|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): Which paragraph?
Mr. Letwin: Paragraph 87. But the Committee goes on to say:
Mr. Letwin: Especially, as the Foreign Secretary so rightly says, me. However, very conscious of the likelihood of these jolly jibes, I have investigated, to the limited extent open to a Member of the House who is not a member of the Committee, the distribution of expenditures within the security and intelligence services, and the Security Service in particular, because in relation to serious crime it is the Security Service that is most relevant, and most relevant to my brief.
I think that I am right in discerning that of the total of about £1 billion that is spent on the security and intelligence agencies, about £140 million is spent on the Security Service, and that of that, about 7 per cent. is spent on serious crime. I think that means that about £9 million a year is spent on what is classed here as combating serious crime, out of the total of £1 billion; or, by comparison with the police budget, out of the total of about £11 billion a year, including police and security and
I do not know, am not in a position to know, and do not want to be in a position to know, to what extent it is possible for the proportion of the effort and money that is spent within the Security Service on terrorism to be distinguished from that which is spent on serious crime. The Home Secretary said in his remarks, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said in public speeches, that terrorism and organised crime are deeply linked, so I have no doubt that in combating the financial aspects of terrorism, for example, the Security Service is also combating organised crime to a considerable extent. Therefore I do not allege that the £9 million is the full extent of that which is spent on something that is, or is connected with, serious crime.
Nevertheless, when that small sum appears as the figure specifically quoted for serious crime and when the Committeewhich the House has established specifically to look at these questionscomments, on the basis of what I take to be knowledge vastly greater than can be gained from public sources, that the resources devoted to serious crime are too limited, that does seem to me to call into question whether Ministers need to look at the distribution within the available resources to see whether more should be devoted to serious crime. [Interruption.] I want to make one more observation on that, but first I give way.
Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): I was wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House the source of these figures, because they do not seem to appear in the report.
Mr. Letwin: The total expenditure figures, which I quoted, appear towards the end of the report, under the heading, "Expenditure"unsurprisinglybut the distributional figures are from the very secret source of the websites of these organisations, which the hon. Gentleman may consult. I do not have any special knowledge and, as I have repeatedly mentioned, I do not wish to have any special knowledge of these matters. It is the lucky case that it is the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary who have to deal with these on a day-by-day basis and I daily bless the fact that that is not something that I need to do.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): For a long time.
Mr. Letwin: Although I hope that it may not be as long as the hon. Gentleman hopes, I think that we can guarantee at least three years.
Having said that it seems important to focus more attention on the implications of paragraph 87 of the report, I want to add one further point on that specific issue. It seems clear that NCIS and the National Crime Squad are doing very serious and effective work, which has a long trajectory, beginning in many cases with the activities of the then Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned
Mr. Blunkett indicated assent.
Mr. Letwin: I am glad to see the Home Secretary nodding, not least because I much prefer to agree with him than to disagree with him; I have been doing a bit of disagreeing with him.
Sir David Phillips has personally developed a huge amount of international respect for the British model of high-level intelligence gathering and putting together. He and the Association of Chief Police Officers have done really sterling work in that respect.
It seems likely to me that if we are particularly good, given the scale of our own overall resources, at establishing those connections and at the work of criminal intelligence, the further integrationI take the points that are made elsewhere in the report about the degree of integration that already existsof the Security Service with the work of NCIS and of the National Crime Squad may yield very considerable dividends. I tread warily here because I do not know whether it is true, as I suspect, that the Security Service has available to it talents and experience that are not normally available even to the most refined reaches of the police forces, but if it is true I suspect that the further integration of those people's expertise and abilities with NCIS and the NCS may yield surprising benefits.
If that were the case, it seems to me that we would see the effects very directly on our streets. I certainly do not want to re-enter yesterday's arguments about our drug policy but there is a point on which the Home Secretary and I would agree, which is that the heights of the pyramids that distribute the hard drugs in our country are intimately linked with the most serious types of financial crime and with street violence, which both he and I, in our different ways, seek to combat.
If we could find the means of disrupting those activities more effectively than at present, and if that were to involve spending some multiples of the £9 millionif I have the right figurecurrently spent within the £1 billion, out of this budget, on serious crime, it might save 10 times that amount in policing at a lower level, if we were to achieve the same bang for the buck. Getting rid of people higher up those pyramids, doing better at disentangling the webs that join them to street crime, could have huge benefits. I take it that that is what the Committee, in its elegant and coded language, was trying to say when it said that there could be
Mr. Beith: The right hon. Gentleman, given the severe injunction that he is under not to increase public expenditure, is in danger of misinterpreting the Committee's report, because what the Committee said
Mr. Letwin: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification. Ifand to the extent thatthat is true, it may make sense, from within the totality of Home Office resources, to find such an addition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may even have other sources to apply. I do not want to enter that argument in detail, not least because of the profound ignorance under which I suffer about the coming comprehensive spending review announcements. What I am clear about, however, is that a tiny sum is currently being spent in this area, in which there might be great dividends. On that, I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman and I might find ourselves in agreement.
On the balance between the activities that necessarily go on in secret, the statutory support that they receive, and our civil liberties, I want to put on the record, in the calm of these proceedings, a general position, which the Home Secretary sometimes finds inconsistent, but which, in fact, is consistent. He mentioned that we sometimes accused him of disproportionality, of going too far in invading civil liberties and of taking liberty too lightly. At the same time, however, he mentioned that we seemed to demand of him the protection of society against very dangerous and obnoxious elements. He displayed a little anxiety or irritation that we might be demanding of him things that were inconsistent. I recognise that sentiment, and I might even feel it were I sitting in his position[Interruption.] The Foreign Secretary is chuntering happily from a sedentary position that these are the musings of a tortured liberal, and they are. The position of a tortured liberal is the only respectable position to adopt.