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Mr. Pickles: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who may well have been on the police parliamentary trust, as I have. He puts the case robustly. A less robust way would be to say that there are practical difficulties with the proposal. How can I put it nicely? It is not quite like that on the streets.
I have been out on patrol with local officers from my own constabulary and with other police officers. Police are already overburdened with paperwork. They are reluctant to arrest because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) rightly pointed out, that means taking a couple of police officers off the shift for the best part of four or five hours. Most of the forms that they fill in are purely defensive, to ensure that they are not open to charges under the Human Rights Act 1998 or the various procedures laid down by the police authorities.
Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Mr. Pickles: I shall make a few more points. I like the hon. Gentleman and I shall come to him in due course.
I was speaking about the practical problems faced by the police. I have seen police officers with a crowd of lads outside a nightclub. It is not like "Heartbeat" or "The Bill". There are not lots of police officers on the street; they do not all go around together. There is usually a single officer, or sometimes two or three. One police officer will be taking down the names of all the people whom the police have stopped to have a word, and the other police officer will be watching the first officer's back and watching the crowd.
Estimates from police officers are that it will take six minutes to record the details. The Home Secretary says that there is no need to worry, as there will be schemes to provide officers with palm-pilots, and through bluetooth technology, all the information will whizz through the ether and go into a big computer somewhere in the police station, where it will be stored. Whether by means of whizzy technology or pen and papermore often than not, I expect, it will be pen and paperwe will be collecting useless information to be stored for no particular purpose, and putting up the backs of innocent bystanders, who will not want their names recorded. In short, that is no way to tackle crime. We must stop treating the police as the enemy and learn to trust them.
I give way to the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Geraint Davies). Does he no longer wish to intervene? Wake up; you're on.
Geraint Davies: At last. The hon. Gentleman asserted that London's police will not do their duty and will not arrest criminals, for fear of having to fill in a few forms. That is an appalling slur on the police, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it now.
Mr. Pickles: The most charitable thing that I can say in response to that intervention is that that is a very nice tie.
Mayor Giuliani's experience of reviving New York is summarised by his concept of mending broken windows. In a speech before the election, the Prime Minister promised to tackle abandoned cars and urban decay, claiming that such issues were
Abandoned cars are hazardous for children and encourage more vandalism and crime in our neighbourhoods. The European directive signed by Labour will force the cost of car disposal to soar, and the bill will have to be met by car owners and council tax payers. As a result of the EU end of life directive, which comes into force in a few short weeks, the cost of the disposal of cars will soar. The Local Government Association estimates that it will cost £300 to scrap a car, which means that most scrap yards will not accept cars without payment. The LGA waste spokesman, Kay Twitchen, remarked:
Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup): My hon. Friend raises an issue that is of great concern, especially
Mr. Pickles: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but I must tell him that he ain't seen nothing yet. The nature of the end of life provisions on disposal and the breaking up of cars means that a premium will have to be paid. When those who are not socially responsible or are on low incomes dump their cars, the cost will be picked up by the ratepayer. We will face additional disposal problems and they will become more and more expensive.
Mr. Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford): Does the hon. Gentleman therefore welcome the Government's proposals to allow the DVLA and local authorities to operate jointly, using each other's information? Does he also welcome the reduction of time in respect of seven-day noticesone day is now requiredand the shortening of the period for which local authorities must store abandoned cars? Those measures are taking us in the right direction to reduce a problem that he is right to highlight. We have got some solutions.
Mr. Pickles: To be against those things would be like being against motherhood and apple pie. However, the hon. Gentleman took a long time merely to say that the Government are simply allowing local authorities to look at their computers. The great problem is that the DVLA's information is wholly inaccurate. The problem with Labour Members is that their briefings from the Whips make these little points and they think that everything will changebut it will not.
Mr. Edward Davey: On abandoned cars, will the hon. Gentleman clarify two points of information? First, did the Conservative party reply to the Government's consultation on abandoned cars, which was published in October last year? Secondly, what does he think about the provisions in the London Local Authorities Bill on abandoned vehicles: does he support them?
Mr. Pickles: Of course, we welcomed the principles, but as we are discussing the disposal of cars and recycling, perhaps it is appropriate to give notice to the hon. Gentleman that I hope that he will tell us in his speech why falsified recycling figures have been exposed in relation to Sutton borough council. A reported figure of 45 per cent. disguised a true figure of 23.5 per cent. in records going back five years. We want to know why the Liberal Democrats are on the fiddle on waste.
Local communities will also face a menace of fly-tipped fridges. New EU regulations that the Government signed without fully understanding the implications have just come into effect. The requirements will increase the cost of disposal. Not only are there currently no facilities throughout the UK for the disposal
Mr. Speaker: Order. The House has become too noisy. The hon. Gentleman should be heard.
Mr. Pickles: I am most grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker.
According to the Tidy Britain Group, an organisation that is well known and respected throughout the House, on-the-spot litter fines in England and Wales fell from 2,500 in 1990 to only 422 last year. Interestingly, virtually all such fines were imposed by Wandsworth council.
Roger Casale (Wimbledon): The hon. Gentleman is debating the quality of life in London and the south-east, but if we are going to have a serious debate, he will need to give the House some indication of what he believes are the components of that quality of life. So far, in his rambling speech, he has said nothing about that at all. For example, does he think that levels of poverty, social deprivation and social exclusion are indicators of the quality of life in London and the south-east? Does he think that the level of public investment in infrastructure and public services is such an indicator? What does he have to say about the contrast between the effect of Labour and Tory years on those indicators of quality of life in London and the south-east?
Mr. Pickles: The hon. Gentleman complains about my rambling, but he has just set a fine example to the House. I may be doing him a great disservice, but I do not think that he was here for the beginning of my speech. I do not think that he heard those fine words about consensus.
Mr. Pickles: No, no. The hon. Gentleman went on for far too long last time. I shall wait for his speech, then I shall intervene on him.
The single greatest cause of the drop in the quality of life of the average Londoner or commuter is transportation. Our rail and underground networks simply cannot cope with demand. They do not have sufficient capacity now; they will not have it in five years' time, and in 10 years, there will have been little change. For most people, the daily trip to the office is cramped, sweaty and nasty. Travellers are packed tight, way over the capacity of the carriages.
I asked a Minister when had been the last time that he had travelled on the underground at peak time. He told me that it had been when he was at school. I dare say that the Minister for Local Government is not a familiar traveller on the tube at peak times.