|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State forthe Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): The Government greatly appreciate the immediate response of the Metropolitan police authority and service after the terrorist attack in the USA on 11 September. There has been a great deal of speculation as to the additional costs to the Metropolitan police of the increased security measures. We have set in train a process for the detailed assessment of the additional resources deployed. We are actively considering these and hope to make an announcement in the next few weeks.
Tom Brake: I thank the Minister for that reply. He will be aware of the concerns expressed by some borough commanders about their ability to continue policing locally because of the commitment that they are having to make to key locations in central London. He will also be aware of the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) asked on 22 October about the estimate of the rising costs involved in that.
Will the Minister confirm exactly when the report on the additional costs will be produced? Will he also tell us what additional financial assistance will be forthcoming for the Metropolitan police authority to cover those additional costs? How many additional specials will be provided as a result of the additional funds; and what impact will all that have on rising street crime in London?
Mr. Ainsworth: The Commissioner has informed us that in the immediate aftermath of 11 September there was a desire on his part to reassure people by moving substantial numbers of police officers to areas that were perceived to pose the greatest threat. The chair of the authority, the Commissioner and the Home Secretary have had a number of meetings and are aware of the need to make absolutely sure that the situation is rebalanced.
If I were able to give the hon. Gentleman the figures for which he asks, I would do so. There are the immediate costs of the aftermath of 11 September to consider, and the ongoing level of security that is needed is being assessed. As I said, we hope to be able to make an announcement in the next few weeks.
Beverley Hughes): Under round one of the initiative, 354 funding applications worth a potential £63 million were successful and 382 were unsuccessful. Under round two, 332 funding applications worth about £106 million were successful and 449 were unsuccessful.
Dr. Cable: Is the Minister aware of the great frustration in communities like mine because, having been encouraged to put forward well designed and badly needed applications for CCTV funding, they are being turned down by rigid financing rules that require local councils to carry the full current costs of the schemes? Will she speak to the Treasury, which I suspect is the source of the problem, about introducing more flexible arrangements to enable more councils to have that valuable initiative implemented in their areas?
Beverley Hughes: As all hon. Members know, CCTV schemes are very popular, both with local authorities and, indeed, with local people. As I said in my answer, a total of 738 applications have been successful under a scheme that has put £170 million into CCTV initiatives as part of a crime reduction programme.
Although the hon. Gentleman's local authority of Richmond upon Thames submitted proposals under round oneunfortunately, none was successful because there were higher priorities and better bidsno proposals were received from it under round two. I understand his disappointmentbut if authorities do not bid, they do not get.
Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): Does my hon. Friend agree that some CCTV systems that are successful in central areas have pushed criminality out on to estates and into outlying areas? Will she give careful consideration to the Eastfield area of Scarborough? The community there desperately wants CCTV but does not seem to be able to get hold of the right people in the local council to push that initiative forward. What is the best way of doing that on behalf of the local community? [Interruption.]
We have received anecdotal reports of displacement, which is an issue in some schemes but not in others. We are evaluating 17 of the current schemes to determine their effectiveness across the board. Indeed, one of the questions relates to whether crime is displaced to areas without cameras as a result of CCTV. On my hon. Friend's more general point, we are reviewing the entire crime reduction programme and I shall let him know of future initiatives.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney): Will the Minister join me in welcoming the CCTV system being launched in Witney on 14 December and congratulate all who have been involved in getting the project up and running? Does she agree that it will give welcome relief to many shopkeepers and newsagents who have had their windows smashed and suffered from petty crime? Will she confirm that small towns, like many in my constituency in west Oxfordshire, will continue to be encouraged to bid?
Beverley Hughes: I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman endorses the initiative and the finance that the Government have made available to provide what local people and retailers want. I am pleased that his area, albeit represented by him, has been able to benefit under that scheme. In addition to funding the CCTV initiative, the Government have introduced extra funding to help small retailers to remain in their areas, particularly where there is high crime, because their remaining is important for the local economy.
The Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs (Mr. John Denham): As a result of a recent exercise by the Home Office and the police, I can inform the House that the total number of antisocial behaviour orders issued up until the end of September this year was 466, an increase of more than 180 on the previous figure. It is clear that the orders have a significant role to play in tackling antisocial behaviour. A review of their effectiveness will soon be completed, and we will be looking at measures to enhance their use.
Mr. Rammell: My constituents are concerned about antisocial behaviour by a minority, which is a scourge on our community. Does the Minister accept that there is frustration because, despite the welcome increase in the use of antisocial behaviour orders, they are not being taken up as quickly as they should be? Has he considered Ipswich council's piloting of the acceptable behaviour contract with persistent young offenders, which I believe could be a way forward on this issue?
Mr. Denham: Yes, and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be going to Ipswich tomorrow to see that scheme in action. In many parts of the country, antisocial behaviour orders have proved most effective as part of a well integrated system that includes a lower level of warning measures, such as acceptable behaviour contracts, so that a young person heading towards an antisocial behaviour order is in no doubt of the consequences of continuing their offending behaviour.
Mr. Hepburn: I welcome that answer, and I agree that antisocial behaviour orders are effective, but we need more of them. Is the Minister aware that it takes a police constable an average 100 hours to enact an order? Will he try to cut down on bureaucracy not only to increase the use of orders but to get PCs on the beat, where they should be?
Bob Spink (Castle Point): Will the Minister visit my constituency so that he can see for himself the nightmare that youth crime is creating for residents in Canvey Island, Tar Pots and Thundersley Common? Does he accept that the best way to deal with antisocial behaviour is to get more police officers on the streets, which means that the Government must provide more resources and reduce bureaucracy? They should also introduce the two IT schemes to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) referred earlier.
Mr. Denham: The good news is that this Government are providing the resources, which means that police numbers are rising. We will achieve record police numbers in the next 18 months, and during the lifetime of this Government the number of police officers in England and Wales will exceed 130,000.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that, as we get those record police numbers, we must make the most effective use of their time. The research that we recently published showed that 47 per cent. of a police officer's time is spent in the station rather than out on patrol duties, and we have set up a taskforce headed by the chief inspector of constabularies, Sir David O'Dowd, to consider ways of tackling the bureaucracy that is diverting police officers from doing the job in the way they want to do it.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): Is the Minister aware that, despite the contribution that antisocial behaviour orders can make, antisocial behaviour of the kind found in my constituency, especially Ashtead and Stoneleigh, can be tackled only if the police have proper sanctions to use against the offenders? The police in my locality have discovered that because they can take little practical action against young offenders there is a certain "I don't care; you can try it on with me, but you can't touch me" mentality among those youths. Something needs to be done to give the police real sanctions that they can use against juveniles when they step out of line.
Mr. Denham: I agree that the police need to be able to take effective action. However, I am pleased that innovative work by the police in areas like Wrexham and Islington and pioneering initiatives such as acceptable behaviour contracts show that if there is close working between the police, local authorities and other agencies,it is possible to give clear warnings to young people about the consequences of their actions. It is important that the police be supported effectively by magistrates; the Lord Chancellor addressed that when he recently spoke to the Magistrates Association about the need to enforce ASBOs.
Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley): On 1 November, after threatening police with a home-made firearm in a neighbourhood in my constituency following a domestic dispute in Codnor, Mr. Steven Dickson was shot dead by
Does my right hon. Friend agree that police and bystanders must be protected in such incidents and that the person with the firearm may need to be stopped instantly? However, what progress has been made in investigations of the availability of an effective non-lethal weapon which can avoid loss of life while giving proper protection in firearms incidents?
Mr. Denham: My hon. Friend has raised a very important issue. The whole House will accept that the job of armed police officers is extraordinarily difficult; judgments have to be made, sometimes in extremely short periods, which can have tragic consequences if they are wrong in either direction.
My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of non-lethal alternatives to firearms. We are close to completing the second phase of work by chief constables and the Northern Ireland Office on those alternatives. We hope that a report will be published by the Northern Ireland Office in the near future, paving the way for a more detailed analysis of factors to be taken into account, of the full medical effects, and of the technologies that look most promising, because they can incapacitate people quickly without fatal consequences. I hope that I have reassured my hon. Friend that work in that important area is progressing urgently.