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The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): The Conservatives set it up.

Mr. Clappison: I will give way to the Minister in a moment if she wants me to. This Government do that even though they chose to rely on the recorded crime statistics over and over again in chastising the last Conservative Government. Comparing like with like, what do the recorded crime statistics show? Even making statistical allowances for changing methodology, recorded crime has gone up and violent crime has gone up by 44 per cent. since this Government took office.

If we examine the British crime survey figures, on which the Prime Minister is now wont to rely, even though he himself used the recorded crime figures previously, we see that crime has come down, but the problem for the Government is that they show that crime started to come down in 1995. I do not remember the then Opposition going round the country in 1997 saying that the Government were doing a good job because crime was coming down, as measured by the British crime survey. The fact is that crime was coming down much faster between 1995 and 1997 than it has been since. Even in those British crime survey figures, there are some worrying trends, such as in gun crime, which has doubled, on any view, over the past five years. There was no mention of that in the Queen's Speech, and the Government are showing great complacency and no determination to try to get the figures back to the level to which the country was used before gun crime became all too frequent. In the brief time that I have left, I shall give way to the Minister, if she still wants to make an intervention—no, she clearly does not.

I hope that the Minister will take some of my comments to heart, because the Government have nothing to be proud about on tackling crime. The country is looking for a much more radical approach, especially on police numbers: people want a greatly increased number of police used in a much more effective way.

7.1 pm

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): I want to concentrate in my eight minutes on the Identity Cards Bill.

I wish that we still lived in a world in which ID cards were not necessary, and in which there were no suicide bombers, but we now live in the global village, facilitated by the jet engine. I am also totally in favour
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of managed migration, but that is facilitated by people having the skills and ability to get jobs in this country, which is different from what is happening in my constituency, where too many young men are getting entry visas on the back of marriage to young girls, many of whom are born in my constituency. It is totally unacceptable that the human rights of those girls are being abused simply for the economic enhancement of families in Pakistan, and sometimes families in Keighley.

Aspects of the ID card legislation will make that more difficult and disrupt the behaviour of young men coming in as husbands. Increasingly, in my constituency, young men are coming in as husbands to girls who have been forced to marry them, and who then come to me to try to get out of acting as a sponsor. We call them reluctant sponsors, and there are too many of them in Keighley. Frequently, the young man does a disappearing act—he leaves the girl, sometimes shortly after arrival, sometimes after they have one or two children, so she is left holding the baby, paying the mortgage, earning the wages and doing everything. She can do absolutely nothing about it. She then comes to me about the case, tells me that she has been married and that the man has left her. What will we do about it?

The problem is that the young man can just disappear into his extended family—biraderi—and he is lost to the girl, the Government and the various agencies such as the police. Aspects of the introduction of an ID card would help to disrupt the behaviour of those young men. We are told that the Bill will

Let us bear in mind that these young men who go AWOL are frequently able to use the various services available and to gain money from the social security department. The Bill would also

which frequently occurs—

All those aspects would disrupt the lives of young men who leave before gaining indefinite leave to remain, and help to curb the activities of many young men who leave after—and sometimes on the very same day—that they receive their indefinite leave to remain.

This is just one aspect of curbing the activities of families who force their daughters into marriage. Other things can be done, however, which would help young girls resist forced marriages. On 27 October the Home Office published a press release, which was headed, "Promoting Human Rights, Respecting Individual Dignity: New Measures to Tackle Forced Marriage." We were discussing the final stages of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 on that day, and the Home Secretary, I understand, was going to make a statement on those lines. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will read out what he was going to say, had he been given the opportunity. I dislike the ugly word "filibuster", and I was not in the House on
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that day, but I understand that Opposition Members spoke at length so that the Home Secretary was not able—

Mr. Llwyd: I was in the Chamber at that time, and it may assist the hon. Lady to know that the Home Secretary had trailed that speech in its entirety in the press, and then thought that he might address us later with the same text. Unfortunately, the Government had not protected their work.

Mrs. Cryer: I am not sure about the Government protecting their work, but as the hon. Gentleman said, I know that the Home Secretary was not able to say to the House the things that I will read out now. It is important that we have on the record what the Home Office is promising to me and my constituents in Keighley, who are being abused in such a dreadful way.

I am not sure whether primary legislation would be required, or whether the proposals could be introduced by secondary legislation or other measures, but the Home Secretary was going to say:

That follows a measure introduced a year last 1 April, when the age limit for acting as a sponsor was increased from 16 to 18. I have good reason to think that both those age limits should be 21. That would give those girls confidence and time to finish their higher education before facing the burden of a forced marriage.

The Home Secretary would also have said that

is to be

Most of the problems in regard to which I must intercede originate there.

I welcome the Identity Cards Bill because it will go some way towards disrupting the behaviour of young men who have taken advantage of young girls who are forced into marriage. However, I look forward to the introduction of the measures mentioned in the document to which I have referred.

