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the links between those organisations and the Socialist Workers party and Militant rather than saying it only afterwards, when the violence has been associated with those groups?

Mr. Howard: My hon. Friend makes some valuable points. He rightly says that those matters cannot be dealt with through legislation. They are matters for the media. I hope that representatives of the media who take note of today's debate will pay particular attention to the important points raised by my hon. Friend.

The second of the Met's core functions is partnership. Partnership between the police and the public is, of course, no new thing. The very notion of policing by consent is based on it. In recent years, partnership has seen a steady development. It is not so long since we were introduced to the idea of neighbourhood watch, which has rapidly become an established part of the fight against crime.

We need to take the partnership approach further. I sought to do that in my "Partners against Crime" campaign, which I launched in September this year. Its purpose is to encourage individuals to help the police. First, it seeks to build on and expand the achievements of neighbourhood watch. Secondly, street watch encourages people to walk round their neighbourhoods keeping their eyes and ears open for anything suspicious. People who are able to make a bigger commitment can do so by becoming neighbourhood constables.

The Commissioner has responded enthusiastically to my initiatives. He is arranging for every division to have an officer ready to assist members of the public who may want to set up a street watch scheme and has pledged the Met's full co-operation and support for the other two tiers of the programme.

I am particularly pleased to report the development of the first neighbourhood constable scheme in Wandsworth, warmly supported, I know, by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) and my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis). The 60 to 100 neighbourhood constables that Wandsworth is looking to recruit will be special constables who volunteer to patrol their local areas. They will help to provide the visible police presence, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North spoke earlier, that is needed to reassure law- abiding people and to deter criminals.

What we are seeing with the scheme in Wandsworth is what I want to see happening throughout the country. The more people sign up as neighbourhood special constables, the more the police will be able to keep crime at bay.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham): The Home Secretary will know that I asked him a question earlier this week about stops and searches. I asked whether records were kept of those who are stopped and searched, but not arrested. The Home Secretary replied to the effect that that was a matter for the chief constable of each area. May I ask the Minister, as he is the police authority for London, specifically in relation to the Metropolitan police, whether records have been kept of those who have been stopped and searched, but not arrested and how those records are kept? Are they on police computers or are they written records?

Mr. Howard: I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the new powers in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. They are not yet in force, so I

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cannot answer the question in the terms that he asks. Just as it is a matter for the chief constables of other forces, so it will be a matter for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), may be able to add to that answer when he replies to the debate.

Some people seem to think that my partnership initiatives are irrelevant to the needs of high-crime areas. I suggest that they go to the corridors of Cowan court on London's Stonebridge estate in Harlesden. The graffiti on the walls have been replaced with neighbourhood watch signs and the corridors and walkways are now free of drug dealing. The community police constable puts that down to "People working together and keeping an eye out for each other. It's about residents spreading the word and making others more confident about approaching the police".

That is what my partnership initiative is all about. That is why everyone needs it. I am glad to see indications of assent from the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), in whose constituency the estate lies.

Mr. Simon Hughes: The Home Secretary will know that I welcome greatly the direction in which he is taking that policy. It is the only way of achieving effective combating of much of the crime in inner London. Will he say that the implication of that policy is that privatising policing by handing it over to private security firms, particularly on council estates, and the setting up of alternative police forces by local authorities is far less acceptable and desirable, should not be necessary and should be resisted?

Mr. Howard: I have made it clear that the most effective way forward is that shown by Wandsworth. It involves not private policing of estates but recruiting members of the public to act as special neighbourhood constables in the closest co-operation with the police. Of course, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that neighbourhood special constables are police officers, trained, uniformed and with the powers that go with the office of constable.

Partnership goes wider than individual people getting together to help the police. It needs to involve the whole of society, including local authorities, Government Departments and local businesses, public and private. Two key problems in which partnership is of the essence are racial attacks and drugs. The Met co-operates fully in the Government's partnership initiatives to combat racially motivated crime, such as the Home Office-funded project in Newham. Racial incident units such as that at Plumstead lead the field in encouraging victims to report attacks, improving clear-up rates and offering support.

Local authorities, too, can play their part. The royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea has developed an excellent range of measures against racial harassment. Its policy is to take perpetrators of racial harassment to court and to have them evicted. The borough works with the local police to increase protection of victims' homes. There are special turn-round times for erasing racial graffiti and micro closed-circuit television schemes in problem areas. That shows what can be done.

