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9 June 2021
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP told PFEW’s Annual Conference 2021 today (9 June) it was matter of personal regret he didn’t “make our case strongly enough” for police officers to be prioritised for Covid vaccines during the pandemic.
He made the admission during a live discussion involving a panel of senior police figures which included Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), Sarah Jones MP, Shadow Policing Minister, and Sir Thomas Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.
Discussing the Conference theme ‘Policing under Pressure,’ the Government Minister told host Ian Collins he had worked alongside Home Secretary Priti Patel to press the case for police officers to receive the vaccine with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – the independent expert advisory committee.
Mr Malthouse MP said: “The Home Secretary and I lobbied hard to recognise the police - the JCVI decided the risk of death and serious illness should be the priority. While it would be great to have vaccinations…police absence was incredibly low.
“We did repeatedly make the case and make the request. The Government went with the JCVI’s logic – it’s a matter of regret we didn’t make our case strongly enough.”
The Minister’s admission was in direct contrast to the views of Sarah Jones MP, Shadow Policing Minister.
Ms. Jones MP said: “All the way through police needed more support from the Government. Around 100,00 officers could have been vaccinated. More could have been done on that front.”
The opposition spokesperson also hit out at the frequent changes to legislation during the pandemic and criticised the Government for a lack of support.
“On Covid - we did not know it was coming, and it was extraordinary times. But there were lessons we need to learn – officers were too slow to know what the changes in legislation were.
“We had that very bumpy first period where it was difficult to interpret legislation, and problems with PPE. The police needed more support from Government, and vaccinations are a case in point.”
NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt praised the response of police officers but admitted the frequent changes in legislation were challenging for the service and Government.
He said: “Officers did their job in the environment they were doing it. We were often operating where we had different regulations in different countries. At the beginning it was hard to anticipate what was happening – we worked very closely with officials in the Home Office.
“What we do have to accept is how complex it was for Government. Every force faced different situations - the rules were the same, but everyday officers quite rightly used their discretion on the ground.
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor, a critic of policing in the past, was fulsome in his praise of the Government and policing during the pandemic and rated the policing response as a nine out of ten.
He added: “I would give the Government pretty high marks for the way they have handled policing. The Government have shown a vociferous support – they are more engaged with policing, more willing to use powers and influence and provide money.
“They would lose marks because the pandemic was challenging – the changes in regulations were very rapid. The last set of regulations were 120 pages long.
“Overall, the national leadership and political support was really good. Of course, there were mistakes - the drones in Derbyshire were seized upon by papers, but police officers deserve high marks and the Government credit.”