284 community police officer posts have been lost. The great advantage for those of us who remember the way in which those support officers worked around our communities is that they were seen on the streets; they were what you might call “bobbies on the beat”. They were an essential part of that. As the Minister knows, you do not put one policeman on the beat; you used to put a policeman with a PCSO. So it is two police officers now, because the number of PCSOs has dropped.

The real test of this measure is: will the quality and nature of the service that people get change? Some 275 car thefts per day in the past year went unsolved, and just 3.4% of car thefts resulted in a charge. Also, 574 burglaries went unsolved and only 6% resulted in a charge. The sort of result that people want to see is people being charged and found guilty of the crimes that are being committed against them. Clearly that has not happened. The test for the Government is how community policing is going to work in the future. A recent Savanta poll found that four in 10 UK adults have installed in the past year CCTV, stronger locks, alarm systems or camera doorbells, all of which demonstrates that people are worried about crime and about these crimes being detected, which they have not been as yet.

One thing absent from the Statement is any mention of cybersecurity. Those of us who have been privileged to hear what is happening in this Parliament will know of the battle against those who are trying to burst into the security of our nation. Can the Minister tell us what resource is going to go into the battle of the future against those who are causing cybercrime?

Finally, there is the issue of head count versus full-time equivalents. The Government in the published Statement say that there is little difference—some 1% or 2%. However, 1% or 2% of experienced people who are doing the work that we want to see done is a considerable number. What we are seeing here is a shell without the interior. The interior has to be made to work for the communities of this country and I am not certain that that is the progress which the Government have made.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their comments. Since I arrived in your Lordships’ House, every debate and Question has been a demand for more from the Government—money, resources and so on. We have finally delivered more, on time and on budget, and, if I am honest, I am a bit disappointed with the response. However, I will do my best to answer the questions that have been put to me.

To forestall any questions about fraud and the cybersecurity aspects that will be asked, I will alert noble Lords to the fact that the fraud strategy is going to be published this week. There will be more to be said on that, and as a consequence I am not able to go into detail about it.

Before I go into detailed answers to the questions, the data that I read out in the Statement was in fact a little out of date, because on Thursday last week the Crime Survey for England and Wales published its latest data, which takes us up to December 2022. That shows that all crime, excluding fraud and computer misuse, has fallen by 52% since March 2010, from 9.5 million incidents in the year ending March 2010 to 4.65 million in the year ending December 2022—a reduction of 4.978 million.

The latest data from the crime survey shows a 12% decrease in all CSEW crime since the year ending March 2020 and a 14% decrease in all crime since the year ending December 2019. There were 1.5 million incidents of neighbourhood crime estimated by the crime survey for the year ending December 2022, a fall of 26%, compared with the year ending March 2020. I could go on, but I think the data supports the fact that the police have been doing a good job and, hopefully, with this uplift in numbers, will continue to do so. I remind the House that there are now over 149,500—more than ever before. The Government are determined to cut crime and make our streets safer. Over the course of the police uplift programme, 46,505 new recruits have joined police forces. I will come back to that in a moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about charge rates. I agree that the current data on charge rates is concerning. We expect police forces to get the basics right, to focus on common-sense policing and to work with partners across the criminal justice system to see more criminals charged and prosecuted. But that is a shared responsibility and the system needs to work better to catch criminals and help victims of crime.

With regard to online crime, as I said, the fraud strategy will be published this week. However, to put some numbers on that, we have already committed £400 million over the next three years to bolster law enforcement’s response to economic crime. The strategy will set out a co-ordinated response from government, law enforcement and the private sector to better protect the public and increase the disruption and prosecution of fraudsters.

The subject of vetting has quite rightly come up. The Government have been clear that all police forces must meet the high standards that the public expect, and that forces must root out those who are unfit for service at the very first opportunity. It is of the utmost importance that robust processes are in place to stop the wrong people joining the police in the first place, which is why we have invested in improving recruitment processes and supporting vetting as part of the £3 billion of funding provided to forces to recruit and maintain officers. New recruits will have been vetted in line with the College of Policing’s Vetting Code of Practice and relevant vetting APP, which were first established in 2017. The APP is due for an upgrade very shortly, as noble Lords will be aware.

