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Police Recruitment

19. Sir Sydney Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on police recruitment in Greater London. [142662]

Mr. Straw: I meet regularly with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to discuss policing issues. Metropolitan police recruitment was one of the matters discussed at our meeting on 7 December.

Home Office Statistical Bulletin 23/00 "Police Service Strength England and Wales, 30 September 2000" published on 14 December and modified on 22 December gives details of recruitment and wastage from all forces, including the Metropolitan police, between 1 April and 30 November 2000. 1 understand that in October and

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November the Metropolitan police recruited 141 and 151 officers respectively, including transfers in. In the same months wastage, including transfers out, was 118 and 102 officers.

25. Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the difficulties in recruiting and retaining officers in Thames Valley police. [142668]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I have received representations from an MP and my officials have received representations from the force. Both representations concerned the difficulties the force has been experiencing in recruiting officers and in retaining officers.

We know that some forces are experiencing difficulty in recruiting and retaining officers. We have provided funding through the crime fighting fund (CFF) for additional recruits this year and in the next two years. There is flexibility within the CFF for forces experiencing difficulty to defer part of their allocation of recruits from 2000-01 to 2001-02.

To help forces meet their recruitment targets the first-ever national recruitment campaign was launched on 30 August.

The Home Secretary agreed to increase from 1 July 2000, by £3,327 per annum, the London allowance for officers in the Metropolitan police service and City of London police who joined on or after 1 September 1994 and receive no housing allowance. The Police Negotiating Board is currently looking at whether there should be an allowance for officers in any other forces and the Home Secretary awaits any recommendations it may make on this or any other issues in relation to police pay and allowances.

Vehicle Crime

20. Mr. Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the level of crime involving vehicles in (a) 1997 and (b) 2000. [142663]

Mr. Charles Clarke: In 1996-97 there were 1,245,052 recorded thefts of and from vehicles. In 1999-2000 this figure fell to 1,043,918. After adjustment to take account of changes to the counting rules introduced on 1 April 1998, this gives a reduction of 17 per cent.

Immigration and Asylum

21. Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the operation of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. [142664]

Mrs. Roche: Implementation of the 1999 Act is being phased. I am satisfied that those elements already in force, including the new asylum support arrangements, the civil penalty for carrying clandestine entrants, and the one-stop appeals system are working effectively.

26. Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will announce the outcome of his review of the voucher system for asylum seekers. [142669]

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Mrs. Roche: We have said we are planning to complete the review early this year and that is still our intention.

Licensed Premises

22. Mr. Bradshaw: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with licensees and pub managers about police powers to close disorderly licensed premises. [142665]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Both the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) and I have discussed this proposal at regular meetings this year with trade associations and professional bodies representing the licensed trade. In addition, I have also met members of the licensed trade in my own constituency to discuss these proposed police powers.

Closed Circuit Television

23. Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received regarding the effectiveness of CCTV in preventing crime; and if he will make a statement. [142666]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I have received no recent representations on this subject. Police operational experience and research studies show that closed circuit television has considerable potential to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly when introduced as part of a package of crime reduction measures.

The CCTV funding initiative under the crime reduction programme includes an extensive programme of evaluation that will add to the knowledge of where and in what circumstances CCTV is most effective.

Community Policing

27. Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of community-based initiatives to combat crime. [142670]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Home Office continues to carry out many evaluations of community-based crime reduction initiatives. Current activity includes evaluations of a large number of projects funded under the crime reduction programme, including community-based projects to reduce burglary, vehicle crime, domestic violence, anti-social behaviour, drug-related crime and town centre violence. We are also making a number of assessments of the work of the crime and disorder partnerships under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, including an examination of the role of voluntary and community groups in the partnerships and another on consultation--including with hard-to-reach groups such as the young, the old and members of minority ethnic groups--by partnerships.

Private Security Firms

28. Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the inspected companies scheme for the private security industry. [142671]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Private Security Industry Bill, which was introduced into the House of Lords on 7 December, provides for the establishment of the Security Industry Authority, and for the authority to run an approved contractor scheme.

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The aim of this scheme is to maintain and raise standards in designated sectors of the private security industry. Under the provisions of the Bill, providers of security services in England and Wales will be able to apply to the Security Industry Authority for approval according to a set of criteria which the authority will determine and publish.

The scheme will allow approved companies to advertise themselves as such, and will thus allow companies and members of the public to identify providers of security services who satisfy the authority's criteria. The authority will maintain a register of approved companies, which will be open for public consultation.

DNA Database

29. Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in establishing a database for the DNA of police officers. [142672]

Mr. Charles Clarke: With the increasing use of DNA technology, and the substantial expansion of the national DNA database, my Department is funding the cost of processing and loading the profiles of 75,000 front-line police personnel on to a separate database, the police elimination database (PED).

Our initial target is by April 2001 to hold samples from the 75,000 front-line staff most likely to visit a crime scene. We are making good progress towards this and by the end of November 2000 over 46,000 samples have been submitted by police forces for inclusion on the police elimination database.

Recent improvements in the sensitivity of DNA have led to a much greater risk of accidental contamination of material by police personnel involved. Police officers are legally obliged to give a DNA sample if there is a risk that they may have inadvertently contaminated a crime scene, to eliminate them from the investigation. After each investigation these samples are destroyed. This results in a delay in subsequent investigations if samples from officers have to be taken and processed on every occasion the officer visits a crime scene, and can mean a delay in arresting suspects. It is also costly, as police forces have to pay for the costs of these repeated tests. Rather than continually carry out this process, officers can agree to their profile being held on the PED. This allows police to identify quickly and eliminate the DNA samples from the police officers visiting a crime scene.

The Police Advisory Board (PAB) has been considering the Association of Chief Police Officers' proposal that new recruits to the police service should be obliged to provide DNA samples for inclusion in the police elimination database as a condition of service, so mirroring the requirement on police officers to provide fingerprints for elimination purposes. The Police Federation of England and Wales has expressed concerns about the proposals and discussions are continuing. I have asked the PAB to reach agreement on the way forward by the end of February.

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