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6.49 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke): I thank the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) for his courteous welcome to me, which I appreciated. In his speech, his only palpable hit was on the Home Secretary's support for Blackburn Rovers football club; the whole House will be aware that Norwich City's tremendous victory over Bolton--the team supported by the Chief Whip--took us above Blackburn in the first division, and I am very glad about that.

I welcome this debate. It is an opportunity for the Government to set out their case on the various issues that have been raised. I had hoped that it would be an opportunity for the Opposition to set out their policies on the issues, but I regret that yet again the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) showed herself to be more of a rent-a-quote and an unguided missile than a serious proponent of alternative policies. She is more of an embarrassment to her party leadership, as demonstrated on clause 118 of the Immigration and Asylum Bill--currently in the House of Lords--than a positive part of the Opposition team. Perhaps that is why there was no crime pledge in the Conservative list of five commonsense pledges presented at the Conservative party conference. Perhaps that is why today the right hon. Lady has tabled a compendium resolution--or as a friend of mine said, a kitchen-sink resolution. It does not mention the major progress that has been made in the youth justice system and the criminal justice system towards meeting the pledges that we made.

I shall deal with the three issues that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald has identified. The first is that of cold-war spies, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) spoke. There is always good theatre to be had about such issues, but in truth some serious issues need to be looked at properly in considering the future of our country following the cold war and in seeking proper accountability for our security services.

The Government's agenda is public and clear. We have set out absolutely the need to put everything on a proper basis. I pay tribute to the Conservative Government. Their legislation on the matter and the establishment of the Intelligence and Security Committee acknowledged the need to put these things on a proper footing and to have

26 Oct 1999 : Column 862

serious debate on the issues, and that is what is happening. All parties in the political process have to work together. I am sure that that is the right way to do it. We should eschew cheap political theatre of the type that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald wants and focus on cleaning up the whole system.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary paid tribute to the work of the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) and his committee. The all-party approach of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is an attempt to address the issues in a proper way. That is the right way to proceed. It is not cheap posturing of the kind indulged in by Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen.

Dr. Julian Lewis: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Clarke: No, I will not.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock raised some significant points. The Government must take seriously what he had to say when they examine carefully the conclusions of the Intelligence and Security Committee once it has considered the issue in the round.

The second issue is asylum seekers and immigration control. It is striking that five hon. Members raised it this afternoon: my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Mr. Shaw), the hon. Members for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Wardle) and for Woking (Mr. Malins), my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Prosser) and the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke). It is no secret that the turmoil in Europe at the end of the cold war, especially in the former Yugoslavia, has massively increased the problems. That was acknowledged by some hon. Members today. It is a real situation that affects not only Britain but every country in Europe. It is why we dealt in 1988 with 4,000 asylum applications a year and with 45,000 last year.

Reorganisation of the immigration and nationality department was long overdue. Investment should have been made to resolve the problems in the past, but it has been down to us to sort out the mess that we inherited. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, the stewardship of the Tories under the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald made the situation far worse. They left thousands of asylum seekers to pick up the tab. They established the unfair and arbitrary white list. They failed to tackle unscrupulous so-called immigration advisers. They did nothing whatever to speed up the process of applying for asylum.

I place on record my appreciation of the comments made by the hon. Member for Woking. He acknowledged that the Government inherited serious problems on asylum and immigration. That was an honest and correct thing for him to say, and I am glad that he had the courtesy to do so.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle made some serious points. We have invested an extra £120 million over three years. We are taking forward a range of initiatives to improve productivity, develop new and speedier working methods, streamline procedures for dealing with general casework and thoroughly reappraise the IT system. We are recruiting an extra 340 staff in Croydon and we have plans to recruit a further 200 in Croydon and 85 in Liverpool. The hon. Gentleman was right to identify the need to speed up decisions. The Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the

26 Oct 1999 : Column 863

Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche), is working exceptionally hard to achieve change in precisely the way that is needed and should have been effected a long time ago.

I must make reference to the race card, which the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald raised. We could not have had a clearer illustration of what is at stake than in the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Chatham and Aylesford and for Dover. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said in 1995, having been head of research at Conservative central office:

Those were not my words but the words of the former Tory strategist who is now the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire. My hon. Friend the Member for Dover put the issue straightforwardly.

We are making progress on asylum and immigration. My Home Office colleagues and I acknowledge the immense task that needs to be undertaken. Incidentally, at the G8 conference on organised crime last week we secured international agreement to inhibit trafficking in illegal immigrants throughout the world. That is an example of the international co-operation that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary moved forward at the EU summit at Tampere. Many Opposition Members would eschew that co-operation.

The last issue that the Opposition raised was the police. It is a shame that not once has any credit been given to the Government for the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the establishment of local crime reduction partnerships up and down the country. The Act is described by many chief constables to me as the best legislation that any Government have introduced to inhibit and reduce crime in any area directly. Building a genuine partnership between all agencies is at the core of our approach.

Another element of our approach is recognition of the fantastic benefits that technology can provide. We are focusing on intelligence-led policing, the use of DNA and the public service radio communications scheme, which has been described. A total of £1.5 billion has been identified for a public finance initiative for the scheme and we are allocating more money to take it forward. Forces want the scheme because they want to communicate with each other and develop in an effective way. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced earlier this year a commitment on DNA which will massively increase our ability to use it to solve crimes.

I was interested in the remarks made by the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) about police numbers. I will take him through the ups and downs of police numbers in the past eight or nine years so that the House has them fully on the record, given his absurd claim of an average increase of whatever it was he said. The figures are as follows: 1991-92, plus 132; 1992-93, plus 663; 1993-94, minus 393; 1994-95, minus 675; 1995-96, minus 321--this was all under the Conservatives--1996-97, plus 257;1997-98, minus 344; and 1998-99, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, minus 715. Those figures do not show a strong record for the Conservative Government. That is precisely why my right hon. Friend made his announcement. He was right to do so and to take it forward.

26 Oct 1999 : Column 864

The Conservatives should support the process of modernisation and change. They should have initiated it when they were in office, but they did not. The country needs a modern, effective, accountable police service that focuses its efforts in partnership with others on reducing crime. That is what the Government want and what the Government will deliver.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 145, Noes 371.

Division No. 276
[6.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mrs. Jacqui Lait and
Mr. Stephen Day.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Austin, John
Ballard, Jackie
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Clelland and
Mrs. Anne McGuire.

Question accordingly negatived.

26 Oct 1999 : Column 868

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


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