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Mr. Blunkett: I agree entirely. The importance of leadership and management at that level and the exercise of sufficient flexibility will be crucial to the carrying out of that role, including ensuring that there is proper

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supervisory training for sergeants. The new role of beat officers will enable them to take more responsibility, including responsibility for the wider police family. All of that adds up to a delegation and decentralisation designed to meet specifically and flexibly the needs of the local neighbourhood and community.

Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East): I welcome the Home Secretary's statement. How will he set up the independent police complaints commission, in which I have a particular interest, given what we have gone through with Operation Lancet in Cleveland over the past four years and what we have learned about accountability from that experience? It is important that we get accountability through the commission. Who will serve on it, and what consultation will my right hon. Friend undertake?

Mr. Blunkett: A great deal of discussion and consultation has already taken place on the IPCC. I will ensure that my hon. Friend is brought up to date on the precise stage that we have reached in making key appointments. We will ensure that we can accelerate the independence of the commission by means of the recruitment that I described a moment ago, which will break the dependence of the current complaints authority. I know that my hon. Friend will forgive me for not entering into the pain and difficulty experienced in Cleveland; in future, we want to make sure that processes are speedy and effective.

Bob Russell (Colchester): The Home Secretary rightly drew attention to the excellent work undertaken by the neighbourhood watch movement, and reference was made to support. Will that support include financial reimbursement to the volunteer co-ordinators who undertake so much excellent work for the neighbourhood watch? Was it an oversight that in the Home Secretary's statement there was no mention of Crimestoppers and the 0800 555 111 national eyes and ears service for the public, which, as I am sure the House will agree, provides an excellent service and should be properly funded?

Mr. Blunkett: I gave neighbourhood watch as an example of a long-established and widespread organisation with—I almost said tentacles—parishioners in every ward. Crimestoppers is a valuable scheme and we are working with it on long-term funding. We have just announced a third of a million pounds to ensure that it is lifted out of its immediate financial difficulty. We want to share that with others. We will speak to the crime reduction and disorder partnerships about the funding of co-ordinator posts. It has been drawn to my attention forcefully in the past six months that although police authorities have authority over such matters, its application is spasmodic across the country. We need to address that.

Mr. Chris Pond (Gravesham): As a member of the police parliamentary scheme, I welcome my right hon.

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Friend's statement. Is he aware that although serious crime in north Kent has fallen sharply in recent years, my constituents share his frustration at the relatively low detection and conviction rates, especially for persistent young offenders? He will be aware that in Kent we are fortunate in having a progressive and effective chief constable. Perhaps my right hon. Friend has discussed some of the proposals with him, as I am looking forward to doing later this week. Is my right hon. Friend confident that that approach will be shared by all chief constables? What will he do if he finds a chief constable who stands in the way of reform and wants to prevent the raising of standards, as proposed?

Mr. Blunkett: The process described in chapter 7—go on, I shall be pompous—paragraphs 40 to 43 sets out the intervention powers to which I referred earlier, which are linked to the powers in chapter 6, paragraphs 83 to the end of the chapter. I thought that I had better memorise those during lunchtime—that was for Simon Carr of The Independent. The page numbers vary, depending whether one is reading e-mail or the print version. I shall end my reply by saying that I agree entirely with the accolades heaped on Sir David Phillips, not least because he is the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, and I have to do business with him.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley): Is it not worrying that the fear of crime stays stubbornly high, despite falling crime figures in the recent crime survey? Are not community constables well placed to tackle that? In his quest for good practice, I invite my right hon. Friend to visit Colne Valley, where he could congratulate Chief Superintendent John Holt on having the wisdom to recruit more community police officers, and PC Ian Oxley, who has worked tirelessly to recruit special constables, especially through his work with the community and local businesses to raise the much-needed money for women special constables, who need vests fitted for them costing £500 each. Does my right hon. Friend intend to resource special constables so that they can carry on their valuable work tackling the fear of crime?

Mr. Blunkett: As I said earlier, I am very keen indeed to try to develop the role of special constables and the incentives that are provided to encourage them. I commend the examples that my hon. Friend has given. I do not remember her ever asking me a question about something that she has not insisted that I come and see for myself. Despite the depths of winter, which make Colne Valley a wonderful place to ski but not necessarily to get to, I shall do my best to do that.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. We must move on to the next business.

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Points of Order

5.20 pm

Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When answering my question yesterday about the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry, the Minister of State, Scotland Office said that he understood that, in relation to funding for the ferry, the Liberal Democrat Ministers in the Scottish Executive were

I have a letter from Jim Wallace, one of the Ministers concerned, in which he writes that the Minister of State

I have also received a letter from the Minister of State, who apologises for inadvertently misrepresenting the views of the Liberal Democrat Ministers. As the original misrepresentation was made to the House, I trust that he will come to the House and apologise for his mistake. Have you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, received any request from him for the opportunity to make such a statement?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I have no knowledge of such a request. The Minister of State is not present to respond to the hon. Gentleman's point of order, but will, no doubt, read the points he has put on the record.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have in my hands a document headed "Labour thugs attack MP", in which the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden) makes a number of deeply serious allegations against other Labour Members, including Whips. He alleges that there have been both verbal and physical attacks on himself. In particular, he singles out the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe) as attempting to intimidate him into believing that

Those are extremely serious allegations. Similar allegations are made against the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Jim Dowd), who has personally and physically intimidated me in the past in this very Chamber.

Have you had any notification, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to whether Mr. Speaker has received a formal complaint from the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, who has said in a press release that he is making such a complaint? Furthermore, what action can you take not only to protect Members of this House from attack by other Members, but especially to protect dissident Labour Members from physical attack and intimidation by their own Whips? This is a most serious matter and action needs to be taken.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As somebody who has occasionally voted against the Government, I must say that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe) is more likely to launch a charm offensive than to intimidate anybody.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Any complaint of the sort to which the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth)

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referred should be made in the normal way that is laid down by the House, and will, no doubt, be dealt with accordingly.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I speak as the representative of a number of parties that are not represented on the House of Commons Commission, despite the Prime Minister's claim that it is an all-party body. I might well be inclined to support the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley), which appears on the Order Paper but for which no date has been fixed. Can I ask through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, what procedure of the House Members from my party or from the other parties that are not represented on the House of Commons Commission can use to bring the matter and principle of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to the Floor of the House for discussion, debate, Division and decision?

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