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I am confident that the legal framework for dealing with that most insidious and unpleasant of offences is now adequate. I applaud the Met in its continuing vigorous efforts, working with local authorities and a host of other agencies, to eradicate racial harassment and attacks throughout London.

Drug-related crime and drug abuse also demand a partnership approach. A good example is Operation Welwyn in King's Cross. Here a partnership between the police, local authorities, British Rail, London Transport and the local community has had a dramatic effect on drugs and prostitution in and around King's Cross station. The effective policing methods used have produced reliable evidence, which has in turn secured a high conviction rate. At Crown courts, the conviction rate for those arrested in the area for supplying controlled drugs is 97 per cent.

The Met is not, and the Government are not, under any illusion about the continuing need to fight drug abuse and the effects of drug abuse in every possible way. The Commissioner, in a speech in September, said:

"the notion that decriminalizing any category of drugs would make the problem `go away' is extremely dangerous and one that needs to be robustly countered".

I do my best to counter it robustly at every opportunity and I am grateful to the Commissioner for his active support.

The Met's recent record is highly creditable and I shall consider carefully how we can refine the targets for next year to improve performance still further. In doing so, this year I shall have the benefit of independent advice.

I said earlier that the Government are seeking, as far as possible, to apply administratively to the Metropolitan police the reforms in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994. For a number of good reasons connected with the force's unique position and special role, we decided after much consideration that the holder of my office should continue to be the police authority for the Metropolitan police and should, as now, be answerable to Parliament. That did not mean, however, that the existing arrangements could not be improved and I am appointing a new body--the Metropolitan police

committee--outside the Home Office to advise me on matters for which I am responsible as police authority and to help ensure that Londoners get the best value for money from their force.

I am pleased to be able to announce that Sir John Quinton, formerly group chairman of Barclays bank, has agreed to be chairman of the committee. I very much look forward to working with him and his colleagues to try to ensure that the people of London have a police service that builds on its achievements and responds even more effectively to their needs.

I shall shortly be appointing the members of the committee, with Sir John's help, from the excellent field of applications that we received. Members will be selected for their abilities as individuals and not as representatives of particular groups.

Mr. Spearing: Does not the Home Secretary realise that that announcement and policy are the opposite to that of his predecessor and that in London the municipally elected borough councils might well be a much better way of achieving what he calls an advisory committee--they run the fire brigade--than the means that he has chosen? Appointment by the Home Secretary to the advisory body

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is contrary to the constitutional practices and precepts of this country and will be heavily criticised in debate in the House.

Mr. Howard: I do not accept any of that. I explained clearly when I announced my decision to have a Metropolitan police committee for London the reasons for doing so--the fact that policing in London has a national and international significance, which makes it different from policing in other areas and which makes it inappropriate to have the same sort of authority for London as we are putting in place elsewhere. I explained that fully at the time. I welcome the opportunity to explain it further to the hon. Gentleman if he wishes to pursue the matter at any stage.

Mr. Cohen: How does board membership of Barclays bank make a person suitable to run a police authority for London? Will the bank put in any money to fight crime in London?

Mr. Howard: When the hon. Gentleman has had time to reflect on the matter and to look at Sir John Quinton's considerable record of public service in many areas, he will realise just how churlish his question is. I have every confidence that Sir John will be able to bring his considerable qualities, expertise and experience to those responsibilities and the people of London will benefit in consequence.

Mr. Carrington: I greatly welcome the appointment of Sir John Quinton, who will be an excellent chairman of the committee. Will my right hon. and learned Friend also consider the fact that the remit of the committee should be to co-ordinate closely with the network of police consultative groups around London, so that the input of ordinary people can be fed in and form part of the advice that is given to him, as the police authority for London?

Mr. Howard: I know that Sir John will want to do that. My hon. Friend is right in identifying those groups as having a very effective role in transmitting the views of the people of London to those who are responsible for policing it.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East): Will the Home Secretary advise the public in London that, despite the announcement of a ceasefire, there is still a threat from terrorism and that it could be some time before that threat to everyone in the London area goes away permanently?

Mr. Howard: Yes, I can indeed give the advice that the hon. Gentleman suggested is appropriate. We need to remain vigilant and keep up our guard.

Since the House last debated the policing of London, the Metropolitan police has had a new Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon. I pay tribute to the energy and commitment that he has shown during his first 18 months as Commissioner. I know that in the next 12 months he will be consolidating the changes that he has initiated and that he is as determined as I am to ensure that Londoners continue to get the professional service that they have come, rightly, to expect from one of the greatest police forces in the world.

