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Greater Manchester Police

5. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): If he will make a statement on the funding of Greater Manchester police. [134162]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing, and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): The budget for the Greater Manchester police this year is £450 million, an increase of 8.6 per cent. on last year. Government grant for Greater Manchester is £380.8 million this year, an increase of 4.9 per cent. over 2002–03. In addition, specific grants of £28.9 million give an overall increase of 6.7 per cent. The police authority will also receive over £9 million in capital funding. We shall announce details of the provisional funding settlement for 2004–05 in mid-November.

Tony Lloyd: While I recognise the enormous increase in funding, does my hon. Friend accept that it is a colossal waste of resources to pursue the makers of "The Secret Policeman", the documentary about Greater Manchester police and other police forces? Is it not a phenomenal betrayal of the people of this country and of Manchester, and of many in the police service, that they are stigmatised as racist because of the failure of those at the very top to deal with racism among our police? I welcome the Minister's strong words in the House today, but what steps will the Home Office take to make chief constables deal with racism effectively?

Ms Blears: Like me, every Member who saw that programme last week will have been sickened and outraged, but the documentary also revealed that many, many serving officers certainly do not share such racist beliefs. It is crucial that we support the officers in the service who have done a great deal to tackle racism in recent years while redoubling our efforts—at ministerial level, chief constable level and throughout the service—to weed out racist recruits. I am delighted that all the chief constables have written a public letter to that effect and signed up to a seven-point plan. We will ensure that the new police assessment and recruitment process for probationers is rolled out across the country because, wherever we can, we must send out a clear message, both in principle and in practice, that racism has no place in the British police service.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset): Did Greater Manchester police ask the permanent secretary at the Home Office to write to the BBC, and, if not, why did he do so?

Ms Blears: The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are questions on that further down the Order

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Paper. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will answer in detail the questions that have been raised in relation to the permanent secretary's letter.

Mr. Letwin: The Minister cannot escape answering the question. If the permanent secretary was not seeking to stop the film, what was he doing writing to the BBC a month before it was shown?

Ms Blears: Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker: Order. [Interruption.] Order. The question is about funding. The Minister will answer.

Ms Blears: It is my understanding that the permanent secretary was not requested to write, but chose to do so because of the difficulties that he had experienced in obtaining access to the material involved. That was the basis on which he wrote the letter.

Football Matches (Policing)

6. Bob Russell (Colchester): What guidance he gives to chief constables on policing professional football matches. [134163]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): Policing football matches is an operational matter for chief officers. The Home Office works closely with the police, football authorities and other agencies to help minimise the safety and security risks associated with football matches.

Bob Russell : Can the Minister confirm that there are no no-go areas and that the laws of the land that apply to the people who watch football also apply to participants on the pitch, on the touchline and in the players' tunnel? What advice has been given to chief constables to ensure that the law of the land is upheld on the pitch by professional footballers?

Fiona Mactaggart: The hon. Gentleman is right: players and others are subject to exactly the same laws and police powers as any other citizen. The police can intervene if the situation makes it necessary. We have worked with local police officers to ensure that they use their powers appropriately. Obviously, during a match, the conduct of the match is the responsibility of the referee and match officials, so we also work with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to offer support in respect of that aspect of policing. The Minister for Sport and Tourism wrote to the chairmen of 92 league clubs before the start of the season to remind them of their responsibility for ensuring that their players' behaviour is of an acceptable standard. Since then, he has discussed player misbehaviour and the response of the football authorities on several occasions with the management teams of the premier league and Football League. We in the Home Office expect every police officer to maintain the same standards of conduct among players as they would among the general public.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East): Does the Minister appreciate that the cost of policing football matches is a

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huge burden on clubs, especially a club such as Leicester, which is going through a temporary blip at the bottom of the premiership? Does she appreciate that in some cases the cost is an arbitrary figure that is placed on specific clubs and games? Will she convene a meeting with the Minister for Sport and Tourism to discuss the matter seriously with the relevant clubs? [Interruption.]

Fiona Mactaggart: It is true that Leicester unfortunately did not do as well as Colchester United at the weekend.

I acknowledge that there are issues about the cost of policing, especially for the smaller league clubs. Section 25 of the Police Act 1996 currently enables police authorities to charge football clubs for deploying officers in stadiums. There have been discussions about whether a further extension of charging is possible. It is a complex issue and there are arguments on both sides.

The previous Minister with responsibility for policing and the Minister for Sport and Tourism set up a working group that involved police, police authorities, football authorities and others to examine all the issues. The group has not yet concluded its deliberations and it would be premature to speculate on the outcome, but I shall ensure that my hon. Friend's comments are fed into the conclusions.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): Further to the comments of the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), will the Minister confirm that policing football matches last season cost approximately £50 million, of which only a fifth was recouped from the football clubs? In contradistinction to the hon. Gentleman's remarks and given vast transfer fees and specific clubs' huge amount of wealth, is not there a case for the Football Association, for example, entering into negotiations with the police to ensure that a much greater proportion of the cost is paid back to the police?

Fiona Mactaggart: The hon. Gentleman implies that all football clubs have the same resources as those in the premier league. Some clubs have substantial resources, but the costs can be a burden for a smaller club that finds it more difficult to pay for such matters. The working group to which I referred in answer to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) is discussing such issues. It will consider ways of sharing the costs and the burden. Although the additional policing that accompanies a football match benefits the local community, there are also disbenefits. That is precisely why we have set up the working group. It will consider in its report the clubs that can best bear the costs.

Crime (Bridgend)

7. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): What plans he has to visit Bridgend in 2003 to discuss with relevant parties his agenda for tackling crime in Bridgend. [134164]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing, and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary visited Bridgend in January last year, when he had an extremely helpful meeting with the borough commander. The Government are

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committed to reducing crime throughout England and Wales, and are working with local and national partners to do that.

Mr. Griffiths : I thank the Home Secretary for his visit on that occasion, because it was followed by a resounding by-election victory in my neighbouring constituency. Will he and the Home Office team consider the excellent work of the youth offending team in Bridgend and re-examine its funding? The local authority appears to have to accept a disproportionately high amount of the costs, and other partners should make a greater contribution. In that respect, the Home Office could play its part by ensuring that South Wales police are adequately funded in the coming year.

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there is some excellent work going on in Bridgend and right across south Wales in tackling drugs problems and antisocial behaviour, and working with schools and young people. I am delighted that South Wales police has 40 community support officers and a further 23 due to start very soon. I am also delighted to give him my reassurance that I will discuss the issue that he has raised about the youth offending team with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins), to see whether there are any steps that can be taken.

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