Cabinet debate: Lib Dems guarantee no cut in police numbers

By staff

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne today guaranteed there would be no reduction in police numbers after the election in the second would-be cabinet ministers TV debate.

Answering a direct question from presenter Andrew Neill, Mr Huhne was the only representative to make the guarantee, home secretary Alan Johnson and shadow home secretary Chris Grayling having already agreed they could not make such a claim.

Crime debate as-it-happens

The debate, saw which the representatives of each of the major three parties answering questions on crime, was considerably more raucous than Monday’s foreign affairs version.

Mr Huhne tried to dominate the debate, often speaking over opponents and even earning the ire of presenter Mr Neill by trying to talk over him as he was asking a question.

Mr Neill said: “We have listened to you, now you must listen to us.”

Covering a range of issues including prison sentencing, the DNA database, elected police boards, ID cards and the recording of crime figures, the debate often broke down and saw the prospective ministers talking over one another or interrupting each other.

All three politicians were also guilty of apparently contradictory statements.

Mr Johnson claimed that crime was down, especially violent crime, and that confidence in the police is very high while conceding fear of crime is a major concern and many town centres were worse than they have been in the past.

Mr Grayling said the Conservatives wanted more justice and more police on the streets but refused to ringfence police spending and were opposed to Labour’s measures for the DNA database, which has lead to an increased number of convictions in recent years.

Meanwhile Mr Huhne, whose party have also refused to ringfence police spending, argued that the most important policy was to do what works to cut crime but opposed the current use of the DNA database, wanted to scrap ID cards and wanted elected police boards, all of which are opposed by senior police officers as policies which would hinder their work.