7.10 pm

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer), she made a brave speech, and I believe that much of what she said should be noted and acted on by Government.
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When the present Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), was Home Secretary in the 1990s, crime fell by 18 per cent. in four years. That is a fact. It had never happened before, and it has never happened since. In contrast, under the present Government crime appears to be out of control, and in my constituents' opinion sentences are frequently far too lenient.

Prisons have a role to play in protecting the community from dangerous offenders, and placing convicted criminals in the safest environment for themselves. Prisons per se are not the problem—but, in my view, more attention should be given to their management and to the regimes imposed within their walls. Prisons should not be allowed to become universities of crime. The endemic drug culture should be stamped out. I disagree with the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks).

Careful attention should be given to proper induction and the appropriate housing of new and young offenders. Prisoners should have a properly structured day with less entertainment, less time spent in their cells, more education, more basic learning, more work and more physical exercise. We urgently need a huge boost to police numbers, in conjunction with an energetic prison-building programme and a coherent effort to get young people off drugs and off the conveyer belt of crime.

As we have heard already today, the UK has a million hard-drug addicts for the first time ever—yes, a million. I make no apology for taking a hard line on drugs. They destroy lives, they destroy society and they render all our efforts to reduce crime worthless. As many know, the drug culture spawns the gun culture, and both help to create the culture of violence.

Today, parts of Britain are virtually no-go-areas. Towns and cities that were once peaceful are now overrun with gangs brandishing guns—and who are in the middle? The decent, hard-working people whose lives are ruined. We must never give up on the war against crime and the war against drugs.

Too many people are afraid: afraid to stay in their homes, afraid to leave their homes, afraid to summon help and afraid not to summon help, afraid to barricade their doors and afraid to be trapped behind their doors. I want criminals to be afraid: afraid of being caught, and afraid of being punished. I believe that if social cohesion is to succeed, people should be happy and secure in their own homes.

If that is the case now—I raised this with the Prime Minister in the Liaison Committee—how is it that many people on the Upton and Moss estates in Macclesfield are having their lives made hell by yob culture, antisocial behaviour such as the production of graffiti and litter, low-level crime involving theft from cars, stealing of cars, and burglary? These are the activities of a limited number of people who, sadly, are often driven by drugs.

Does the Home Secretary accept that many of those people whose lives are being made hell can no longer rely on the police? As we have heard today, the police say that they have inadequate manpower to respond to incidents on estates such as the two that I have mentioned. In my meetings with them, the police are forever telling me that they do not have the resources to
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devote to dealing with the various incidents that are reported. What are the Government going to do about that, and what are the courts going to do about dealing with the young people who are apprehended and who are making people's lives hell? Too often they appear to   pat them on the back and return them to the community.

Of course the answer is zero tolerance, but, as the Minister knows, zero-tolerance policing demands more police—a lot more police, and I mean real police. The    Government have responded by recruiting 25,000 people who cannot arrest anyone. Police officers must not be employed to conduct by proxy the Labour party's war against the motorist or the country dweller; and they must not be impeded by the dead weight of regulation that the Government have imposed. Police should be properly resourced and empowered.

The Cheshire constabulary's main focus in the Macclesfield divisional command area is on the reduction of crime and the strengthening of local policing. As the Minister will know, it is about to undergo a force-wide reorganisation in order to deliver more officers to community policing in visible, accessible local policing teams. That can be delivered only through reorganisation of existing resources, and rationalisation of the way in which senior officers currently resource so-called response policing—in other words, taking officers away from the panda car role.

I could say a great deal about approaches made to me, as a Cheshire Member, by the police and the police authority about the shortage of resources. They want to undertake many very desirable projects, but that will take officers from the existing establishment. The clear alternative is, I think, the Conservative alternative. We will set the police free to cut crime.

While I support the hard work of the Cheshire constabulary and the Macclesfield division locally, the problem is that the Government's plethora of initiatives and vast bureaucracy are preventing the police from doing their job. There will be no more national targets, and no more ring-fenced funding. Those are Whitehall priorities at present. A future Home Secretary under a Conservative Government will recruit 40,000 police officers, and we must ensure that they, like all our police, are properly trained.

The Cheshire constabulary would gain an additional 640 or so police officers within nine or 10 years under Conservative proposals. They must not be diverted to perform tasks determined by political correctness. Their task must be just good, traditional policing—deterring crime and catching criminals. We should look to the example set a few years ago by the mayor of New York, Rudy Guiliani. He made New York a safer city than London.

I would like to say much more, but time will not permit me to do so. In the United Kingdom today, there is a silent struggle between the decent, respectable, law-abiding citizen who wants to look after his or her own, pay his or her dues and get on with life and a noisy minority who care nothing for anyone: people who only respect force. I think that too many people currently believe that the majority is a soft touch. We need a change of culture—a return to the values of decency, discipline and respect. That was spelt out extremely well by the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Tony Wright).
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For that we need a change of Government. We need a Government who do not just talk, but are resilient and determined to succeed and to represent the interests of people.

7.18 pm

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