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Mr. Heald: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heath: No, I am sorry, I do not have time to give way.

The settlement for Avon and Somerset is not the worst in the country. It is about two thirds of the way down the list; 27 authorities have done better and 11 have done worse. However, the settlement does not meet the inflation cost of the pay awards, which is £6.1 million, or the additional pension deficit of £2 million. It does not allow for a capital programme that goes beyond the basic investment in information technology needed to meet Government programmes, plus some maintenance of buildings, for which there is a £7 million backlog. The tragedy is that £9 million of capital receipts is locked in a cupboard and cannot be used. If that could be utilised, it would benefit the police authority.

The council tax benefit limitation scheme also penalises Avon and Somerset by £500,000, which in itself is the cost of 20 police officers. The Minister said earlier that he is faced with a currency of police officers, whereas in his previous job he was faced with a currency of teachers, but that is how we must look at these issues. What will happen if funds are limited in a manpower-intensive service such as the police? We will lose police officers. That, I fear, will be the effect in the Avon and Somerset force this year.

In the next couple of weeks, the police authority will be asked to approve a budget that next year will provide for 30 fewer police officers, less civilian support and fewer of the services that the constabulary would like to provide, such as financial investigation. That is not matched by a reduction in council tax. Far from it--there will be an 11.5 per cent. increase. The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) said that people do not mind if taxes go up and they see the benefit in the service. People in Somerset will experience an 11.5 per cent. increase in the council tax for the police, on top of a 10.5 per cent. increase last year, but there will be 30 fewer officers on their streets. They will ask why that is happening and why they are being so badly served.

We may well come up trumps in the crime fighting fund application. Who knows? Maybe we will be given everything that we ask for, but I suspect not. If my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is right and we receive 27 officers from that fund, but lose 30 officers because of the general budget, it does not take a mathematical

3 Feb 2000 : Column 1261

genius to realise that we will be worse off in terms of the number of officers fighting crime in Avon and Somerset. That is a labour of Sisyphus for the constabulary, because every time we think that we can make improvements, the stone rolls back and we are worse off.

What can the Minister do? First, of course, he can argue--I am sure that he is doing so--for a greater total sum for the police, which is not keeping up with other services. For Avon and Somerset, he can argue also for the removal of the area cost adjustment, because there can be no justification for such an adjustment for a police service in which pay and conditions are determined nationally, yet that is maintained year after year.

There is also sparsity, which the Minister said he is addressing. Avon and Somerset is a strange police authority because we have urban Bristol, including St. Paul's, and Exmoor, and the two have rather different policing needs. We have to police a large rural area, and that must be recognised. Having sympathy for the concerns of hon. Members who represent rural areas is not equivalent to doing something about the formula.

We have a complicated formula for the police grant that awards authorities that have terraced housing. That is wonderful for us because we have Bath, with the Royal crescent, and Clifton with its Georgian crescents, and we get rewarded for that.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heath: No, I am sorry, I do not have time.

Let us have some sense about the costs of policing, and a needs-based budget. There is also the establishment factor, which the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) mentioned. It does not fit with a needs-based formula to base 10 per cent. of a force's budget on historical accident, favouring those forces who happen to have been favoured many years ago.

I could say much more, but I want to give the Minister the opportunity to give a brief reply. Before I do so, I shall make one point. The effect of squeezing police expenditure is not that the police will investigate murders or other serious crimes any less effectively. It is the marginal activities that get squeezed, such as patrols and the provision of cover in rural areas, which affect the visibility of the police. Local commanders have difficulty in carrying absences and abstractions for major crimes, which means that the public have less confidence in their local police, and the police are less visible. I hope that no Member of the House wants that.

3.56 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke): I shall respond briefly to this useful debate. Pensions were mentioned by many hon. Members, who made legitimate points. That issue is difficult to deal with across government, not only in the police. As has been suggested, we need to sort it out. I make no party political criticism in saying that the matter was not addressed fully under the previous Government; it has not yet been fully addressed, and it needs to be dealt with.

I am glad that the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the national crime squad have been complimented. They are in a different position from

3 Feb 2000 : Column 1262

other forces, but I am glad that many hon. Members have referred to the quality of their work and the importance of supporting them. I am strongly committed to doing so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) and the hon. Members for Orpington (Mr. Horam) and for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) powerfully made the suburban metropolitan case. I have not heard the suburban argument made that clearly before, and I shall consider those important issues, which fall between those of inner-city crime and those of rural deprivation.

The area cost-adjustment point is well made, but as I said earlier, the overall review conducted by the Deputy Prime Minister is dealing with that, among other matters. Many hon. Members criticised the formula and made interesting points. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) talked about how population movements are measured, which will be part of the process.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) mentioned the difficult issue of success being penalised, which runs through much of public policy. Obviously, the worse the problems in an area, the greater the inclination to give it more resources, but those areas that have done better then feel, reasonably, that their success is not being properly recognised. I take that problem very seriously.

I did not deal with capital in my opening remarks because of the limited time available. We are now in a period of stability for capital after successive years of cash cuts in police capital provision. Police capital funding next year will remain at this year's figure of £144 million, and our plans will allow police authorities to plan ahead with confidence. In addition, there are private finance initiative schemes.

I am sure that the numbers debate will run on. I merely want to emphasise that police presence on the streets is not simply related to police numbers. We had a meeting near Emneth, close to Norfolk, where there was a terrible murder last Thursday, and people raised the issue of the burden that the criminal justice system places on the police by requiring them to spend more time in police stations and not enough on the beat. There are issues of that kind that are at least as important.

I welcome the debate. I have tried briefly to respond to the points that have been made. I shall be happy to discuss these issues further outside the Chamber.

It being Four o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Order [28 January].

The House divided: Ayes 271, Noes 156.

Division No. 62
[4 pm


AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Mike Hall and
Mr. Greg Pope.


NOES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Ballard, Jackie
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Butterfill, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon John
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sanders, Adrian
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thompson, William
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Wilkinson, John
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and
Mr. John Randall.

Question accordingly agreed to.

3 Feb 2000 : Column 1266

Resolved,


Mr. Deputy Speaker then put the remaining Question required to be put at that hour.

Resolved,



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