10.34 am

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn): Throughout Britain, policing is a difficult and at times a dangerous task, but nowhere is it more complex than in the metropolis.

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Alongside the job of providing a peaceful environment for the capital's 7 million residents, the police in London also have to cope with the demands of 500,000 daily commuters and millions of tourists. When community care or the London health service fail, as they do all too often, the police become the social workers of last resort. Most political demonstrations take place in London. It is the seat of government, and the home of the diplomatic corps and the royal family. It houses the headquarters of most of our businesses and social institutions, all of which places further burdens on the Metropolitan police.

On top of all of that is the alarming reality that, although the capital has only one eighth of our population and one fifth of the total police establishment of England and Wales, a huge proportion of the nation's serious crime occurs here--one third of all murders and rapes, half of all armed robberies, three quarters of all major frauds, an estimated three quarters of all illicit drug dealing and four in five of all terrorist offences.

First, I pay my tribute and that of my party to the Metropolitan police service, its Commissioner Sir Paul Condon and his 28,000 officers and 17,000 civilians for the exemplary way in which they carried out their tasks in the period covered by the Commissioner's report. In the course of their duties, one in seven officers in the London force has been injured. The number who were seriously injured increased 55 per cent. in the year in question.

The Home Secretary drew our attention to the fact that two officers, Police Constable Patrick Dunne and Sergeant Derek Robertson, lost their lives while trying to keep the peace for Londoners. We salute their work and bravery and express our condolences to their families, friends and colleagues in their bereavement.

The Secretary of State also referred to protection for the police and the development of side-handled batons and other matters that the Commissioner mentioned in his report, especially the use of protective vests and guns. None of us likes the fact that the old image of the London bobby is having to change. Some of us who are now in middle age grew up with that image. As far as we are concerned, however, the only considerations for determining whether side-handled batons, vests and other equipment should be used, are the twin and linked ones of the safety of officers and that of law-abiding members of the public.

The police in London face great and additional burdens, not least because most political demonstrations take place in the capital. I must deal with the matter that was the subject of some exchanges across the Chamber a few moments ago. I am in no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people who came to protest against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 did so with entirely peaceful intent, and peacefully. As far as possible, they sought to co-operate with the police. It may indeed be the case that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and his colleagues who helped to organise that demonstration, on the peaceful side, could be assisted if they spoke further to the Commissioner and commanding officer of the day about the tactics used.

No one with any knowledge of some of the groups operating in London can be in any doubt that a group was intent on attacking the police on that day, regardless of what the peaceful demonstrators intended to do. That is

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the reality. I have here one of the leaflets issued by Class War just before the demonstration, headed "Keep it Spikey", which reads:

"We should pick our own pitch for the battle . . . When throwing--throw well. Don't stand so far back that you are unable to reach your target"--

the police--

"and your brick ends up cracking the back of someone's head. Resist arrests. Struggle . . . and call for help. If you see someone else getting arrested then try to wrestle them back into the crowd."

The next passage will be of great interest to those who were organising the peaceful side of the demonstration. There are instructions to those supporting Class War to disrupt the peaceful demonstrators. The leaflet says:

"Ruffle the fluffies. There's people on the demonstration that think we should keep things calm or fluffy. These tossers were even considering spraying trouble causers with green paint to identify them to the police. They are scum, if they get in the way clout them . . . you know they won't hit you back as well."

Mr. Howard: In view of the Labour party's opposition to the changes made in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act to the circumstances in which comment can be made on someone's silence, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will read the next section of the leaflet. It reads:

"If arrested say nothing, do not make any statement to the police, don't get in to conversation with them. They only want a statement because they need it to get conviction against you or others."

Mr. Straw: I shall read the whole leaflet if the Home Secretary wishes, but I have no intention of going on for an hour as the Home Secretary did. There was a serious debate about the issue of the right of silence, and Labour supported the majority recommendation of the Royal Commission which required that there should be a pre-trial disclosure by the defence of their case. That is something that we still support.

As the Home Secretary is seeking to lower the tone of the debate-- Mr. Howard indicated dissent .

Mr. Straw: Yes, he is. I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there is something of an inconsistency between his approach to the right of silence for those charged with criminal offences and to those facing allegations of serious misconduct or fraud in running certain councils.

