Mar 8 2012
David Cameron defends West Midlands Police privatisation plans
David Cameron has been warned that foreign suspects in the West Midlands are being allowed to walk free because of a shortage of interpreters.
MP Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston), highlighted the scandal after it was revealed by the Birmingham Mail last month.
We told how officers have been forced to release some arrested foreign suspects on bail because they cannot get interpreters for police station interviews.
Ms Stuart asked the Prime Minister: “Is that the kind of service we can expect when our police forces are outsourced to private security companies?”
But the Prime Minister defended controversial plans to pay private firms £1.5 billion to carry out some police work.
West Midlands Police and Surrey Police plan to meet businesses interested in taking over responsibility for key aspects of policing at a conference for bidders on March 14.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron told MPs: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the police getting back office functions carried out by private sector organisations.”
In fact, the forces have sent a briefing note to potential bidders listing a range of services they could be expected to provide, which go far beyond “back office” tasks and include investigating crimes, detaining suspects, managing major incidents, patrolling neighbourhoods and disrupting criminal networks. The translator shambles was blamed on a new interpreter service that was supposed to save West Midlands Police £750,000 every year.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvetter Cooper, said: “Public private partnerships can be very effective and of course police forces should pursue efficiencies. But they mustn’t cross the line which would put public trust or the principles of impartial British policing at risk.”
Gisela Stuart: Using Applied Language Solutions was supposed to save West Midlands police £750,000 a year, and yet last week we heard that the shortage of translators leaves the police unable to quiz suspects for weeks. Is that the kind of service we can expect when our police forces tender out services to private security companies?
David Cameron: I do not think that there is anything wrong with the police getting back-office functions carried out by private sector organisations. Indeed,
when the shadow policing Minister was asked about that at the Select Committee on Home Affairs, he said that he was quite relaxed about it. I think that that is right. I am delighted that the hon. Lady is considering whether to become a police and crime commissioner. That will be an excellent way of calling the police to account, and I hope that many other hon. Members will consider it as a career change.