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Home Office minister doesn't know number of police

By Greg Heffer, Political Reporter
A Home Office minister has admitted she does not know the number of police officers in the country.
Victoria Atkins, who has worked as a junior minister in the Home Office since November last year, confessed "that number has slipped my mind" during a radio interview.The Tory MP was grilled on the figure amid a political row over whether a drop in the number of police officers has led to a rise in violent crime.Ministers have insisted evidence does not suggest fewer officers is to blame for an increase in violence, which has come under scrutiny following a spate of stabbings and shootings in London.Asked by LBC Radio's Nick Ferrari whether she knew the current number of police officers in the country, Ms Atkins replied: "Erm, yes, I think. Well, I know in London it's around about 31,000 officers."Pressed on the figure for the whole country, Ms Atkins added: "It's erm, you're testing me, Nick. I'm so sorry."It's, um, um, I'm not going to hazard a guess, I'm just going to front up and say I'm so sorry, that number has slipped my mind. I do apologise."
Home Office minister doesn't know number of police

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Angela Rayner came to Ms Atkins defence, accusing LBC of 'gotcha' journalism
Told it would be a "good idea" to have the figures, Ms Atkins admitted: "It would be."However, the Conservative minister found support from Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.
"Whilst I have a lot to take issue with in regards to policing in the UK and Government policy, this type of 'gotcha' interview does nothing to get to the nub of the issue of concern," she posted on Twitter.It is not clear which country Ferrari was referring to but he said the correct figure was 123,142.Figures released by the Home Office show there were 123,142 police officers in England and Wales at the end of March 2017. By 31 September, the figure had dropped to 121,929.This was the lowest number of officers since comparable records began in 1996.At the end of last year there were 17,256 full-time police officers in Scotland and there are currently 6,703 full-time police officers in Northern Ireland - the other two countries in the UK.However, as a Home Office minister, Ms Atkins is only responsible for police forces in England and Wales.
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During last year's general election campaign, in an interview with Ferrari, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott memorably failed to put a correct figure on the cost of Labour's promise to provide an extra 10,000 police officers on the streets.Earlier on Monday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted she hadn't read a leaked Home Office report blaming police cuts for a rise in violent crime - on the day she was due to launch a strategy to tackle the trend.
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