Thirteen years ago at the time of the Brixton riots, police and community relations in London were far less satisfactory than today, as the Scarman report spelled out. More recently, Sir John Woodcock, when chief inspector of constabulary, described the problems in the Metropolitan police with which Sir Paul's predecessor Sir Peter Imbert had to cope as coming "close to disaster".

At that time, the Metropolitan police was known as a "force". Today, it is called a "service", and that simple change in title underlines a significant and commendable change in approach from both the Metropolitan police itself and the communities which it seeks to serve.

The key to that change has been the partnership which the Metropolitan police and elected local authorities and others in London have been able to develop. Many

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examples are listed in the Commissioner's report, such as partnerships in Southwark, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Newham and many other boroughs.

The Secretary of State himself referred to the Kings Cross area--straddling the border of Camden and Islington--and to Operation Welwyn, a joint programme by the police, the two local authorities and other agencies which was actively backed by the two local Members, my hon. Friends the Members for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). The programme achieved an enormous improvement in the quality of life for the area's residents by dramatic and sustained reductions in the levels of drug-dealing and of open prostitution.

Local authorities have worked actively with the police across London in measures on crime prevention and on key operations like the anti-burglary Operation Bumblebee. The partnership could be developed further. The Home Office recognised that in 1991 in its own official report, the Morgan report.

The report recommended that local authorities be given a statutory lead role in conjunction with the police to develop strategies of crime prevention. The case for implementing the Morgan report is, in our judgment, stronger than ever, and it was backed recently by a Coopers and Lybrand report produced for the Prince's Trust. It is time that the Home Secretary recognised the value of going down that road.

The success of the active partnership which has developed with all local authorities across London should have removed the last tawdry excuse for denying the residents of London some formal say on the way in which their police service is run. That is overwhelmingly desired by the people of London and by most of the police too.

Under the current arrangements, the Home Secretary is the police authority for London, and this debate is the only formal occasion on which the Home Secretary can be held accountable to this House for the discharge of his duties. The debate is supposed to be annual, but this is in fact the first such debate for more than two years. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not have the good grace to refer to that, nor did he apologise.

Sir John Hunt (Ravensbourne): Is it not possible for the matter to be raised every time that my right hon. and learned Friend answers questions?

Mr. Straw: I do not think that there could be any suggestion by holders of the office of Home Secretary that the chance of getting in once every four weeks during oral questions is in any sense a substitute for an annual debate on the report from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police.

During a period in which Parliament has been forced to take record holidays because of the paucity of the Government's legislative programme, there is no excuse whatever for an interval of more than two years between debates on policing in London. That must not happen again. The fact that the Home Secretary and those who run the business of the House can be so cavalier about the Home Secretary's responsibility to account to the House serves only to underline the wholly unsatisfactory nature of the current arrangements. Eighteen months ago, the Home Secretary's predecessor--the present Chancellor of the Exchequer--acknowledged that he recognised that it was time to

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change the arrangements for holding the police in London to account. It is worth recording that, while the Chancellor has done many pirouettes on issues during his colourful political career, he can claim some consistency on the need for democratically elected police authorities. He, after all, was the principal author of a Birmingham Bow group pamphlet calling for regional government, which was written shortly after he became the Conservative parliamentary candidate for his constituency. The pamphlet recommended for the whole country--including London--that responsibility for the police "should be assigned to Regional Authorities"

which were to be composed entirely of elected full-time members. Although he later diluted the principle of wholly elected authorities, the right hon. and learned Gentleman told the House: "I have also re-examined the role of the Home Secretary in relation to the metropolitan police. I propose to establish for the first time a police authority for the Metropolitan police on the new national model separate from the Home Office and with essentially the same tasks as police authorities elsewhere."--[ Official Report , 23 March 1993; Vol. 221, c. 766.]

Six weeks later, there was a new Secretary of State, and six weeks after that, the new incumbent came to the House to wholly reverse the policy of his predecessor. In a Government notorious for vacillation and failure of nerve, that was one of the fastest U-turns on record. We know the real reason for that about turn. It is that a few Conservative Members with Greater London constituencies could not cope with the fact that, in ever growing numbers, Londoners were freely choosing to elect Labour rather than Conservative councillors. The difference was great last year, and it has become even greater since the London borough elections in May this year.

