MPs fight for independent police force

SUFFOLK MPs will be meeting with the Home Office today to plead the case for the county's police force to remain independent - but one of their colleagues will be staying away because he supports the creation of larger constabularies.

By Graham Dines

SUFFOLK MPs will be meeting with the Home Office today to plead the case for the county's police force to remain independent - but one of their colleagues will be staying away because he supports the creation of larger constabularies.

Conservatives Tim Yeo (Suffolk South), Richard Spring (Bury St Edmunds) and Richard Spring (Suffolk West) will have talks with Hazel Blears, the Minister of State, on the Government options for change, which will see merge 43 police forces in England and Wales merged to as few as 12 regional constabularies.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke insists that no change is not an option, and last week the county's Police Authority said if it was forced to merge, it would to prefer to link up with Essex and Norfolk rather than with all six constabularies in the East of England.

Labour MP Chris Mole will not be attending. He said: “I am relatively supportive of the proposals for change.

“When the county's MPs met the Chief Constable at the Commons to discuss the Home Office plans, the Tories were not interested in having a constructive dialogue.

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“All they wanted to do was rubbish what the Home Office was putting forward. I am not prepared to go to another negative meeting.”

However, David Ruffley said the proposals had been “rushed through with a ridiculously short consultation period.

“Suffolk Constabulary is a high performance force. Do the people of Suffolk really want to be thrown in with forces that are so very different and face vastly contrasting problems?

“I do not recognise Mr Mole's description of our meeting with the Chief Constable. All we were doing was standing up for Suffolk - the taxpayers of our county should not be subsidising policing in Luton and Peterborough.”

Mr Yeo said he was demanding a rethink of the policing proposals because there was “no conceivable justification” for a merger because Suffolk had an efficient, debt free force.

Mr Spring said that if a six county force was created, it would be remote from Suffolk and there would be no sense of control or ownership.

The meeting comes as Home Secretary Charles Clarke faced a barrage of opposition from all sides of the Commons over the plans last night.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: “There may be a case for amalgamation in some parts of the country. Our concern is that the Government is forcing it on police forces that do not want it, and do not need it.”

Labour's Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) said she had “grave doubts” if the plans for larger forces would work and was “astounded” by the speed with which the Government was trying to push the reforms through.

Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten also criticised the “rushed process” of the consultation, the increased costs of setting up and running larger forces and whether it presented the right way forward for policing methods.

But Mr Clarke defended the proposals, saying that “the nature of crime is changing.”

He added that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary concluded that “the current structure of policing, in their words, is no longer fit for purpose,” and that strategic forces offered the best solution.

“Faced with this clear, well-argued and independent police advice I judged it essential to act rather than to ignore their proposals,” he said.

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