Ladies and Gentlemen, I wanted to say how incredibly pleased I am to have this opportunity to return once again to visit this splendid rehabilitation centre which I do remember very well 13 years ago coming here. I haven’t forgotten about the number of police officers I met, nor the fact that I was so deeply impressed by what this centre managed to achieve. So, after seeing the new extension, Flint Fold, and what trouble has been taken to build that with so many difficult restrictions, I think it has been an enormous achievement.
I’ve also had the greatest pleasure meeting some of the new arrivals today who I think were probably somewhat shocked to see me here asking them a series of incredibly stupid questions. Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear their particular stories. You all know far better than I what so many of the police officers are having to face on the streets, day in day out. It is really quite remarkable and very often quite alarming in terms of the kind of violence they are having to put up with and therefore the kinds of injuries they are receiving in the line of duty. I can well imagine that having somewhere like this where they can come in order to be repaired and overcome so many of the stresses and strains which police operations bring - and I know quite a large number suffer from depression of one kind or another - but the fact that there are wonderful staff here who can put them back together again even in just a fortnight is, I think, one of the great elements of this centre. It is a real centre of excellence and somewhere that I think should be cherished and encouraged.
I do know it costs something in the region of £3.8m a year just to run this centre. As you know better than I do, there are no public funds for this, and therefore an occasion like this does at least provide me with an opportunity to express my untold thanks and appreciation to all those wonderful donors, people who’ve been so incredibly generous over a number of years in helping to ensure that somewhere like this continues in the way that it does. All I can say is, we owe so many of you a huge debt of gratitude, particularly at a time when it is not easy, as I know, to raise money.
Having said that, I also wanted to just say that I know personally of two officers who have been treated here and who have benefited from the outstanding care provided here; Detective Superintendent Keith Pearce, who was severely injured by an explosion in Islamabad, and one of Prince William’s protection officers, Bill Noon. I also know that about 3000 other Police Officers were treated here in 2007 - that is an enormous number and if I may say so, a great, great credit to all those who work so incredibly hard here - and no doubt more will be treated this year.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, having hopefully been able to emphasise what a great deal we all owe to our police men and women on the streets in our towns and cities around the country, the ‘thin blue line’, nothing could give me greater pleasure than to unveil this plaque and wish the centre every possible success in the future. I can assure I will keep an eye on it from a distance.