What the Government have done in place of that, and what the Home Secretary has proposed to the House, is what they always do when they want to bypass the democratic will. They have resorted to the wheeze and the device to which they are so addicted--the appointed body, or quango. We heard the truth last night from the blessed chairman of the Conservative party--whom God preserve--about how appointments to quangos operate. He simply confirmed what we already know; that the first question asked when it comes to appointments is, "Is this person one of us?"

This quango, the Metropolitan police committee, is one without any statutory powers whatever. There is not a single word in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act about this quango. It is entirely the creature of the Secretary of State, and it does not alter by one jot the Secretary of State's anachronistic legal power as the police authority for London.

No matter how good those appointed to this committee are, and I hope that Sir John Quinton does the job that the Secretary of State hopes he will, I very much hope that the Secretary of State will not follow the chairman of the Conservative party but that he makes sure that the people appointed to the body are drawn from a wider variety of Londoners than is normally the case. The simple fact is that if those 12 people are all appointed, they cannot achieve the broader local representation in membership which other police authorities, to a limited extent, will have. The Metropolitan police committee will lack the democratic representation of other authorities.

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The local accountability so loudly trumpeted by the Home Secretary's predecessor will be greatly diminished. Time and again I hear the Secretary of State justifying the decisions that have been made on the basis that they were made by an elected Government. He prays in aid the elective principle when it suits him but he fails to understand that it should apply at not only the national but the local level.

Mr. Spearing: If, in two or three years, my hon. Friend became Home Secretary, is it not likely that, especially if the chairman of the Police Advisory Council for London were a former chairman of the Trades Union Congress, Conservative Members would believe that it was fixed in a certain building on Walworth road? Does not the politically neutral person at least suspect at the moment that everything might be being arranged behind the scenes in a building on Smith square?

Mr. Straw: That is of course the case, and my hon. Friend makes a powerful argument for the democratic principle. One should trust the people to elect their representatives; they can then hold their police force, or police service, to account.

A proper police authority for London would build on the good relationship between local authorities, local communities and the police, which has already developed in the capital in recent years. Labour will establish such an authority because we believe that it is right to do so and because, above all, it would greatly assist in maintaining public confidence in the police and public understanding of the problems and difficulties that London police face daily. We shall use the period between now and the general election to consult widely on the composition of a proper police authority for London and we shall take full account of the views of the police, magistrates and voluntary organisations as well as those of local authorities and all political parties before we come to a decision. When the present Secretary of State executed his volte face on a London police authority, he sought to justify his about-turn in the House on the ground that the Metropolitan police have "unique national responsibilities". He went on to declaim:

"the national interest in the work of the Metropolitan police makes it right that the Home Secretary should remain the police authority for London."--[ Official Report , 28 June 1993; Vol. 227, c. 666.]

Of course, the Metropolitan police have the functions of what amounts to a national police agency, distinct from their role as London's community police service. Those national functions should, in our view, remain the direct responsibility of the Home Secretary, properly accountable to the House.

However, that in no way undermines the case for the Commissioner to be responsible to a separate police authority for his running of Londoners' police service. The Home Secretary knows that practicable schemes to secure different arrangements for the Commissioner's accountability in respect of his running Londoners' local police service and its important national police agency functions have already been worked out by his Department and Scotland Yard and were perfectly acceptable to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor.

The Commissioner's report brought the welcome news of a 5.5 per cent. reduction in recorded crime in the previous year, including a 13 per cent. drop in reported

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burglaries, thanks largely to the success of Operation Bumblebee. Some people might have criticised the operation, but we did not because we believe that it has been a great success.

The good news, although welcome, should not lead to an outbreak of complacency because, despite the overall fall, recorded crime is still 60 per cent. above the 1979 level and violent street crimes continue to increase. How London compares with other capital cities is of interest but what is of principal interest to Londoners is whether crime has increased or decreased in their city and how that affects their families. The reality is that crime has got worse over the past 15 years.

The Commissioner records in his report that the number of highly publicised racial incidents over the past year shows the pernicious effect of racism. They include the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the violent attacks on Quddas Ali and Muktar Ahmed. The number of reported racial incidents increased by 18 per cent. to more than 5, 000, or 100 a week. There is a new determination by the police to tackle racism inside and outside the service but it remains a mystery why the Home Secretary should have obdurately refused proposals from hon. Members of various parties to make racially motivated violence a specific offence.

Crime and the fear of crime remains the most pressing concern for all Londoners. That places a huge psychological burden on the police while the actual load on officers has risen rapidly, despite additions to their numbers. In 1979, there were 25 crimes per officer; the total is now up one quarter to 32 crimes per officer. That brings me to the issue of resources.

