National says the police Commissioner Peter Marshall was "shocked" when told of Labour leader Phil Goff's claim last night that the force have frozen recruiting for all of next year.

Mr Goff raised the issue at last night's TVNZ leaders' debate with Prime Minister John Key, the last debate before the General Election.

During the law and order segment, Mr Goff claimed he had been told that the Government was deferring police recruiting for all of next year.

"But that announcement won't be made till after the election," Mr Goff said.


Mr Key dismissed the claim as fiction, but when pressed, said it was a police operational matter. "We expect every Government department to work hard to save money."

Mr Goff was this morning standing by his claim as he chatted with supporters while campaigning in Christchurch, saying he had "an excellent source that's always been reliable in the past".

"I've heard from another source that there will be no intake in February and that the discussion is actually around not having any intakes this year as a budget saving measure."

Mr Goff this morning told Radio New Zealand he could not reveal the source of the information.

However while Mr Marshall was refusing interviews, National's law and order spokesperson Judith Collins this morning said she'd spoken to him last night after hearing Mr Goff's claims to ask him if it was true.

"He said certainly not and was as shocked as I was."

"What he has said to me is because the attrition rate or number of people leaving the police now is so low, around 3.2 per cent, he can defer the recruitment wing from January to March and that is a normal thing for police to do from time to time."

The frequency and timing of intakes was "entirely up to the commissioner" she said.


"We are not planning to increase the number of police but we are certainly not planning to decrease them either."

On the campaign trail this morning Prime Minister John Key restated Phil Goff was wrong.

"And it's not just my word you need to take for it, I understand the Police Commissioner has put out a statement himself about it.

"Frankly I think he was a bit desperate last night to throw it into the debate. Yes, the January intake is not taking place because retention rates in the police are very very high.

"The attrition rate has been very low and morale is very high in the police at the moment.
But the Police Minister and Police Commissioner's expectation is that around 280 - 300 people will be trained next year and really it's a bit silly for Phil Goff to suggest otherwise."

After further claims from Labour that the March intake was also set to be scrapped, Mr Key said he understood that was not the case and it was only the January intake that was affected.


"Phil Goff is plain wrong and a little bit desperate. If it comes down to taking the word of the Police Commissioner or Phil Goff, I know who's side I'm on."