David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West, raised the urgent issue of the effect of red tape on the police during yesterday’s oral questions to the Home Office.
"Mr. Jones: A recent survey of members of the North Wales Police Federation found that more than 50 per cent. of the officers questioned reported levels of morale at the lower end of the scale. When they were asked what measures could be put in place to enable them significantly to improve their performance, the top three answers were that there should be more police officers, that bureaucracy should be reduced and that there should be fewer targets. Does the Minister consider that the low morale found in north Wales is representative of the police in general? What is the Home Office doing to address the bureaucratic, target-driven culture that is clearly contributing to it?
Mr. Coaker: The hon. Gentleman will know that police officer numbers are at historically high levels. He will also know of the measures that we are taking to reduce bureaucracy, not least the appointment of Jan Berry as the reducing bureaucracy champion. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman will know of the confidence measures that we are taking to reduce the number of targets and to have a single force area target. No doubt all those measures will be welcomed in north Wales, as they have been across the rest of the country.
I know about the survey that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but should point out that resignations in north Wales fell between 2006-07 and 2007-08. As well as talking about the problems, we can point out the successes of the police in order to raise police morale. Not least of those successes has been the huge reduction in crime in north Wales and across the rest of the country."
It is to be deprecated that the minister, Vernon Coaker, did not address the issue of excessive bureaucracy. Every time a police officer stops someone, they have to fill in a foot-long form. The Conservatives have proposed scrapping the form. Labour are reluctant to follow suit.
During the London Mayoral election Boris Johnson also proposed scrapping the form that police officers have to fill in when they search someone. He suggested that instead officers should be able to radio the details to someone at the station, where a record would be made. Anyone who was searched would be allowed to go to the station to see the record.
It is high time that the Government made adequate efforts to enable police officers to spend more time on the streets. That’s what they want, and the public want it too.