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7. Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle) (LD): How many instruments giving effect to changes to objects of charities were subject to (a) negative procedure and (b) affirmative procedure in Parliament in each of the last five years. [142091]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): The numbers of instruments giving effect to changes to objects of charities subject to negative resolution procedure were one in 1998, one in 1999, five in 2000, two in 2001, one in 2002, which was subsequently withdrawn, and two in 2003. There were no instruments subject to affirmative procedure during that time.

Mrs. Calton : What checks are made as to the accuracy and legitimacy of statutory instruments laid in that way? A subsequently withdrawn instrument in 2002 concerning Cheadle royal hospital contained substantial inaccuracies that were passed on by the Charity Commission, and the charity concerned was involved in the disposal of millions of pounds of charitable donations that have gone into public and private ownership. I am concerned that we still have no idea of the likely income to be obtained from the remaining assets.

Fiona Mactaggart: That is a matter for the Charity Commission, as the non-ministerial Department responsible, but I pass on the thanks of the commission and of my predecessor to the hon. Lady for drawing the failures in the instrument to the notice of the House and the commission. Her determination to intervene has meant that the matters have begun to be resolved. She will be aware that there is a draft new instrument—she has been sent a copy—to ensure that those failures do not continue in any future instrument. She asked whether I could be satisfied that there was no continuing flaw in the administration of the body. The matter has been drawn to the attention of Greater Manchester police and the Charity Commissioners. The matter has been investigated by forensic accountants, who are confident that there is nothing about which we should continue to be concerned.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet) (Con): Will the Under-Secretary confirm that the Government will

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be proposing a charities Bill in this Session of Parliament? If so, will the Bill address the abuse of power that the Charity Commissioners exhibit from time to time? I can give a personal example. Will she ensure that there is provision in the Bill to allow charities to appeal against a decision requiring them to cease functioning immediately as a charity?

Fiona Mactaggart: I can confirm that we will be publishing a draft Bill and that it will contain a mechanism for appealing against the decision of the Charity Commissioners to a special tribunal.


8. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): If he will make a statement on police emergency response times. [142092]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): Responsibility for deciding the most appropriate emergency response times should lie with the chief officer in each police force area. However, the vast majority of forces are committed to attending emergency calls within 10 minutes for urban areas and 20 minutes for rural areas.

Mr. Chapman : Although it is right to say that chief constables are best placed to react to local needs, and I accept that some evidence is anecdotal and that Merseyside police, for example, receive 1.2 million calls for assistance each year, I am afraid that the perception of the service is often poor. When a school in my constituency was recently invaded by intimidating and aggressive youths assaulting pupils and causing mayhem, the headmaster dialled 999 and the police arrived 35 minutes later, long after the invaders had skedaddled—and that was an emergency call. When making non-emergency calls, my constituents sometimes cannot get through at all and, in some cases when they do, it takes the police hours to respond.

Is it not time that we considered putting in place appropriate mechanisms and resources, so that responses can be quicker and better feedback can be given to those who call, and that we published a national non-emergency number?

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend has raised some serious issues, and I am aware of his concerns, particularly about Merseyside. I therefore made it my business to speak personally to the chief constable about those issues last week. I know that he is in correspondence with my hon. Friend, particularly on the issue of getting feedback from people about what happened when they called and what the outcome was. The chief constable is piloting an interesting project in Merseyside to make sure that people get proper information.

There is also an issue about whether it is right to categorise calls as emergency, urgent or routine and whether we have the right calls in the right categories. There is work to be done there. However, I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that, in Merseyside, the police answer 80 per cent. of their emergency calls within the 10-minute limit. I am absolutely sure that the chief

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constable and the force are willing to engage with my hon. Friend and other MPs throughout Merseyside to make sure that local people get the best possible service.

Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Given that police authorities said that they needed a funding increase of over 6 per cent. and the Government are giving them an increase of 3.25 per cent., how on earth are they to have the resources necessary to meet not only the response times that the Minister just described but the much tighter response times that the constituents of all hon. Members would like them to meet? Is it not rather odd that the Government set 31 different performance indicators for the police, interfering in every way in how local police forces are run, yet they do not set one for emergency response times?

