1 May 2001

Q3 Alison Halford:

What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government on the issue of police recruitment in Wales? (OAQ11081)

The First Minister:

None. The four forces in Wales have been allocated 422 recruits from the crime fighting fund over three years until 2002-03. They recruited about 160 officers through the CFF last year and qualified for some £2.3 million of CFF grant. CFF recruits are over and above forces’ previous recruitment plans.

Alison Halford:

We all welcome the 71.4 per cent increase in recruits. However, the UK Government has failed. It admitted the need for statistics on equality of opportunity in our police forces and has—allegedly—not yet collected this data. That means that our well-intentioned policy responses may miss their mark and that Welsh policemen and policewomen continue to suffer prejudice. Do you agree that it would be a tragedy to lose some of these recruits acquired at great financial cost because of lax monitoring of this issue? Will you consider requesting the Assembly’s statistics directorate to begin consultation on the collection of this data in Wales? That would be in accordance with Section 33 of the Government of Wales Act 1998 and would underline our statutory commitment to equality of opportunity in this country and in our police service.

The First Minister:

We would all agree with that. I hope that it would bring even further increases in police numbers in Wales. The numbers have risen over the period since 1997 to 2001 from 6,592 to 6,863.

Glyn Davies:

I am pleased with the last part of your answer because I wanted to ask you a detailed question on it. I knew that you would have the exact figures in your notes. What is the exact figure for the increase in police numbers in Britain and in Wales risen since 1997 when Labour came to power in Westminster and since 1999 when Labour came to power in the Assembly? By how far do those figures fall short of the promises that were made before those elections?

The Presiding Officer:

Order. The First Minister has no responsibility for the conduct of the Labour Government in Westminster. I am sure that he will answer your question as regards Wales.

The First Minister:

I understand that this rise of 270 from 6,592 to 6,863 is a steady year-by-year rise in Wales. I would not like to guarantee that because I do not have it in my briefing. However, an extra 270 on top of the January 1997 total of 6,592 is a reasonably good rise.

Glyn Davies:

The question was how many?

The Presiding Officer:

Order. You have asked one question.

Eleanor Burnham:

Do you agree that it is better to invest in the prevention of crime rather than spending millions on dealing with the consequences of it? Do you accept that if the extra funding for recruitment that was given to police forces last year had been given in 1997, the fear of crime in Wales and the number of offences would be much less?

The First Minster:

Police recruitment is also part of the prevention of crime. The presence of uniformed officers on the street is a part of crime prevention. They reassure those people who might be vulnerable or believe that they are about to become victims of crime. It is as important as having plain-clothed CID officers detecting crime. It is important that people see uniformed officers on the beat. Having them there in greater numbers is part of a good crime prevention policy, although there are many other aspects to that policy also.

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