On neighbourhood policing, there are now more officers working in public protection, local policing and crime investigations. Thousands of additional officers are already out on the streets, and the latest data available shows that overall 91% of police officers were in front-line roles. The uplift programme provides the opportunity to ensure that we have the officers that policing needs, both to respond to the increase in demand and to take a more proactive response to managing that demand, including crime prevention.

The noble Lord, Lord German, asked about the attrition rates. We have made it very clear to police forces that the large investment we have put into policing means that we expect officer numbers across England and Wales to be maintained throughout 2023-24. The police uplift programme was designed to provide a genuine uplift of 20,000 officers that accounts for attrition rates. Voluntary resignation rates in policing are at less than 3%, which is low compared to other sectors. Policing is obviously a career like no other, and the results of our latest survey of new recruits showed a positive onboarding experience overall: 82% of respondents are satisfied with the job, and 77% intend to continue as police officers for the rest of their working lives. Those numbers are very encouraging.

The noble Lord also asked me, perfectly reasonably, about face-to-face contact. In February, the College of Policing wrote to all chief constables with updated and reissued guidance on post-assessment in-force interviews. The college reiterated the importance of those interviews and that all forces should deliver them using college assessment standards to ensure the same quality nationally. The college expected forces to have implemented the updated guidance by the end of last month. Following the issuing of new guidance by the college on post-online assessment centre interviews, the latest data provided by the college shows that 38 forces are currently using a post-assessment interview and that four plan to do so with their next cohorts.

The noble Lord, Lord German, also mentioned CCTV—as if it somehow indicates against the quality of the data I have already shared with your Lordships’ House, and that there is more, shall I say, concern about crime in local areas. Of course, people are right to be concerned. However, perhaps it also demonstrates that this equipment and technology is cheaper and more readily available than ever before and, more to the point, that it can be installed on a Sunday afternoon by oneself.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is quite right: the numbers have consequences for everyday lives, which is why I believe that your Lordships’ House should support them. I certainly do not believe that any of this is irrelevant.

Lord Soames of Fletching Portrait Lord Soames of Fletching (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the tenor and content of the Statement my noble friend the Minister read out. However, does he agree with me that one of the principal problems our police forces have is the lack of quality in their leadership at middle-rank and senior-rank levels? Will he consider looking at the way the Armed Forces trains its officers to ensure that, when police officers take positions of senior command, they are prepared and wholly trained for such awesome responsibilities?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend makes some solid points. It is undeniable that some of the incidents which have been seen over the past few years, and which are coming to light now, are a consequence of a failure of leadership. I am pleased that the leadership of the country’s main police force is in very good hands, and I support Sir Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police in the work he has to do. My noble friend also makes some very good points about leadership more generally. I believe—and I will be asking about this more frequently—that the College of Policing is working on the reinstatement of a national police college to ensure rigorous, nationally consistent standards.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, it is no fault of the Minister, but metaphors about passing batons and crossing finishing lines will be seen to be complacent and even insensitive by many victims of sexual and violent crime in particular. I share the concerns expressed repeatedly on all sides of your Lordships’ House that, when reversing drastic police cuts in a hurry, there will be issues with the quality of recruitment, vetting, training and discipline, as we have heard. So, rather than constantly batting this off to the College of Policing, will the Government take responsibility and propose a clear timeline for a legislative framework of standards across the nation for all those vital matters?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Baroness will be aware that a number of ongoing reviews on matters such as dismissals are due to conclude very shortly. She makes some very good points about victims, and we are committed to delivering justice for victims and putting some of the vile offenders referred to behind bars for longer, but there is obviously still a long way to go. We have previously discussed at the Dispatch Box some of the factors the noble Baroness mentioned and, while I will not go into them in detail again, I note that programmes such as Operation Soteria are delivering meaningful results.