Ms Blears: We have to get the facts right. This year's funding allowance rose by 4.2 per cent: there is an across-the-board rise of 3.25 per cent. in the general grant, and on top of that there are specific grants, particularly for the crimefighting fund, which have given us record numbers of police officers, more than we have ever had on the streets before. There are also 2,000 community support officers out there, helping to reassure the public.

That comes on top of absolutely massive increases over the past three years—a 30 per cent. rise in funding for the police, which is a real terms increase of 17 per cent. That can be compared with a real terms increase of 2 per cent. during the Tories' last couple of years in office. That is this Government's record, and it means that we have made available the resources to ensure that the police can deliver on response times, on reassurance, on fighting crime, on reducing burglary and vehicle crime, and on making this country a safer place to live.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that probably the biggest single subject of complaints about policing is response times? Although she is right to point out that we have seen a massive increase in funding, does she, as a Greater Manchester MP like me, agree that it would be right and proper to have an objective standard against which to judge the police? The 10-minute response time should be measured against achievement, and if we could have those results published, police force by police force, division by division, we would be able to hold the police to account in a way that the public would appreciate.

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on performance. He will be aware of the push to drive up the performance standards of Greater Manchester police force. We are trying to reduce the number of best value performance indicators in the police because we want to free up forces to deploy their resources in the right place at the right time. It is important that they respond on time, but what happens as a result of their attending is also crucial. It is all very well to tick the box and say, "We were there in 10 minutes," but I am concerned to find out what happened when they turned up. For example, was the outcome good? Was the right number of officers sent to a fracas, or to the kind of incident that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Chapman) outlined?

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Criminal Records Bureau

9. Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): How much the Criminal Records Bureau has lost on average on (a) each standard disclosure and (b) each enhanced disclosure over the last 12 months. [142093]

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): At the eleventh hour, I realised that there could be different ways of interpreting this question. I had assumed that it was about money, so I hope that that is the right approach. Had we moved to full-cost recovery in 2003–04, the fee for standard and enhanced disclosures would have to have been set at £34 and £39 respectively, as against the actual fees set of £24 and £29.

Mrs. Brooke: Will the Minister continue to press the Criminal Records Bureau to reduce costs and operate efficiently? Will she also ensure that any such savings are reflected in future fees? A 100 per cent. increase last year and 17 per cent. next year is just too much for our already overstretched and overburdened community and voluntary organisations.

Beverley Hughes: The hon. Lady should know that voluntary organisations do not pay anything—they avail themselves of the disclosure service free of charge. For other organisations, we have made it clear that by 2005–06 charges will have to be set that enable the full cost of the service to be recovered. That, of course, also allows the Criminal Records Bureau to continue to improve its standard of service, which it has done. It now has the capacity to assess 50,000 applications a week—double the rate last year—and it more than meets the service standards of 90 per cent. of standard disclosures in two weeks and enhanced disclosures in four weeks. I am pleased to say that, of those people using the service, one in five have decided not to employ somebody as a result of disclosure, which shows that in terms of its main purpose—protecting children and vulnerable adults—it is working very well.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): May I point out to the Minister, however, that her answer omits the fact that from April next year the enhanced fees will go up to £33, which is a 175 per cent. increase since April 2002? That places a particular hardship on care homes. To provide at least a semblance of value for money, when will the Government ensure that the time taken to clear an investigation is reduced from about four weeks to the two weeks that Health Ministers promised in Committee when the requirements were introduced?

Beverley Hughes: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman heard me recount the performance standards that are being met. In fact, nine out of 10 applications are for enhanced disclosures, the majority of which are being dealt with in two weeks. I am sure that he will agree that the previous system was not working. The police national computer could not cope with the number of applications. As of 29 November this year, more than 3 billion applications have been submitted, which shows hon. Members the scale of the need. If we are to provide a good service, the standard must meet the needs of

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organisations, and that must be paid for. We made it clear, when the first disclosure fee was announced in 2001, that the service would have to move to a full-cost recovery basis. The Government have stepped in, and we are moving to full-cost recovery in a planned, incremental way that enables organisations to meet the charges, but not all at once. That is a fair system. As I said, the main purpose is to protect children and vulnerable adults, and our feedback is that organisations and the registered body are very happy with the improvements that have been made.

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