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Closed Circuit Television

4. Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich): How much money the Government are investing nationally in CCTV systems. [99679]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke): Under the crime reduction programme closed circuit television initiative, we are investing £153 million over three years in new or extended CCTV systems in England and Wales. A further £13 million has been allocated to Scotland and £4 million to Northern Ireland. In England and Wales, we expect to allocate about £68 million to schemes during the current financial year, with the balance to be allocated in years two and three.

The first 35 successful bids were announced last week. They were awarded £3.9 million of this year's planned £68 million. Further awards will be announced in the middle of January.

Mr. Henderson: I thank the Minister for that reply. He will be aware that, under the crime and disorder partnership, Tendring district council has put in a bid for a self-contained mobile CCTV scheme. If the bid is successful, the council expects to reduce repeat victimisation by 30 per cent., by reducing criminal damage

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by 100 incidents a year, and car crime by 80 incidents a year. The scheme would then be extended from towns to rural areas. Will my hon. Friend assure me that he will give the scheme his personal careful consideration? Will he also tell the House when he expects to announce further successful bids for such schemes?

Mr. Clarke: I can assure my hon. Friend that I will give the matter my close personal attention. I congratulate the Tendring crime and disorder partnership on its bid for £36,000 and the potential total capital of about £120,000. That application was one of 373 bids shortlisted to prepare final proposals. As I said earlier, the results are due to be announced in mid-January.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): I am sure that the Minister will be aware of the great success of the CCTV scheme in cutting both crime and vandalism in the centre of Bromsgrove. Of course, we have the previous Conservative Government to thank for their generosity in promoting that scheme. May I implore the Labour Government to be equally generous to the people of Bromsgrove? The district council has proposed the extension of the scheme to the shopping and village areas; that would enhance the benefits of the scheme--lowering vandalism and making Bromsgrove a safer place. I implore the Minister to consider that--especially in the light of the West Mercia police force budget and the reduction in the number of constables on the streets. If we cannot have constables to police our streets, perhaps we can have CCTV instead.

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Lady will be aware that the Government have allocated £170 million to CCTV compared with less than £39 million invested under the previous Government. I shall carefully consider the Bromsgrove scheme. I am not sure whether it is one of the 373 bids made so far, but it will be closely considered.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that that valuable capital programme is backed by current spending? There is a growing suspicion that, in many cases, CCTV systems do not contain film, are not continually monitored and that the deterrent effect on vandals and graffiti artists is being dissipated.

Mr. Clarke: I should be interested to hear specific examples of that. The schemes that I have seen have been very successful. They have demonstrated substantial revenue savings--for example, on insurance and maintenance--and they have deterred crime in the way with which the hon. Gentleman is familiar. I am not aware of general unreadiness to put revenue funding into such schemes, but, if the hon. Gentleman has specific examples of that, I shall be glad to consider them.

Norwich Prison

5. Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North): What assessment he has made of the level of overcrowding in Norwich prison. [99680]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng): The operational capacity for Norwich prison is 744. The highest population at Norwich over the last

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six months was on 19 September, when 725 prisoners were in custody. The average population at Norwich during the current financial year has been 698.

Dr. Gibson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that a good general definition of overcrowding in prisons would be two prisoners in a cell designed for one? Would he further correlate the figures for overcrowding with the high suicide rates in prisons--for example, there have been 19 suicides in Norwich in the past few years? Finally, has he plans to emulate the judge in North Carolina who paraded prisoners down Main street with a placard round their necks stating what their indiscretions had been? We can think of some people in this country who might fall into that category.

Mr. Boateng: That is a very interesting suggestion and one that I should be only too happy to discuss with my hon. Friend if he wishes to introduce the North Carolina example in Norwich. It is important to recognise that prison governors have a responsibility to assess what is a safe number to hold in a particular jail and they do that by considering issues such as ventilation, light and space as well as design. In Norwich, that number has been assessed as 744 and the prison population is currently below that capacity.

It is important to ensure that we take steps within the prison population to detain prisoners in safe and decent environments, and that means giving the problems of suicide and self-harm a proper degree of priority. I do that and I know that the Attorney-General, when he was the Minister responsible for prisons, met my hon. Friend to discuss it. I continue to keep the position at Norwich under review and I pay particular tribute to the Samaritans in Norwich and to the prisoners who participate in the listeners scheme, which has shown itself able to produce positive results in reducing the impact of suicide and self-harm.

Special Constables

6. Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): If he will make it his policy to increase the number of special constables. [99681]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke): Yes, it is. Special constables are an excellent example of the police and the public working together to tackle crime. The Government strongly support the efforts of police forces to recruit more special constables. A special constables week was held in January 1999 during which many events were held by forces around the country.

In addition, the Home Office provided £500,000 worth of local press and radio advertising for 12 forces. It has also produced a recruitment video, a series of posters and a recruitment brochure for forces.

Mr. Leigh: If all that is true, why has the number of special constables decreased by 3,000 since the general election? If the Minister wants to avoid the charge that he is simply tough on crime-fighters rather than tough on crime, will he think of some truly imaginative ways of

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increasing recruitment--for example, by giving special constables the same terms, conditions and pay that people in the Territorial Army receive?

Mr. Clarke: We believe that the main reason for the decline in numbers has been the higher recruiting standards that are now used for special constables. Those higher standards reflect the fact that special constables are being trained and deployed in a wider variety of duties than before, including more so-called front-line duties. The recruiting criteria are now very similar to those used for regular officers, so many applicants who previously would have been accepted in the special constabulary are now being rejected.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): Does my hon. Friend agree that it was the previous Government who handed over responsibility for police figures to chief constables, and that no Government, not even a Conservative Government, could at this time guarantee the numbers of police available and operative in any town or city?

Mr. Clarke: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point, which is entirely accurate. Legislation passed in 1994 by the previous Government removed from the Home Secretary the power to specify police numbers throughout the country.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): The Conservative party applauds the excellent work of special constables, but does not the Minister recognise that any extra help from specials will not plug the massive hole in front-line policing, which as today's BBC survey has revealed, consists of 3,000 unfilled posts? The pattern across the country is becoming depressingly familiar: retired officers are not replaced; vacant posts are unfilled; and recruitment plans are postponed or frozen--all to save money from overstretched budgets. What a contrast that is to the 16,000 extra police officers recruited under the Conservatives. When will the Minister face up to what everyone else in the police service can see is the worst crisis in police manpower since Labour was last in office?

Mr. Clarke: The most significant event to address that issue in recent months was my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's statement that we would be providing 5,000 extra police officers over and above the levels previously indicated. As the hon. Gentleman will know, last Thursday, we published guidance on that in which we specifically state the means by which police authorities can apply for those resources and ensure, as they could not under the previous Government's proposals, that they are used for police numbers. That is action that the Government are taking to address those issues.

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