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The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): As my hon. Friend and I discussed when we met recently to consider the Dee estuary, its administration raises interesting and unique cross-border management issues, which I shall raise with my ministerial colleagues.
Mr. Chapman: I thank my right hon. Friend for the steps that have been taken so far. Does he agree that, following devolution, cross-border, environmentally sensitive matters merit special consideration, which might
Mr. Murphy: I could not agree more. I have raised the matter with the First Minister and the Minister for the Environment in the Assembly. I agree that there should be good co-operation between the environment agencies and, as my hon. Friend said, the development agencies. I shall keep in touch with him, and I hope to visit the estuary soon.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's answer. Will he discuss with the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who is responsible for fisheries, the exploitation of mollusc beds in the Dee estuary by unlicensed people? That activity is to the great detriment of the Inland Revenue and is environmentally degrading an important stock.
Mr. Murphy: Yes, of course I shall do that. When I discussed the matter with my hon. Friend some weeks ago, he mentioned the cockle beds in the Dee estuary. It is important for both environment agencies to tackle the problem. I assure him that I shall discuss the matter with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): The Government's partnership approach to fighting crime is making a significant difference in communities throughout Wales. With funding running into millions of pounds, local crime and disorder reduction partnerships are implementing projects targeted at crime hotspots, domestic violence and drug-related crime. Much of the funding is being channelled specifically into the most deprived communities and is going a long way towards building safer and more inclusive communities.
Mr. Smith: Does my right hon. Friend know that recorded crimes in the Vale of Glamorgan division of the South Wales police area have decreased from 15,000 a year in 1995 to 10,000 a year? That has transformed towns such as Barry, including the seaside resort of Barry Island, from being among the most crime-ridden
Burglaries in the Vale of Glamorgan police division have fallen by 31 per cent. in the past year. A similar reduction has occurred in the theft of motor vehicles, and there has been a reduction of 19 per cent. in thefts from vehicles. That is down to good policing and providing resources, to which the Government are committed. I congratulate Superintendent Colin Jones on the way in which he leads his force in the Vale of Glamorgan police division. I understand that the Prime Minister congratulated him in No. 10 Downing street.
Mr. Havard: Does my right hon. Friend know that the change to deprivation funding by the Youth Justice Board means a significant increase in the money available for its valuable and successful work in my constituency? The community intelligence-led approach to policing in Merthyr Tydfil and the safer Merthyr homes scheme have received United Kingdom recognition. The community warden scheme is being extended to other parts of the UK. What plans does he have to work with other Departments, the National Assembly for Wales and all relevant agencies to ensure sustained funding for the successful initiatives that have done so much to decrease crime rates and improve safety in my constituency?
Mr. Touhig: Since my appointment to this office in June, I have made three visits to my hon. Friend's constituency, and I have been impressed by the range of initiatives aimed at building stronger communities. I am aware of the well established neighbourhood and warden schemes in Pen-y-darren and Bedlinog, which offer good examples of what can be achieved with communities working together. I also welcome the award of £70,000 earlier this year under the crime reduction programme. I understand that the community warden scheme to which he referred has been extended into Dowlais ward, and significant progress has already been made in building a stronger and better community as a result.
Mr. David: I thank my hon. Friend for his response. Will he give the House more specific information about the measures that the police in Wales are likely to introduce to reduce antisocial behaviour?
Mr. Touhig: Like most hon. Members, I represent communities that have been blighted by problems of antisocial behaviour. My hon. Friend and I share the same borough and police division, and I can tell him that the Government have introduced a number of measures to address antisocial behaviour, including antisocial behaviour orders. Such orders, which seek to curb the activities of individuals who make the lives of others a misery, start as civilian orders but can become criminal orders if their conditions are breached. Two hundred such orders have been approved in England and Wales.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs recently took part in a seminar in Cardiff promoting the use of antisocial behaviour orders, and I hope that, as a result of that, more police authorities will take up their use.
What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Home Secretary to prioritise violent crime as an issue that needs urgent action? The number of crimes of violence against the person in Wales in 1997 was 17,386; the figure today is 38,230. The total figure for violent crime in 1997 was 20,071; today it is 40,880. When are we going to have some urgent action to tackle violent crime in Wales?
Mr. Touhig: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Government have launched an action plan to combat violent crime. Indeed, detection rates for violent crime in the South Wales police area stand at 86 per cent. Violent crime figures in that area have risen slightly, but not by anything like the national average. Most violent offences are committed in public areasfor example, brawls outside pubs and clubsand initiatives have been put in place to combat them. I am pleased with the initiatives taken by the South Wales police to tackle violent crime, which have significantly increased detection rates.
Mr. Evans: I am glad that the Minister is satisfied, but I suspect that the people of Wales are not. He knows that violent crime has gone up, while the number of special constables who assist the regular constabulary has gone down. In 1997, there were 1,142 specials in Wales; today, there are 811. Will he undertake to have urgent talks with the Home Secretary about increasing the number of specials in Wales? Will he also give his full support to the police in Wales? Last year, 715 police were injured in assaults in the line of duty in Wales. Will he give his full backing to the campaign to ensure that, next year, the police get the Queen's golden jubilee medal, which they so richly deserve?
Mr. Touhig: I shall take the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question first. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will have taken note of his point but, if not, I shall draw it to his attention.
I take the hon. Gentleman's point about specials, but he ignores the fact that, in the last year, the number of police officers on the beat in Wales has increased by 241. Indeed, there will be a further increase of 259 police officers on the beat in Wales in the coming year. That contrasts sharply with the reduction in the number of officers on the beat when his party was in government.