8 January 2002

Q1 Alison Halford:

What discussions has the First Minister had with the Home Secretary over the ‘Policing a New Century’ White Paper? (OAQ14859) I wish everybody a happy New Year. 
The First Minister (Rhodri Morgan): I have not discussed ‘Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform’, with the Home Secretary. However, the Home Office consulted Assembly officials on the drafting of the paper, which concentrates on slimming down bureaucracy and reassigning tasks to free-up police officers to do their real and necessary jobs. This follows a recent independent study, ‘Diary of a Police Officer’, which found that officers were spending more time in the station, 43 per cent, than on the streets, 41 per cent.Alison Halford: To speak from experience, things do not change. However, in light of your discussions, what lessons are to be drawn from the events surrounding last week’s football match between Cardiff City and Leeds United, which is a police matter?The First Minister: There are many lessons to be learnt from Sunday’s events. The actions of a mindless few not only ruined a superb sporting victory by the 12 players who represented Cardiff City on that day, but caused lasting damage to Wales’s good image, which may take some months to overcome. I am glad to see that Sam Hammam, the club’s chairman, has also spoken out against those people. I quote his words, which I commend strongly:‘People were throwing objects onto the pitch and that is what I really hate. People who do this are the real enemy. If we catch those people who threw things onto the pitch on Sunday, we will ban them from Ninian Park for life.’I strongly commend those sentiments. However outstanding the job of South Wales Police in keeping rival fans apart, minimising the number of arrests and preventing harm to Leeds United fans, self-restraint by supporters is required. They must concentrate on the football and not on causing damage by throwing bottles at opposition players or referees. Those individuals ruined a great sporting occasion for Wales. 

Dafydd Wigley:

In the context of the White Paper, will the First Minister consider the views expressed by many senior police officers in Wales that the responsibility for the police should be transferred from the Home Office to the National Assembly? Will he confirm that this could be achieved under the Government of Wales Act 1998, by transferring the responsibility to the Wales Office? There is no need for a decision in Westminster. Will he discuss this matter with Paul Murphy?
 

The First Minister:

Edwina Hart, as the relevant Minister, was due to meet Wales’s four chief constables on 14 January but, unfortunately, this has not proved possible. However, we still intend to discuss this transfer, which is a viable option. I believe that all four chief constables are in favour of the transfer, but I cannot say that with certainty until we meet them. We would need wide-ranging consultation before such a step could be taken, but there is considerable support and strong arguments for doing so.

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