§ Mr. Prior
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the(a) current and (b) future use of special constables by the police force; 
(2) if he will estimate how many hours special constables, on average, work each week in (a) England and Wales and (b) Norfolk; what estimate he has made of future work loads; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) how many special constables are currently employed in (a) England and Wales and (b) Norfolk; what estimate he has made of the future employment levels; and if he will make a statement; 
(4) what estimate his Department has made of expenditure on special constables (a) in 1998–99 and (b) in each year of the planning period in (i) England and Wales and (ii) Norfolk; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Boateng
The information required in respect of Norfolk Special Constabulary is as follows:
- (a) The average number of hours duty performed per special constable per week is 3.2 excluding time spent training.
- (b) Norfolk Constabulary currently has a strength of 342 special constables and the force seeks to sustain this level at least for 1999–2000.
- (c) The force estimates its expenditure on special constables in 1998–99 will be £80,200.
Until recently, the number of hours duty performed by special constables and the cost of the special constabularies have not been recorded by the police forces of England and Wales. However, the Special Constabulary Working Group 1995–96 recommended that this information should be identified and all forces should have in place systems to collect this data. Forces will be asked to provide the total number of hours duty performed by their special constables from 1998–99. Most forces expect special constables to perform an average of at least four hours per week. Many special constables do more.
The costs of special constables vary considerably from force to force and it is not possible to estimate the overall expenditure. Special constables are funded from the 160W Police Grant and it is a matter for chief officers how they distribute funding to their special constabularies. In the light of the Working Group's recommendation and improved administration of their special constabularies, forces should be developing systems to identify the costs in future.
As at 30 September 1998, there were 17,304 (provisional figure) special constables in England and Wales. The figure has dropped from 19,734 during the previous 18 months. The principle reason for the decline in numbers has been higher recruiting standards to reflect that special constables are being trained and deployed on a wider variety of duties than before including more "front line" duties. As a result, the recruiting criteria is now very similar to that for regular officers and consequently a large number of applicants who would previously have been accepted into the Special Constabulary are being rejected. In addition, forces have weeded out the special constables who wanted only to perform "soft" duties, e.g. fetes, carnivals, etc., and 13 per cent. of special constables who resign to join the regular service.
We estimate that the decrease in numbers will soon level out and that numbers will slowly increase in the next few years. We do not believe in putting a national target on the number of special constables. It is for the chief officer of each force to decide whether a target figure is appropriate and what that figure should be.
Today's special is a police officer trained to professional standards commanding full confidence of regular colleagues and the public. He or she is able to perform many of the duties of the regular officer and many specials are trained and deployed on specialist duties. We believe this is an excellent use of a valuable resource available to chief officers and support this continued development of the Special Constabulary for the foreseeable future.