Lord Vaux of Harrowden Portrait Lord Vaux of Harrowden (CB)
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The noble Lord was quite right in saying that I was going to mention fraud. The Statement says that crime is falling, excluding fraud. Fraud remains a substantial growth industry and now accounts for over 40% of all crime against the individual. The noble Lord agreed last week that the current level of law enforcement resources aimed at it is insufficient. He skilfully shot my fox earlier by referring to the national fraud strategy that is to be issued this week, which is an improvement on “imminently” and “shortly”. How many of these 20,591 officers who have been recruited have specialist fraud skills?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord asks a question which I cannot answer at the moment. I will endeavour to find out those statistics and I would hope that some of those questions about resourcing will be dealt with on publication of the strategy this week. As regards the overall uplift, as I said earlier, 91% of the new intake, as it were, are involved in frontline policing.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, while the diversity statistics my noble friend outlined are encouraging, in terms of women and ethnic minorities they are still not proportionate to the population. Is not one of the issues that many police forces have, particularly the Met, retaining those staff? Can my noble friend outline how we are going to monitor—maybe with swifter inspections from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services—whether they retain their female and ethnic minority staff and promote them at the same rate as their white officers?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend makes some very good points. Obviously, as she would expect me to say, these are matters for local police forces themselves. However, I absolutely take the point, and we should all be involved in making sure that retention and lack of attrition remains as it is.

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott (Lab)
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My Lords, I find it pretty astonishing that the Government should call for national rejoicing that they have finally got the level of policing up to the level of 13 years ago, under the last Labour Government. An apology for all the cuts that were made in the early years of this Government would be in order. As for comments in the Statement such as criminals now “must be cursing their luck” because the figures have gone up, the inevitable response is that immediately after 2010, criminals must have been rejoicing at the savage cuts made to policing—to dangerous levels—in many cities in this country.

The Minister still has not answered a couple of specific questions that were put to him. First, we are told that these 20,000 new recruits have been recruited since 2019. How many people have left the police service during that precise period, and is that allowed for in describing the number of police officers available today? Secondly, this mass recruitment is obviously to be welcomed, but can he tell us how many of these new recruits actually leave the police service before they have completed their probationary period? It is no use having the police officers unless they give a substantial period of service after they have been trained.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, in fact there are more policemen than under the last Labour Government: 3,542 more, to be precise. The fact is that demand for policing has changed since 2010, which is why in 2019 the Government made this commitment to increase the number of police officers by 20,000, to help the police respond. I am afraid that I cannot say how many of this new intake will complete their probationary period, as, obviously, some will still be in their probationary period. I will endeavour to find out the statistics and come back to the noble Lord. On the number who left, I have already gone into the statistics in some detail on the number who were recruited, as well as the attrition statistics.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, it is very good to hear the Minister speak about police uplift. I am certainly not asking for more and more but I am asking for more join-up. I am really concerned about the “we are coming for you” rhetoric being part of the solution, and the sense that if we simply arrest more people and send more people to prison, we will reduce reoffending. There was nothing in the data about the high rate of reoffending. Unless we look at what is going on in our prisons, at how we rehabilitate people and address some of the systemic issues relating to why people offend in the first place, we will not be doing that join-up across the criminal justice system. I am really concerned about the rhetoric whereby, if you arrest more people and lock them up for longer, our streets will be safer; the data simply does not reflect that. Will the Minister say more about the join-up across the whole of the criminal justice system?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate has made some very good points. The public would expect charge, arrest and prevention rates to increase from the current levels. However, without work on reoffending and the criminal justice system in the round, as the right reverend Prelate suggests, I think that things will fail to improve as much as we would all like. I cannot give her any precise details but, when it comes to the drug strategy, work is being done between the Ministry of Justice, the criminal justice system more generally and the Home Office on reoffending and referring people to preventive programmes at an earlier stage. That should yield some results.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
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Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to Paul Sanford, who was appointed Norfolk chief constable in 2021? He made it among his priorities to clamp down on the county lines and low-level antisocial behaviour, and he has succeeded in both areas. However, is the Minister aware that rural counties such as Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire are facing quite profound problems with the police funding formula? As a consequence, Paul Sanford’s predecessor had to scrap the police community support officer programme. What can the Minister say about those counties that have suffered relative to other counties in funding and their desire to reinstate that programme in future?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his question and I am happy to join him in congratulating the chief constable whom he has mentioned. As for the funding formula, I do not have the precise details in front of me. However, as I said in the Statement, the demand has changed over the past 10 years. If the funding has changed, that will be a reflection of the change in demand.

