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BlackBerry use saves UK police over £100m a year

Manufacturer seeks to highlight potential efficiency saving from mobile technology

Using Blackberry smartphones on the beat saves police forces across the UK £112m every year, manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) claims.

The devices allow officers to access and update records on the move, resulting in more time spent on the streets.

Bedfordshire Police has been using the smartphones for around four years to access Police National Computer (PNC) information, helping avoid overuse of the radio network and its operators. The Blackberry's secure password and encryption technology allows secure connection to the PNC.

This has brought the force a 10% increase in the time officers spend patrolling the streets. 82% of officers thought BlackBerrys helped them to do their job and 75% said that it would matter to them if the force took away their device.

West Yorkshire police officers use BlackBerrys to report crime and work on prosecution files away from the station.

RIM sought to highlight the potential for efficiency savings as police budgets face funding cuts. "We have tens of thousands of devices being used by police officers around the UK and every device delivers efficiency benefits to the officer that uses it through a host of applications that have been specifically designed for those in the police sector," said Graham Baker, senior manager of UK public sector at RIM.

"For example, officers are also using BlackBerry smartphones to access warrant information and DVLA databases, meaning they can make arrests on the move without checking back with base," Barker claimed.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.