Culture Secretary Karen Bradley this morning repeatedly refused to say whether the number of armed police has fallen since 2010, leading to heated exchanges with ITV presenter Piers Morgan.
In the wake of London Bridge attack, Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of attempting to “protect the public on the cheap”.
Asked about police numbers by Morgan on Good Morning Britain this morning, Bradley refused to answer.
“Do you know if the number of armed police has gone up or down in the last six years? Do you know the answer?” Morgan asked. “Is there any reason why you can’t answer the questions?”
“I would like to ask you one more time. I want a straight answer. Do we have more or fewer armed police than when Theresa May became Home Secretary in 2010? More or less?”
Bradley said there had been “an increase in the budget for counter terrorism policing” and that there were “more specialist police officers”.
“What I am interested in is making sure we have the right resources, the right powers and the right training and capabilities,” she said.
According to Home Office figures, there were 6,976 authorised armed officers in March 2010 and 5,639 in March 2016.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme later this morning, Bradley did appear to accept that the number of armed officers had fallen.
“We’ve seen reductions in police officers across the board, we had to take difficult decisions in 2010 when we came into office when as you remember, there was no money,” she said. “All parties at that time agreed there needed to be cuts.”
Bradley said the discussion was “not just about numbers” of police but “about powers” and “making sure the police have the powers they need”.
Armed police shot dead the three attackers in London Bridge within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call. Seven people were killed by the attackers 48 were injured.
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, was asked this morning if the police needed more funding to deal with the threat from terrorism. “Any police leader would always want more resources,” she said.
She told Sky News that the public should “reflect on how successful the police and the agencies have been in the last few years”.
“Since 2013 we have foiled 18 plots which we know were designed to cause mayhem, murder, destruction, we’ve been arresting about one person a day for terrorist offences,” she said.
Jim Gamble, the former head of Special Branch in Belfast, has attacked the “endless cuts” to the police during May’s time as Home Secretary and Prime Minister.
Writing for HuffPost UK, Gamble said May of trying to “asset strip the critical services who in times of trouble make the real difference”.
With the election just three days away, Jeremy Corbyn also stepped up his attack on the Conservatives, pointing out that May had told police in 2015 that they were “crying wolf” over police cuts.