Viscount Stansgate Portrait Viscount Stansgate (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister’s Statement refers to the importance of public trust. As the House will know, in the case of the Metropolitan Police, that is understandably very low—indeed, the Metropolitan Police is itself on probation. To follow up his answer to my noble friend a moment ago about probation, do the Government keep figures on the current number of police officers in the Metropolitan Police who are on probation? Do the Government have an estimate of those who are expected to pass through their probation to become finally qualified police officers?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am glad that the noble Viscount has raised the subject of the Metropolitan Police. It is a little disappointing that it is one of the only forces—in fact, the only force—that did not meet its targets in police uplift, with only an additional 3,468 officers recruited, whereas the target was for 4,557, and the funding was there to do that. As for the probationary statistics that the noble Viscount asked for, as I said in answer to an earlier question, I am afraid that I do not have them to hand, but I shall endeavour to find them and communicate them to the noble Viscount.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
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My Lords, the composition of police forces should reflect the community that they represent. Why has recruitment of those from ethnic-minority and diverse communities been so low in the Metropolitan Police?

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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That I cannot answer but, as I said, in the national picture, the fact is that we have more officers identifying as ethnic minorities than ever before.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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My Lords, as the Minister said, it is not just about hitting a target; it is also about public trust. How concerned is he about the media reports around police recruitment of unsuitable so-called rogue candidates being given jobs, precisely to meet government targets? The police inspectorate has said explicitly that hundreds of people have joined the police in the past three years who simply should not have. If the Minister recognises this, what is he going to do to address it?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I hope that I have gone into reasonable detail about the standards of vetting that are required and expected. I also point out that there were 10 applicants for every job, which implies—or should imply, at least—that there is a reasonable pool from which to choose and, I hope, get the right people. That is of course not a guarantee that there will not be a few bad apples in this particular barrel, but I sincerely hope that there are not—but perhaps I might be surprised if there are not as well.

Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Portrait Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon (Lab)
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My Lords, even with the police uplift programme, since 2010 there are 9,000 fewer police officers, and 6,000 fewer on the beat in real terms. Does the Minister think that this programme is sufficient, given that 90% of crimes go unsolved every year, or are the Government considering further action?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness asks me to comment on operational policing matters. I have talked a bit about neighbourhood policing activities; I have also, on a number of occasions, said that 91% of policemen are involved in front-line activities. These are really issues that should be debated between police and crime commissioners and chief constables, depending on the area.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Bellingham said, rural crime takes on a life of its own. North Yorkshire was the first police force, I understand, to create a rural task force. Will the Home Office give a specific target for rural crime to ensure that the funding for such task forces is secured going forward?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend will be aware that, as I said in answer to the previous question, these are operational matters for chief constables and police and crime commissioners—and, of course, in the case of police and crime commissioners, the people who elect them.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, this will not wash. The people outside know that crime is going up; they know that there are not the police numbers on the street. How will the Government make sure that these criminals get longer sentences when there are no places in prison for them?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is wrong: crime is going down and there are more police officers than ever before. That is according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which the Office for National Statistics recognises as the most reliable source of those statistics. As for inviting me to comment on sentencing practices and so on, which obviously stray into the responsibilities of other government departments, I am not going to do that.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister has given us a great deal of data this afternoon. However, the proportion of front-line officers is lower today than in any year since 2011, while the proportion of officers in organisational support is higher today than in any year since 2011. Have the Government considered the merits of committing to a target for putting more police and PCSOs on the streets in our nations and regions?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I say to the noble Baroness that, again, that is an invitation to comment on operational policing matters, which depend very much on local circumstances. However, 91% of all police are currently in front-line roles and, as I have already said, the nature of that—the demand, if you like—has changed over the last decade and it would not be wise for me to speculate as to how that demand has changed in various local areas.

