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5 Feb 2003 : Column 345—continued

4.47 pm

Mr. Denham: Let me deal first with several themes that have run through the debate. Then, if I can, I will reply to more detailed points made by individual hon. Members.

As the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) said, what I will call the Welsh theme has been a feature of the debate. Let me make it perfectly clear that there is no substance to the suggestion that Welsh forces have been disadvantaged by the grant settlement. The formula approach has applied to those forces in exactly the same way as it has applied to English forces. The only difference is that, as I announced before Christmas, additional funds of slightly more than £5 million were found to top up two Welsh forces that would otherwise have fallen below the floor. We will have to discuss these points with those who feel that Welsh forces have been disadvantaged in some way.

There is a complexity in that in Wales the local government element of the police settlement is paid by the National Assembly for Wales, whereas in England it is paid from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Therefore, while in England the effect of having the crime fighting fund and so on top-sliced is seen in the English local government rate support mechanism, in Wales it is seen in the National Assembly funds. As I have acknowledged and discussed with Edwina Hart, the Minister for Finance, Local Government and Communities in the National Assembly for Wales, that arrangement leads to a lack of transparency in the system. I am certain that there has been no disadvantage to Welsh forces' finances as a result, but in the coming year we can work in partnership with the Assembly to ensure that the system is as transparent as possible.

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire strongly suggested that at a time when we are dealing not only with street crime and antisocial behaviour, but with organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism—several Welsh forces play a key role in that respect—we should not be complicating lines of co-operation and accountability, and I agree. On financial issues, we need to ensure that the system is transparent and clear to everyone.

The second theme that ran through the debate, which was dealt with by a number of hon. Members and on which the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire

5 Feb 2003 : Column 346

(Mr. Paice) ended his remarks, was the twin theme of accountability to local communities and the balance between ring-fenced funds and the money that goes out in top-sliced funds. The hon. Gentleman talked earlier about a 20 per cent. increase in central funds, but he acknowledged, as did the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), that some items require central funding, which has undoubtedly increased during the past few years.

Just two years ago, funding for the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service was top-sliced from the grants made to police authorities. The police authority grant was bigger, but we raided it a few weeks later for those two key organisations. We fund them much more honestly now through direct grant. The proportion of central grant paid by the centre looks bigger, but it is simply a better way to fund such bodies.

The important expansion of the DNA database is also centrally funded, and I would justify central funding of the Airwave procurement programme, although not everyone would. It is to our advantage to have a single integrated radio communication system for all our police forces, because the net result of 43 separate procurements would have been to continue what we have always had in the past—police forces and police officers who cannot talk to each other. We have done that through central funding and that has been the right thing to do. But it undoubtedly enables people to say rather glibly that all the decisions are being taken at the centre. Decisions such as the one on Airwave and others were taken in conjunction with the police service. That was the best way to deliver those services.

On the particular issue of the crime fighting fund, I believe that we have taken the right approach. As I said earlier, the aggregate effect of a lot of individual force decisions was to leave the number of police officers in England and Wales falling, and that was a bad thing. We could not reverse that immediately when we took office, and my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell) referred to that in his speech.

However, we can today commit to a growth in cash terms in police spending not just this year but of at least 4 per cent. next year and at least 4 per cent. the year after. Our ability to do that was based on the difficult decisions that we took to sort out public finances during our first two years in office. In the long term, the stability that forces will have to plan will be worth those difficult times. Therefore, we have done the right thing both in terms of resources and in having a central crime fighting fund.

The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire made an important point. I think that, irrespective of what happens to precepts, local communities will demand greater accountability for their police service. That is why we are doing the right thing, with the police service, in making public an increasing amount of information on the whole range of police performance—effectiveness in tackling and reducing crime, visibility, public reassurance and helping the public role of the police service as well as its economy and efficiency. During the next two or three years, through the police performance assessment framework that we are about to introduce, more and more of that

5 Feb 2003 : Column 347

information will be available. I hope that that will also enable the debate to focus on what is being achieved by the local police service.

In many ways, we are all at one in this Chamber in that we all want more police officers and we all want them to be more visible. But we should not just be debating the inputs into the police service—how many of this and how many of that—we need to focus on the quality of the service to local communities. That is what we seek to provide information on, I hope in a way that makes sense not just at force level but at command unit level, because that is where people see their policing activities take place.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), said that there is no objective basis to the formula, although he implicitly acknowledged that the Liberal Democrats have not put forward alternative proposals. There is an objective basis, but we do not use crime rates, and I shall explain why by responding to a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David). He said that we need to take account of the type of crime, such as drug-related crime, that takes place in Gwent, but we also need to reward success.

Our dilemma stems from the fact that if we gave out the main grant according to crime rates, we might be giving money to the areas with the greatest problems or we might be giving it to the worst police forces. We might take money away from a force not because the area had low crime but because the force was very good at detecting crime and convicting people. We therefore use surrogate indicators, which are meant to give a measure of the underlying policing challenges in an area. We are always open to suggested improvements in that approach, but I have not yet heard a proposal for a better approach.

My hon. Friend asked about security costs. Each year a number of forces face increased security costs for one reason or another. The normal pattern, which we intend to follow with Gwent, is to include those costs in the calculation of the formula the following year. It is not always possible to make last minute adjustments. If there has been a change of the sort suggested by my hon. Friend, next year's grant will give us an opportunity to address that.

I was left unclear as to whether the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) was advocating the return of the crime fighting money. No doubt his colleagues from Dorset will continue to press that matter with him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) and other Members spoke about the operational presence of police officers. My hon. Friend will be aware that under the public service agreement that the Home Office has as part of the spending settlement we are under an obligation to improve the availability of police officers for front-line policing. This week we have been discussing with the police service the best way of measuring that. It is important that, as we bear down on bureaucracy and cut red tape, the public can see how that is being translated into effective front-line policing. I add the caveat that a police officer who is investigating internet paedophilia is, in my view, a front-line officer doing a vital investigative job. Measuring

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front-line policing is not simply a matter of counting the yellow jackets on the streets, but we do need to show what we are doing.

The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire asked about the case and custody programme. We hope and intend to complete the roll-out of that across all 43 forces during the period of the current spending review, which begins in April and runs for three years. We will shortly publish our overall plans for IT investment.

This has been a useful debate. Like all such debates, it has been attended by those who feel hard done by rather than by those who feel that they have done well. Against the current rate of inflation, a 6.2 per cent. real increase in police resources is a good one, and I hope that the House will recognise that.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 345, Noes 197.

Division No. 80
[4:58 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, rh David
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Cranston, hon. Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Merron, Gillian
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James (Glasgow Baillieston)
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Ivor Caplin and
Derek Twigg


Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Ancram, rh Michael
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Bacon, Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Barrett, John
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Beith, rh A. J.
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Malcolm
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Cameron, David
Carmichael, Alistair
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Curry, rh David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Keetch, Paul
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, rh Michael
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, David
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Wilshire and
Mr. Laurence Robertson

Question accordingly agreed to.

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