Gloucestershire police commissioner branded 'publicity-seeking' by Tewkesbury MP
POLICE commissioner Martin Surl has defended himself after he was branded a “publicity-seeking” commissioner by a Gloucestershire MP, in a row over the badger cull.
Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson told the House of Commons this morning that he was “concerned” about Mr Surl’s statement that he was “disappointed” by any extension to the cull in the county.
An application to extend the cull was put in to Natural England by private cull companies earlier this week, with the original six-week period set to end next week.
Gloucestershire Police has been conducting Operation Themis, their response to the cull.
Traditional Shave, Facial Treatment, Whisky and a Shoe Shine -...View details
Gents, enjoy a traditional shave, facial treatment, glass of whisky and a shoeshine for £31
Terms: Early and later appointments available upon request.
Contact: 01242 504887
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
Mr Surl had said: “If a further extension is applied for and granted I feel it may create an unhelpful situation in Gloucestershire.
“The Constabulary has put a tremendous amount of effort into its policing operation in response to the cull to ensure it has been – and continues to be – even-handed, impartial and operationally independent.
“Responding to the many and diverse needs of people, whatever their involvement and views about the cull, has been a severe challenge and one I believe they have risen to in the best traditions of the service.
“Expecting them to continue beyond the initial six week period is asking a great deal, even though I am sure they will respond accordingly.
“My concern is that the cull operators are feeling the pressure and may become more desperate in their attempts to shoot their quota of badgers while the people opposed to the cull are getting equally frustrated, all of which adds up to an unhelpful situation.”
Mr Robertson insisted Mr Surl should not have released the statement, saying it was up to government and parliament to decide policy.
The MP told the Echo and Citizen today: “I think he [Mr Surl] is in danger of losing his position because he is trying to influence government policy. That is not his role.
“It is not for Mr Surl to determine that, and it is not his position to put such a statement out.
“It is his job to hold discussions about ensuring the safety of people in Gloucestershire, and I would say that is his duty. By putting out a statement to influence policy, he has gone beyond the mark.”
He added he had written to the Home Secretary to complain about the issue.
Andy Robertson, NFU director general, said: “I am surprised and disappointed to see Martin Surl's comments. When carrying out the cull, absolute priority has been given to safety. I therefore completely and utterly fail to recognise his suggestion that cull operators are becoming desperate to get their quota.
“Delivery of this cull is part of government policy to eliminate bovine TB and we will continue to act responsibly and without taking risks with safety to achieve this. Any suggestion that we will do otherwise is unhelpful in the extreme.”
But Mr Surl hit back and said he was elected to represent the people of Gloucestershire on policing matters.
He added: “He [Mr Robertson] seems to have overlooked the role of the commissioner in overseeing the vital role the police have to play in balancing the democratic rights of free speech and legitimate protest and enabling the policy of the government of the day to be carried out.
“The cull is an issue which has divided the country. That much is obvious from the number of people who have come into the county to try and stop it from taking place.
“Managing it has been a delicate operation with no previous experience to fall back on.
“However, thanks to the skill and professionalism of the police and the understanding and good sense shown on all sides, it looked as though we would get through without many people’s worst fears with regard to public safety being realised.
““I am merely voicing the concern that extending the cull will test the patience and good will shown so far to the limit to the detriment of what’s gone before.
“I am not trying to influence Government Policy but in my elected role, I have to consider and ensure safe and sustainable communities in Gloucestershire. I am committed to less crime, more peace and good order and any extension to what has been such a divisive issue in the county is certainly not going to help us achieve that.
“I have only made public concerns I had already shared with the Home Office. That is my responsibility and I would be failing in my duty if I did not.
“I made it clear to all sides, even before the cull began, that I must remain impartial and I don’t consider expressing my concerns over public safety, however unpalatable they may be to some, conflicts with that position.”