The Secretary of State's explanation that he offered today, alongside the letter and notes that he sent to me yesterday, remain unconvincing. I hope that he will place in the Library a detailed breakdown, using proper comparisons, of expenditure in previous years and expenditure in the future. I believe that I heard him say that, according to his figures, the total funding for the Metropolitan police from all sources would increase from £1,616 million this year to £1,628 million in 1995-96. I see that he agrees to that. If that is the case, it represents an increase of £11.67 million or 0.7 per cent. As the gross domestic product deflator --the amount that the Treasury allows for overall inflation in the economy- -is likely to rise by more than 3 per cent., it is clear that, according to the Secretary of State's figures, there is to be a real terms cut of up to 2 per cent.

Mr. Piers Merchant (Beckenham): The hon. Gentleman cannot be allowed to get away with ending the formula there. He will know from what my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said that the Metropolitan police will benefit from the funds at present used for escort duties. They will no longer be responsible for those duties but the funds will remain with them. They will also benefit from being able to carry forward any surplus from one year to the next, which is at present taken back by the Treasury. That means that two considerable sums of money must be added to the real increase to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Straw: As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is some dispute about exactly how much the Metropolitan police will benefit. Evidence supplied by the Police

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Federation suggests that the cost of prisoner escorts under the contracting-out arrangements is higher than that of prisoner escorts provided directly by the police.

Mr. Howard: What conceivable relevance can that have to the point made my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant)? My hon. Friend's intervention was simple. He said that the Metropolitan police were being relieved of that responsibility but keeping the resources with which they were provided to discharge it. They are not having to pay for the contracted-out service so there will be a clear net advantage of £7 million to the Metropolitan police on that account. Surely even the hon. Gentleman can recognise the ineluctable logic of that proposition.

Mr. Straw: Even if that £7 million is available--it is a still a matter of dispute--it means that the increase in the total available spend will rise from 0.7 per cent. to 1.1 per cent., which is far below the 3 per cent. inflation rate forecast for next year. I take the Secretary of State's silence to mean that he accepts that assertion. I know that when the Secretary of State acknowledges the truth of what I am saying he remains completely silent. He was also silent on the important issue of the cost of contracting-out escort services to Securicor--£128 per prisoner movement is higher than the estimated cost of £105 if the Metropolitan police do it themselves.

Mr. Howard: No. If I rose to my feet every time that I disagreed with one of the propositions advanced by the hon. Gentleman, even he would rapidly tire of the number of times that he would have to yield to my interventions. I serve notice on him that he should draw no such inference from any failure on my part to intervene, either now or in future.

On that specific point, the hon. Gentleman fails completely to take into account the value of the new important flexibility that I mentioned in my speech, which I have been able to introduce in response to a specific request from the Commissioner, and which will enable him to carry forward to next year's budget as much as 2 per cent.--£35 million--from this year's budget.

Last year, as I said, £11 million had to be surrendered even though, no doubt knowing that they would have to surrender any unspent balance, the police made every conceivable attempt to spend it as the financial year drew to a close. They will not be under that pressure this year. There is therefore every reason to suppose that the resources that will be available to them next year will be added to, not only by the £7 million in respect of the court escort service, but by a substantial sum, probably approaching £35 million, which they will be able to use as a result of that new flexibility.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful for that explanation. If the Secretary of State wishes people to be less suspicious than they usually are about the figures that come from his Department, he ought to provide that type of detail when the initial announcement is made. None of that was clear from the letter that he sent me yesterday, setting out the funding of the Metropolitan police service. We shall examine with great care the funding of the service from all available sources.

Mr. Duncan Smith: I want to be absolutely sure, so that it is on the record, that the hon. Gentleman is aware, from the Home Office release yesterday, that that special

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grant of £130 million is being made available for special policing for the capital. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was going on to mention that, but I wanted to be certain.

Mr. Straw: That is not in dispute, and that is taken into account in the figure of £1.628 billion that the Secretary of State gave for the next year.

Mr. Shersby: Has the hon. Gentleman read point 6 of the explanation to editors accompanying the Home Office press release on Metropolitan police funding, which states:

"This includes the power to hold cash reserves and thus carry forward unspent funds from one financial year to the next." Anyone reading that sentence would immediately be able to relate it to the £35 million carry-over to which my right hon. and learned Friend has just referred.

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