Lord Watson of Wyre Forest Portrait Lord Watson of Wyre Forest (Lab)
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My Lords, just last week we heard that the Met Police may be failing to identify serial killers, in the wake of the appalling case of Stephen Port. The report identified five key failings: lack of training; poor supervision; unacceptable record-keeping; confusing policies; and inadequate intelligence procedures. How are the Government urgently supporting the Met to fix this?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The Government’s support for Sir Mark Rowley has been very clear indeed, and I am happy to wish him very well in his endeavours over the coming months. He has a very large set of responsibilities on his shoulders and, as far as I can see, he is discharging them well. The noble Lord asked me about operational policing in London. He will be aware that the responsibility for that, as the police and crime commissioner, is with the Mayor of London.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, 41% of crime is fraud, so why does the Minister keep using figures that do not include fraud?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The fraud strategy will be published this week.

Lord Weir of Ballyholme Portrait Lord Weir of Ballyholme (DUP)
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My Lords, while the Government make a virtue of the fact that police numbers in England have started to turn marginally upwards, in Northern Ireland we have reached a point at which the security threat is the highest it has been for many years from terrorist and dissident organisations, and yet the number of police officers in Northern Ireland is perhaps the lowest it has been in many decades, if not the entire history of the state. What representations have Ministers been making to their colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office to ensure that the citizens of Northern Ireland are given an equal level of protection from crime and terrorist actions?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The picture that the noble Lord paints is obviously concerning. I will say that this is not a marginal uplift but a substantial uplift. As regards specific circumstances in Northern Ireland, I am afraid I cannot answer his question on the numbers, but I will investigate and come back to him.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)
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My Lords, I think there is general agreement that trust has declined since 2010. We need to restore that as best we can. Knowing the Minister, I was rather surprised by his throwaway line in response to some of the questions about trust. When he said that there will be “a few bad apples”, I found that rather complacent. The police inspectorate has said that, of the people being recruited into the police force, some hundreds have come in within the past three years who should not be there. We know the plan that has been set in place to try to avoid a repetition of this in the future, but what is happening to try to root out the 300 or so that are around?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am sorry if I sounded complacent to the noble Lord. It was really just a reflection on the statistics of this, as with any normal distribution—the noble Lord will know how normal distributions of population cohorts and so on work out. That is all that that comment was meant to reflect. As regards the numbers of police that have been recruited, I have commented extensively on the vetting processes. The dismissals review, which I referred to earlier, is concluding this month. I hope that we will have a lot more to say very soon on how that process will be strengthened.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I am sorry: the Minister has not answered my question about the fraud strategy. The Government have been consistently excluding fraud from the reporting of crimes —why?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. I am sorry if I seemed to evade the question. The simple fact of the matter is that I cannot comment on the strategy because I have not seen it, it is due to be published this week, and it will address all the various questions that the noble Lord has asked me—in other words, I do not know.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, as we have heard from my noble friend Lady Lawrence, even with the police uplift programme, there is still a shortage of over 9,000 police officers. As well as the decimation of neighbourhood policing that that has caused, many of the officers lost in earlier rounds of cuts will have been among the most experienced and highly trained; for example, officers trained in specialist intelligence, firearms and dealing with sexual offences. This has put immense pressure on those left behind to hold the fort and may explain, for example, why only 1% of rape offences reach a conviction. What assessment have the Government carried out of the impact of this loss of experience, and how long will it take to build back up so that the specialist officer posts can be filled?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right to talk about specialist skills and experience. I do not recognise the 9,000 number: as I have said repeatedly this afternoon, we have record numbers of police. I am afraid I cannot answer, as with the question that the noble Lord, Lord German, asked, about age distribution and so on. I can say that certain specific programmes, such the one I referenced earlier, Operation Soteria, are delivering very strong results. The necessary people are being trained in the right way in dealing with some of the things that are of significant public concern.