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Criminal Justice System

12. Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): What steps he is taking to improve public confidence in the criminal justice system. [148337]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): The simple answer is that a degree of common sense would help to raise confidence in the criminal justice system. However, tough sentences for violent and heinous crimes, sensible interventions in relation to first-time non-violent offences, reductions in crime rates and reconviction rates, steady increases in the number of offences brought to justice and in the

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number of police, and the introduction of community support officers and their steady increase—in other words, all the things that we have been doing in the past seven years—also increase confidence in the criminal justice system if those operating within the system apply that degree of common sense.

Angela Watkinson : My constituent Mr. Roy Roomes has described Upminster as a police-free zone. His car has been either stolen from his driveway or vandalised on five separate occasions. What will the Home Secretary do to ensure that police resources in the London borough of Havering are not monopolised by the demands of the nightclubs in central Romford, so that sufficient police remain to cover law and order in the rest of the borough, including Upminster?

Mr. Blunkett: Some co-operation from those selling the alcohol in Romford to help us to get additional community support officers and uniformed policemen and women would be a start, as would ensuring that the police reform consultation paper that I launched in November is widely circulated in the hon. Lady's constituency. That will enable the people there to make their views known both to the local commander and to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and enable us to engage the community in shaping the activity, priorities and effectiveness of the police service, given that all hon. Members appear to be keen on the idea of local operational responsibility.

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): The Home Secretary will know that the criminal justice system requires high standards of evidence if it is to operate effectively. In that regard, will the right hon. Gentleman consider increasing the number of independent witnesses who are available to the police, local authorities and others so that in cases of violent antisocial behaviour, where people are too afraid to come forward to testify about what has been happening, there is more chance of securing convictions?

Mr. Blunkett: The wider use of professional witnesses by housing authorities, social landlords and local authorities is welcome. Taking that together with protecting people who are brave enough to be prepared to provide evidence will make a difference. In the end, that involves the community being prepared to stand up and be counted. Those of us who have responsibility in this area must ensure that when individuals are so prepared, they do not find themselves the further victims of vandalism and antisocial behaviour.

Anti-social Behaviour Act

13. Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): When the powers contained in the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 will be introduced. [148338]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): On 20 January, we will publish a guide to the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which will give the dates when the measures in the Act will be commenced.

Mr. Jenkins: While I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, we are all aware that introducing legislation is

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not the same as implementing legislation. Implementation is taken over by agencies such as the police. Will she consider asking the police ever so nicely—it is an operational issue—to make greater use of mobile closed circuit television units? Then, with the evidence in front of them, will she consider asking the police to make an appointment with the parents of some of the youngsters involved—either taking them into the station or going to their homes—and sit with both the youngsters and the parents so that parents are fully aware of the actions of their children and the implications once they become accomplices to those actions? They will no longer be able to claim that they are unaware.

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend makes the important point that enacting legislation in the House is not necessarily implementation. That is exactly why we have the "together" campaign, with the academy and the website running it out throughout the country. He has suggested an excellent solution to the problem, which I understand has been adopted by police forces in several areas—certainly in my community—whereby the police can intervene early and find the youngsters who are committing these actions, confront their parents and then work together with the parents to find solutions so that we can divert young people from behaving in this way. It is an excellent idea to get CCTV evidence, and I will be encouraging the police to do so.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): Does the Minister agree that communities used to police antisocial behaviour themselves? If parents could not or would not take action, the local bobby would do so swiftly. Is not that a model of policing that we should be trying to return to, rather than relying on lengthy processes of issuing orders and court proceedings that mean that, inevitably, much of the damage has been done by the time that any action is taken?

Ms Blears: Yes; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware of the introduction of fixed penalty notices, which we have been piloting in a number of areas. We are about to roll them out nationally. They are very effective and there is swift justice on the spot. They confront young people with the consequences of their behaviour. I dare say that that is perhaps better than the traditional method of a clip round the ear. Those notices are beginning to be much more effective.

Forensic Science Service

14. Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): If he will make a statement about the future of the Forensic Science Service. [148339]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint): The Home Secretary's announcement on 17 July 2003 of the decision to establish the Forensic Science Service as a public-private partnership will ensure that it will continue to serve the public interest and to increase the benefits it delivers to the criminal justice system. The FSS is a world leader in its field. We believe that the PPP will ensure that it can respond speedily, flexibly and

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effectively to opportunities for exploiting new scientific developments in an increasingly competitive environment.

Mr. Grogan : On the day that the folly of privatising the railways is fully exposed publicly, why are Ministers considering privatising a successful public service such as the Forensic Science Service solely on the pretext of raising extra funds for capital investment, especially when that service last year made a surplus of £10 million, which is equivalent to half the amount required for investment?

Caroline Flint: I understand that my hon. Friend and other hon. Friends are concerned about the FSS. I have been keen to be involved through the work that it is doing on firearms. I should make the point that this is not about privatisation, which the McFarland review rejected outright. The PPP offers us the best means both to compete effectively and protect the public interest. There was a £10 million surplus last year, but the McFarland report said that the FSS would need at least £20 million to £30 million a year just to stand still. We must give it the opportunities to gain further investment so as to continue to be a world-class leader.


15. Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): If he will make a statement on projected levels of immigration. [148340]

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): Projections on population growth and the contribution to that growth from net inward migration are made by the Government Actuary's Department. Its figures project, on the basis of current trends, a total annual population growth of 0.31 per cent over the next 30 years, about half of which would come

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from net migration. However, by clamping down on illegal immigration and unfounded asylum claims, and welcoming legal migrants where they can contribute to our economy, the Government are managing migration actively and continuously to ensure that, on the one hand, the UK is well positioned to gain the benefits of migration in an increasingly competitive global market while at the same time making sure that we are integrating newcomers successfully into our communities.

Mr. Lilley : I thank the Minister for her answer. While the overwhelming majority of people seeking to live here are hard-working and desirable, does she agree that, at the end of the day, it is a question of the number that we can accommodate? Can she confirm that net immigration is running at over 200,000 a year and that the Government envisage no upper limit to the level of immigration? Where does she propose to accommodate a population equivalent to a city the size of Southampton every year henceforth?

Beverley Hughes: The right hon. Gentleman is citing figures from an organisation whose figures continue to be spurious and not at all related to those published by the Government Actuary. The figures produced by the Government Actuary are nothing like the 200,000 that MigrationWatch UK has talked about.

I shall explain our approach for the right hon. Gentleman. In saying that there is no obvious limit, we are not saying that there is no limit but that we will monitor the needs of our economy for migration in line with the numbers that we can accommodate to take account of the impact on public services and the integration that has to take place in our communities. We do not have a command economy, and we cannot take a predict and provide approach. We are responding flexibly to the needs of our labour market while making sure that, when we allow people to come here and work, we can accommodate them successfully.

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