POLICE chiefs have asked for time to reflect on plans for a new `super force' covering all Yorkshire.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke today unveiled his proposals in a meeting with the region's four chief constables.

It would be the third largest police force in England and Wales, with 12,790 full-time equivalent officers.

Mr Clarke has given the West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Humberside forces until April 7 to make their submissions.

He will then make a final decision.

Mr Clarke has the power to force through the changes - even if local police bosses oppose the mergers.

A report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary last year said smaller forces were ill-equipped to deal with terrorism and other serious crime.

If all Mr Clarke's proposed mergers go ahead the number of forces in England and Wales will be slashed from 43 to 21.

The chief constables and police authorities of the four Yorkshire forces issued a joint statement saying that they wanted to reflect on the Home Secretary's proposals.

It went on: "We are aware of the concerns raised by many across the region regarding any proposed merger.

"We are also aware this is potentially an unsettling time for those dedicated personnel working hard to provide and support policing services within all four forces.

"You can be assured we will continue to work closely together to address these issues and concerns, thereby ensuring that we develop a way ahead that delivers the best possible policing services to those who live and work in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

"We consider it is of paramount importance that we steadfastly continue our focused and committed approach to providing effective local policing to all our communities, preserving and building upon the significant achievements that have already been made.

"While this proposal represents numerous challenges and extensive change to meet the demands of policing the 21st century, in the best traditions of the UK police service we are united in assuring the public that we will work together to deliver a high quality policing service to the region."