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6.50 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke): In this brief summary, I intend to address police reform, falling crime and rising police numbers and morale, but first I shall deal with the point about Surrey, made by the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor). As his colleague, the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) will confirm, we have agreed arrangements precisely to discuss some of the Surrey issues. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary addressed pay and recruitment in his speech, but I acknowledge that issues remain to be discussed. I, too, pay tribute to the chief constable, who is raising those issues, and we have a process for discussing them.

On police reform and the famous secret mentioned by the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), let me make the position clear for the record. As my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Ms Blears) rightly said, it is a matter of how the resources are used and how the process is taken forward. At the beginning of September, we held a seminar with a wide range of organisations, including the Police Federation, at Lancaster house. Mr. Fred Broughton, the president, and Mr. Jeff Moseley, the secretary, were present. We discussed how to modernise the police, especially how to provide better leadership at basic command unit level; the structure of the forces, including best value and regional co-operation; how to develop what the Metropolitan police commissioner calls "the extended police family"; and better relations between the police and other organisations.

We discussed how to develop information and communication technology and science to equip the police; how to use intelligence-led policing and CCTV; and visibility and reassurance--precisely the issues that right hon. and hon. Members have raised. We also discussed the proposal from the Police Superintendents Association that we should consider single-officer

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patrolling rather than double-officer patrolling, and flexibility in the police regulations, together with the partnership development and similar issues. That important dialogue has continued since then. Another meeting will take place in a couple of weeks under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

It is true that the Police Federation decided, by a small minority vote, that it did not wish to participate in the process--its choice, not mine. I have used all possible means to urge the federation to be involved. Frankly, I think that its members will regret the fact that it is not involved in those discussions, because full engagement in the process represents the best way to involve people in modernising the force.

Lord Justice Auld is considering important reforms to the criminal justice system. That major and important agenda has been identified for all the reasons that my hon. Friends have mentioned. It is not secretive in any way; we want to engage the whole police service. Most importantly, it is led by the police and by initiatives from Her Majesty's chief inspector of constabulary, the Metropolitan police commissioner and the Police Superintendents Association. That shows that we want to have a serious debate about how to equip the country with the police service that it needs.

The second issue raised was the alleged rise in crime. In fact, crime is falling. The British crime survey, published last year, was the second to show a fall in crime--the first covered 1995-97, under the previous Government; the second covered 1997-99. Each of the previous six surveys, from 1982 to 1995, had shown increases in crime, but I am happy to pay tribute to the previous Administration for the decrease in crime in 1995-97. I wish they would do the same and give us credit for keeping down crime in 1997-99.

The recorded crime figures tell an important and significant tale. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron) said, there was a 4.2 per cent. reduction in crime in Lincolnshire. In the Leader of the Opposition's constituency, there was a 6 per cent. reduction in crime. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary knows, there was a 4.4 per cent. reduction in crime in Blackburn. In the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, there was a 4.6 per cent. reduction in crime.

Mr. Heald: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Clarke: I shall not give way because of the time at my disposal.

There was a 16.5 per cent. reduction in burglary in the force represented by the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald. The same applies to vehicle crime and so on. Although there has been a significant reduction in crime right across the range, it needs to be better. The point made by the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) about violent crime is right. I have acknowledged in many different forums that that is a serious problem, which we are addressing, but the general picture is good and positive.

Hon. Members were right to raise the important issue of the fear of crime. The survey of English housing was published in December last year. It was an enormous

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study and showed--I again pay tribute to the previous Administration--that in 1994-95, 1997-98 and 1999-2000, the number of people who considered crime a serious problem in their area was reduced year on year. For example, 35 per cent. of people on council estates thought that crime was a serious problem in 1994-95, but that fell to 31 per cent. in 1997-98 and to 24 per cent. in 1999-2000. In affluent family areas, the figure fell from 16 per cent. to 12 per cent. to 6 per cent.

The story is one of improvement. It is absolutely not the case that crime is rising; it is falling. The debate would be much improved if, rather than telling untruths, hon. Members faced the facts and acknowledged the truth of what is happening in their constituencies.

Police numbers are also important. We have published statistics, and they are clear. After seven years of decline in police numbers since 1993--for reasons with which we are familiar--those have been turned around. The national figure shows an increase of 444 over the six months to September last year, which is reflected in particular forces. The number of police in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald is up by 35 and in the constituency of the Leader of the Opposition it is up by 10. Two Opposition Front-Bench spokespeople are from constituencies that are covered by the Thames Valley police force, in which the number of police has increased by eight. In the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the number is up by 36. Numbers are increasing right across the country.

I can go further. The House may be interested to know that the number of recruits in the North Yorkshire force is four times greater this year than it was last year. It is going up and we are going forward.

I can go further still. The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald is always keen to draw a comparison between March 1997 and the current state of affairs. Let me give her the facts. According to the most recent figures for police force strength, which go up to 30 September last year, police numbers in 13 forces--nearly a third of all forces in the country--are higher than they were when we came into government. Those forces include Devon and Cornwall, which has been mentioned, Dorset, Durham, Dyfed-Powys, Gloucestershire, Gwent, Leicestershire, Northumbria, North Wales, South Wales, South Yorkshire and Thames Valley. I must tell the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) that there were 7,350 officers in the West Midlands constabulary last September compared with 7,113 when we came into power. There has been a major increase across the country.

We have said many times that, by 31 March 2002, there will be more police officers than there were in 1997. Between now and then, more and more forces will exceed the number of officers who were employed when we came into office. We have introduced more changes and delivered better policing.

The story is the same for police morale. Assaults on police have decreased. We have given our figures to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald.

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

Mr. Clarke: No, I will not.

The Government's policy is clear. First, we shall continue to increase the number of police officers in every force in the country. Secondly, we shall continue to

18 Jan 2001 : Column 619

reform and modernise the police service so that we deploy and use resources most effectively. Thirdly, we shall continue to focus on particular crimes, so that we find solutions to them, solve them and drive them out, because that is what we have to do, crime by crime by crime. Fourthly, we shall continue to build partnerships with other services across the country. Finally--it is the principal goal of our policy--we shall continue to drive down crime. That is the determination of the Government; we are doing it and shall continue to do it. The country will face a choice when we go to the polls. I know that it will trust this Government to deliver what the previous Government never could.

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

The House divided: Ayes 154, Noes 265.

Division No. 68
[6.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Baldry, Tony
Ballard, Jackie
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
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
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
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)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Randall and
Mr. Peter Atkinson.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hanson, David
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Mr. Tony McNulty.

Question accordingly negatived.

18 Jan 2001 : Column 622

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

The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 129.

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