Stop complaining! Police could save money from historic sex abuse inquiries, says ex-Chancellor Lord Lawson

  • Tory peer says the police are 'complaining a little bit too much' about cuts
  • Says police 'chasing unsubstantiated accusations of historic sex abuse'
  • Osborne refuses to rule out cuts to police numbers in spending review
  • For more of the latest from Lord Lawson visit

Police forces are 'complaining' too much about spending cuts while chasing 'unsubstantiated' historic sex abuse claims, a former Chancellor warned today.

Lord Lawson said money should be directed at national security and not wasted on the multi-million pound operations investigating allegations of sex abuse which are groundless.

The intervention comes as George Osborne refused to rule out cuts to police numbers despite warnings from senior officers about the impact on a major squeeze on budgets.

Police forces are 'complaining' too much about spending cuts while chasing 'unsubstantiated' historic sex abuse claims, former Chancellor Lord Lawson warned today

Mr Osborne will announce details of the spending review in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, when he will confirm the level of cuts across Whitehall.

Today he announced counter-terrorism funding would be increased by 30% in the wake of the Paris atrocities - but failed to rule out cuts to frontline police numbers.

The Chancellor said he has now finalised deals with all Whitehall spending departments, including the Home Office, where Theresa May had been in last-ditch negotiations.

A succession of senior police officers warned deep cuts would leave Britain unable to deal with a major terrorist assault.

But Lord Lawson, who was Margaret Thatcher's Chancellor from 1983 to 89, said the police should refocus their spending.

He told BBC One's Sunday Politics: 'Security is essential. It's vital. But I think the police are complaining a little bit too much.

'Look at how much the police is spending now on chasing up often unsubstantiated accusations of historic sex abuse. That's got nothing to do with security. Those resources should be put where the need is.'

Operation Yewtree, which investigated abuse by the likes of Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and David Lee Travis, cost £1.8million in its first year alone.

But senior Tories have been angered by the pursuit of allegations against senior politicians including former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, who died without knowing a rape claimed have been dropped, and former Prime Minister Ted Heath.

The police investigation into allegations of a VIP Westminster paedophile ring, including the 'baseless witch hunt' against Lord Brittan, has cost taxpayers an estimated £3.4million.

Metropolitan Police detectives are said to have spent around £7,000 a day investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse over a three-year period, according to

It followed claims by a man named only as 'Nick', who alleged he was sexually abused by senior political figures in the 1980s. The staggering figure is how much has been spent since Labour MP Tom Watson persuaded officers to re-open cases against top MPs and civil servants in 2012.

George Osborne refused to rule out cuts to police numbers despite warnings from senior officers about the impact on a major squeeze on budgets

The Home Office was one of the last departments to settle on the scale of its cuts, as Home Secretary Theresa May dug in to protect policing.

Asked specifically to rule out cuts to frontline policing, Mr Osborne said: 'Every public service has to make sure it is spending money well, but we will make sure Britain is properly defended against the terrorist threat.

'You cannot have national security without economic security,' he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

'If your budget is out of control, if you are spending money you don't have, then you can't keep the country safe whether on the streets of Britain or indeed in the Middle East.'

He went on: 'We made savings in the police budget in the last parliament and actually the number of neighbourhood police officers went up, the proportion of police officers on the front line went up.

Mr Osborne said it was right that the police should be forced to bear their share of deficit-reduction measures but promised more money for counter-terrorism operations.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said: 'People will be worried to hear George Osborne digging in on cuts to the police. It's not good enough when the safety of the country is at issue.

'One of the most senior police officers in the land has written to Osborne to say cuts over 5 per cent would be damaging and over 10 per cent would be dangerous.

'He has been told in no uncertain terms that he has to consider the national policing budget alongside the budget for counter-terrorism.

Osborne must protect front-line policing.

'Even at this 11th hour, the Chancellor must listen to that advice and scale back his proposed cuts to the police.' 

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