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12 Mar 2003 : Column 294—continued

Mr. Blunkett: I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's commitment to having similar policies and his acknowledgement that we agree that the broken windows theory is correct—that is, that if one does not start by dealing with the activity taking place in the immediate neighbourhood, it grows into unacceptable crime. I had better make it clear, however, that I have not read ex-Mayor Giuliani's book, in case anyone thinks that I have plagiarised him in the same way that the right hon. Gentleman plagiarises me. [Interruption.] It is the Opposition's job to poke me with a stick rather than the other way round, so I thought that I would have a go.

The right hon. Gentleman was doing fine until he got to the word that he had done his best to avoid—"but". I want to take the "but" out of the way that things are done. I want to stop the police saying, "We'd like to do something, but we don't have the power." I should like housing authorities to stop saying, "We'd like to deal with your unacceptable neighbour, but we don't have the power." To those who see mayhem on their streets and say, "We want something doing, but nobody's going to do anything", I should like to say that from now on, they are going to do something.

The issue of legislation is an interesting one. Is it a fault, given that legislation may have failed in the past, to legislate in future for things that we want to do, that we know will work, and that we know that people out there want us to put in place? Is it wrong, because there has been a failure to enforce in the past, to put measures in place to ensure that enforcement—through fixed penalty notices, eviction, closure of premises or dispersal—is at the very cutting edge of what we do? I cannot guarantee that the police, the housing offices or the environmental health service will always use their powers. The Daily Telegraph, never mind the Opposition, would certainly take me to task if I had the power to determine the powers of every single official in every single housing office or police station. But I can give them the powers and I can ask them to use them alongside the community.

Yes, we do need more police, but who cut the police service when they were in office? The Opposition were responsible for a fall in numbers in the police service, which we inherited. We are building on that, and we now have record numbers. I have no intention of wiping out

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the entirety of our immigration and border controls to switch the money into policing. I am, however, intent on making sure, with the Chancellor, that we have the money in future—as we do now—to ensure that year on year there will be increases not only in the trained uniformed police service, but in community support officers, street wardens and all those who are prepared to work alongside the police in doing their job.

I am asked whether these orders will go the same way as the others. Will they be like, for example, the drug treatment and testing orders, of which there have been 11,000 so far? Will they be like the parenting orders, of which there have been almost 4,000? What about the reparation orders, of which there have been more than 18,000? What about the fixed penalty notices that I mentioned? There have been 2,000 in just the few months of the pilot in four areas. What about acceptable behaviour contracts, of which there have been more than 1,800? What about the young people? There have been more than 3,500 intensive supervision and surveillance orders. So, yes, I do intend the new measures to go the same way as those orders, which represent thousands of measures saving thousands of incidents of antisocial behaviour. They ensure that our streets are free and clean, that our homes are quiet and protected and that people know that this House is determined to work on their behalf, and alongside them, to create a civilised society.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Home Secretary will know that Liberal Democrat Members support the aims and objectives that he has set out. We want a less violent society and a more civil and respectful society. He knows, too, that we shall judge each proposal on its merits, which is why proposals for dealing with crack houses and unscrupulous landlords will be welcome, but why further criminalising beggars, most of whom are on drugs, drunk, homeless, mentally ill or all of those, seems to us a wholly misguided way of tackling a problem that requires people to be brought back into society rather than being given a longer criminal record.

Will the Home Secretary tell us why he has not followed the advice of the Government's social exclusion unit, which made clear, in its most recent report, that we need effective use of existing powers? We need to allow them to settle down and to work across the country rather than to introduce new legislation. Why do not the Government heed the advice that I certainly receive, and which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman receives? There is a panoply of legislation. What we need is not more legislation but more people: more police, more community wardens, more special constables and more youth and community workers. We need more people in the community to help to manage the community and to follow successful examples.

Before the Home Secretary makes more proposals for more laws that are less likely to be enforced, will he look at the projects in my borough—in his city—that work but need more resources? Those projects have been shown to be successful; they are local answers, devised in the community with the support of the community, and are far more effective than legislation passed by Parliament, which, to be honest, goes over the heads of most people in urban Britain.

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Finally, will the Home Secretary tell us how we can hold realistic consultation on a White Paper produced in the second week of March when he proposes to introduce a Bill in the first week of April? Is not the reality that this is more about dressing the window for a local election in May and to cover up the Government's six years of inadequate law and order policy, rather than the long-term solutions that the right hon. Gentleman knows work better—as does everybody else?

Mr. Blunkett: God forbid that I should spoil the campaign of the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, but if the hon. Gentleman's campaign is that we do not need those measures, that we should not take action and that nothing more needs to be done or could be done, he will not get very far.

I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's questions. The honest truth is that he is entirely right to say that we need to take measures to help people on the streets who suffer from drug misuse or alcohol abuse. That is right and proper; it is what we should do. However, if giving people money and leaving them in the subways had been the cure and had put them in appropriate residential facilities and got them off drugs, we should not have the problem on our streets at present. A combination of actions will be needed, including offering people refuge, as we do already, and also drug and alcohol treatment, as we shall do. We must ensure that children who are used by beggars as a means of getting people to give money are treated and supported properly rather than being kept in cold subways as a means of raising cash.

Let me deal with the perfectly reasonable issue raised by the hon. Gentleman—that we need more of everything that he listed. Yes, we do. Why is there more? Why do we have new initiatives, such as those in his constituency to which he referred? Why are diversionary programmes being set up between my Department, that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who is present this afternoon, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Health? Why do we have all those new programmes? It is because the Labour Government have funded them and put them in place. Why do we need more? Because many of them are working.

However, that is no reason not to match what we are doing positively with the enforcement that was mentioned a few moments ago and which will help those who constantly complain to us that they would do something about the problems if only they had an easy-to-implement power. I am determined to give it to them.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): I give today's announcement a hearty welcome. If we are to make a difference to the lives of our constituents, especially those who live in the less leafy areas of the country, we must defeat the vast yob culture that is, I often think, our greatest inheritance from the Thatcher decade.

I especially welcome measures to deal with air weapons, fireworks and spray paints. Far from thinking such things irrelevant, our constituents are more likely to wish that we had implemented them years ago.

I especially look forward to measures to cut off the flow of housing benefit to rogue landlords—probably the most important aspect of my right hon. Friend's announcement. It is extraordinary that for years

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housing benefit has been used to destroy our inner cities, and we have to put a stop to that. What is the timetable for the housing benefit measures?

I agree with my right hon. Friend that enforcement is the key. There is no shortage of policemen, but sometimes there is a shortage of policemen on the streets. We need to ensure, as he is doing, that there will be more policemen on the streets—on bicycles, perhaps, but not in helicopters.

If more children are to be excluded from school, it is important that alternative arrangements are made for their education. Although big improvements have been made, there is still a gap between children being excluded from school and the alternative arrangements for them. Will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind?

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