|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I have been assured by the Prime Minister at Question Time and by the Minister in Select Committee that CSOs will not be imposed. However, the enthusiasm that the Prime Minister has subsequently shown for CSOs has made me less sure about the proposed funding arrangements. If the adoption of CSOs is to be truly optional, no form of ring-fenced funding should be used to penalise those police authorities that choose not to adopt them. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me and police authorities on that particular point in his summing up. The Metropolitan police is already busy recruiting CSOs.
The alarming rise in street and gun crime has added yet more urgent priorities to the tasks of the Metropolitan police. It is unable to respond to calls from the public about the youth disturbances, vandalism and graffiti that are low-level crime in police terms, but affect very seriously the quality of life of law-abiding people. The answer is not CSOsit is more police constables. I would like the status of community policing to be raised within police forces with the reintroduction of beat policing, which my constituents ask for continually.
The Metropolitan police in outer London boroughs also suffer from abstraction of their already inadequate numbers because of the need to help to police high-profile events in central London. That seriously affects the service to the public in constituencies, such as Upminster, where a visible uniformed presence cannot be sustained. Again, the answer is not CSOsit is more police constables.
To stem the tide of rising crime, we need police forces that new recruits want to join and in which experienced officers want to stay. Morale was holed below the waterline by the accusation in the Macpherson report that the police were "institutionally racist"an accusation that was deeply offensive to the vast majority of officers. If the police are to move forward and tackle the enormous increase in violent and drug-related crime, they need the confidence of the public and the backing of the criminal justice system and the Government. The Bill, in its amended form, will help them to do just that.
Vernon Coaker (Gedling): I briefly wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on the Bill. I have followed it from afar and listened to one or two of the debates over the past couple of days. As he knows, the particular problem that I always raise is antisocial behaviour. Will he therefore undertake to keep under review the measures in the Bill that deal with that problem and ensure that we enforce the new provisions so that they work properly?
Mr. Denham: With the leave of the House, I am pleased to say that we want to ensure that the new antisocial behaviour order provisions work effectively. To coincide with the commencement of the measures, we will introduce new guidance. I hope that it will also simplify procedures.
I will not attempt to reply to the debate, but I am grateful to those hon. Members who thought that I was in command of my brief. This is the appropriate moment to thank my officials. As the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) will know, the difference between giving and not giving the impression that one is in control of one's brief depends largely on the work of the officials who keep us informed before our debates.
I also wish to thank and pay tribute to the men and women who work in the police service. The debate is about them. They do a fantastic job, and we must be judged on whether the measures that we have agreed will help them to do their vital work in communities throughout the country in the weeks and months to come.
Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell): I am delighted to have the opportunity to initiate this Adjournment debate. I have taken part in many such debates at two or three in the morning, but procedures have changed and tonight I cut short a dinner with my good friends, Martin and Miranda Thomas, because I was told that Third Reading would finish 45 minutes ago. Life never quite works out as planned.
The issue is important to Cornwall and other rural areas. Bugle village hall was built by volunteers at the end of world war one to commemorate those who died in the war. It is extremely well used. Everything from the panto, the Darby and Joan club, the toddlers group and bingo take place there, but all improvements are carried out by voluntary labour. It now needs a disabled toilet and disabled access, which alone will cost £20,000. The hall struggles to find even a small proportion of that in what is one of the poorest communities in Cornwall, which is itself one of the poorest communities in the country.
Penwithick has spent five or six years putting together fundraising events locally to get a community centre, but it cannot get the land because land prices have taken off in the past few years. The project has huge support. The community has held car boot sales, jumbles, sponsored swims and so on. It has the support of the local community council and St. Austell college, but the various funding organisations will not provide the funding for land so it is unable to proceed.
Village halls in Cornwall and across Britain are facing a crisis in funding that threatens their continued existence. Traditional sources of funding have gradually been eroded. Funding bodies that offered assistance have now withdrawn or changed the basis of their support in ways that create real difficulty for many vital institutions. I have primarily been alerted to the issues by Cornwall rural community council, which has done extensive work researching the situation in Cornwall. My concerns are also shared by Action with Communities in Rural England, the national body representing the rural community councils, which has done extensive research on the problem nationally.
I raised the problem with the former Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions on 28 May. My concerns have been transferred to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and I await a reply. However, I am sure that the Minister will respond to the issues tonight.