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Angela Watkinson: The hon. Gentleman is extremely lucky to have either a good police service in his area, or adequate resourcing. My neighbouring constituency has the largest concentration of night clubs in the Metropolitan police district, apart from the west end of London. The demands that have to be met in the late-night entertainment centre in that constituency mean that there is often no police officer on duty on Friday and Saturday nights in my constituency.
Mr. Smith: I sympathise with the hon. Lady, as my constituency's principal town, Barry, is a major seaside resort. We have many clubs and entertainment centres that attract lots of people, especially through the summer. They create difficult policing problems, but even so crime has been reduced in the way that I described.
There is no doubt that the fall in the crime rate is due in part to the extra resources that have been given to police in our area, which mean that there are more police on the beat. It is also in part a result of close work with communities in the area. There is a very close partnership between local authorities, voluntary groups, the police and the schools. Large-scale preventive measures have been taken to help reduce the crime rate, and they have been incredibly successful.
A number of other reasons for the fall can be adduced, and one is that we have damn good coppers. Another factor is the good leadership in the area's police force. For the first time in a long time, many serving policing officers in the Vale of Glamorgan division who work in and police the area also live there, and bring their children up there. Their children go to local schools, so the officers have a shared and vested interest in seeing crime tackled in the area. We have moved away from that strategy over the years, and we should return to it.
The achievement in my area has been so remarkable that it was recognised at the end of last year by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. South Wales Police achieved one of the highest reductions in crime in the UK, and the chief constable, the local superintendent of police, whose name is Colin Jones, and some serving officers were invited to No. 10 Downing street. They were congratulated on the excellent public service that they had been providing over four or five years and on the excellent statistics that they had achieved. They were invited to discuss with my right hon. Friends some of the reasons for their tremendous record.
I emphasise that the record is tremendous. I recall bringing business and community leaders to the House to make representations to Home Office Ministers about the level of crime that existed some 10 years ago. The crime rate was so bad then that I would not mention it in debates in this House. I did not want the area that I represent to suffer from any associated bad publicity, but we wanted something to be done. The problem facing local businesses, clubs and entertainment establishments was not that they were struggling in a difficult economic climate, but that the crime rate was so bad that they could not get insurance companies to insure their buildings or stock, and they could not trade as normal. That is how
I want my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to know that we are extremely grateful that the chief constable of South Wales Police was recognised with a knighthood in the new year honours. I have no doubt that had something to do with his excellent achievements. I hope that the achievements of other officersin particular Superintendent Jones and his team in the Vale of Glamorgan divisionwill be recognised in the same way. They have all played an important role.
The Government's success in public services in my constituency is not just the result of increased resources, preventive policies and working in partnership. A major contribution has been made by the radical reduction in poverty and unemployment. There is a direct relationship with the reduction in crime. Do not ask meask any local bobby. When the police used to apprehend someone who was up to no good, the first two questions they asked were, "Are you working?" and "Where do you live?". The officers could usually narrow down their suspects by knowing their income or the area or conditions in which they lived. That has disappeared because of the dramatic improvement in the elimination of poverty and the reduction in unemployment. In my constituency, unemployment has fallen 40 per cent. in the past four and a half years. Youth unemployment, which produced the biggest perpetrators of crime, has fallen by 70 per cent. Neither unemployment nor poverty excuses crime but they do explain it.
Today's Opposition debate was rumbled when the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), the former Secretary of State for Social Security, said that there is no relationship between poverty and health. That is the one statement people will remember from today's debate. The Opposition do not believe that there is any relationship between the health of the people of this country and their ability to get a job, live in a decent house, enjoy a decent diet, wear decent clothing and look after their children properly. Conservative Members do not make that connection because they do not in their hearts believe in the ethos of public servicesand never will. Today's debate has been an absolute sham and the people of this country will rumble them.
This has been an interesting debate and there have been several excellent contributions from Conservative former Secretaries of State, but in many ways it has been a tale of two debates, because many Labour Back Benchers have simply taken us on a ramble through history. They seem to think that the world stopped in May 1997 and that nearly five years of Labour Government is a thing of fiction. Sadly for patients, pupils and passengers, the Labour Government are too much of a realitya reality that is delivering deteriorating public services and a demoralised work force.
People would be even more angry and disillusioned if they had heard most of Labour Members' speeches tonight, because their cavalier attitude to the chaos in health, transport and educationtheir disregard for the devastation that their policies have wrought in public serviceswas breathtaking in its arrogance.
Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe gave another clue when he said that he had hoped to find a consensus today on the need for diversity and choice and the involvement of the private sector, particularly in the health service, but saw instead the dead wood on the Labour Back Benches failing to recognise not only the needs of patients, parents and passengers, but even the policies of their own Ministers.
I said that we had a number of rambles through history. The hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) indulged in a very slow ramble through history, completely ignoring the record of his own Government in its first term from 1997 and completely ignoring the reality of the services that people have to use day in, day out.
The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) painted a picture of Government success in Worcester. He even spoke about success in education. That is not the sort of success that I remember from the delegation of heads from Worcestershire who came to see me when I was an education spokesman, to complain about levels of funding for their schools.
Mrs. May: My hon. Friend says that I missed nothing. I am sorry that I missed the speech, because the hon. Gentleman has previously been quite critical of his own Government's record in the past four and a half years. [Hon. Members: "Where is he?"] Indeed, sadly he is not here to listen to these winding-up speeches.
When the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) took an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) about the comments by the chairman of the Labour party about how bad the health service was under Labour, the hon. Gentleman said that that did not count because it was not part of the mood music. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman stands on doorsteps and tells patients who have been waiting on trolleys for hours that it does not matter because it is not part of his party's mood music and sees what sort of answer he gets from them.
The honourable and notable exception to all those speeches by Labour Members came from the hon. Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate), who is present. I was a little concerned when he started his speech by saying that it is not just size that matters, but how you use it.