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Mr. Andrew Mitchell: Will the Minister give way?

Ms Blears: I gave way a huge number of times when I opened the debate. Perhaps I will give way when I reach my response to the hon. Gentleman's speech.

The hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) mentioned the British Transport police, and I hope that I gave him some reassurance that the Home Office certainly believes that that force makes a significant contribution to safety in this country. He also raised the issue of bureaucracy, and said that he wanted to see more size 10 boots out there. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) made the point that we also want to see more women out there, as well as men with size 10 feet. The hon. Member for North Thanet is right to raise the issue of bureaucracy, and we have now embarked on trying to release more people to the front line.

The hon. Gentleman and others raised the issue of the police having to account not only for stops and searches but for stops as well. This was a recommendation of the Lawrence report, and it is important to continue with this commitment. Recent operational experience, not at a desk but on the ground, showed that two thirds of all recordings of stops were completed in under five minutes. We are trying to ensure that we can carry out this recording in the least bureaucratic way possible, but it is important for the confidence of the community and for the protection of the police that there is an audit trail to account for why people have been stopped and in what circumstances. I make no apology for saying that this is an important part of policing. It is about building up the confidence of the community. Hon. Members will know that the issues relating to stop and search and to stops raise some of the biggest concerns, particularly among people from ethnic minority communities, and it is important that we should continue to respond in that way.

The hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues, and said that if I could respond to all of them, he would be a happy man. I have been able to reply to about three quarters, so perhaps he will be three-quarters happy. On funding for Kent, he asked who would pay for the police who had to do extra work as a result of the licensing
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changes. First, the licensing changes are about flexible hours, not about 24-hour drinking. Let us put that straight. Local authorities, which will for the first time be able to set the conditions, having listened to police representations, could well set stricter conditions than are in place at the moment. The police will save some £15 million a year, because they will only be doing several thousand administrative processes, rather than the millions that they are currently engaged in. So there will be resources available. We are also consulting on alcohol disorder zones and on the possibility that licensed premises will have to make a contribution towards policing and other costs. We are well on top of that issue.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the delegation of training moneys from Centrex. I think that I dealt with that in my opening remarks, but I can confirm that Kent is one of the early implementers of local training. It will get £238,000 of capital and £394,000 of revenue funding in the next year to deal with that. There will also be additional transitional funding as well as the delegation of the central moneys from Centrex, so I hope that that will help with the training.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the issue of officers being funded locally. In Kent, the crime fighting fund has funded 259 officers of the extra 270, so only 11 extra officers have been funded locally. I am afraid that I have to say to him that his representation that the whole increase has been funded locally is wrong. I am sorry to say that in such blunt terms.

The extra costs resulting from asylum seekers were also raised by the hon. Gentleman. I do not have the detail, but I am happy to supply it to him, so perhaps he might be generous enough to say that I have satisfied three quarters of his queries. I hope he is a happier man than he was when he came into the Chamber earlier today. [Interruption.] He does look a lot happier, actually.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) raised the issue of licensing changes and the need for a culture change. He is absolutely right, and I do not for one moment think that we can do that overnight. We are starting to consider the new licences from February, and they will not all come into force in November. There will be a six-month transitional period from February until November.

I do not believe that we can change the culture in such a short time, which is why we must have good tough enforcement using the whole range of new powers that the police have, from dispersal orders and fixed-penalty notices to the alcohol disorder notices. However, we must also ensure that we bear down on advertising, work in our schools with young people and really start to introduce a more responsible drinking culture.

My hon. Friend also raised the issue of urban communities within rural areas. Again, the way in which the local chief constable allocates resources must take account of those particular pressures on such communities.

I can tell the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) that the police force in Sussex is receiving £11.9 million more than it would have done had the formula been strictly applied. His local force gains greatly from the fact that there is a floor in the settlement. I am delighted that his area has
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149 community support officers on patrol; another 25 have been allocated to his area. His force has been at the forefront of the civilianisation programme to reconfigure its work force. All credit to the force for being innovative and imaginative in doing that.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the issue of recorded crime. He might not know that half of all recorded violence results in no injury to the person at all. It is important that we make that distinction.

I welcome the support of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) for the settlement—[Interruption.] Qualified support, I think. He raised the issue of the formula. We are reviewing it, but it is largely supported by ACPO and the Association of Police Authorities, so there are no real representations for radical change of that formula. We must ensure, however, that it uses up-to-date data, and we want to align it with the performance management system.

The hon. Gentleman asked about three-year settlements; we hope to be able to move towards those. He also raised the issue of policing the position with regard to hunting. I am delighted to say that ACPO has issued some excellent practical guidelines on how the police will enforce the law. My particular thanks go to Alistair McWhirter, who has been working on this on behalf of ACPO. He has done a brilliant job so far in taking it forward. I, too, commend North Wales police, which has a particularly impressive approach to neighbourhood policing. I visited the force recently. It has a website on which people can key in their postcode and get details of their beat officers, including how to contact them, and it also uses three-year contracts, for continuity. It has taken a lead on tackling antisocial behaviour in north Wales. I simply urge the local authorities to join with the police in that.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me a series of technical questions, and I shall be more than happy to write to him with those details.

I join the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) in expressing thanks to Sir John Stevens, the outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who has done a fantastic job. In my time in this job, I have got to know him extremely well and I have huge admiration for him, as I do for his successor, Ian Blair. I have no doubt that the Metropolitan police, with Ian Blair and Paul Stephenson from Lancashire as the new deputy commissioner, will go from strength to strength.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of stops, which I have dealt with. That is about getting the balance right. He also raised an interesting point about how we can encourage high fliers in the police service, and I agree with him. If he looks at the White Paper, he will see that there are fairly radical proposals on multi-point entry to the service and not necessarily having to serve the same amount of time as officers do at the moment before being able to come through the service. We talk about exchanges, secondments and coming in and out of the different public services, as well as the private sector, to reinvigorate our police leadership.

The hon. Gentleman talked about continual professional development, which is a personal passion of mine. I think that all officers—from constable right on through the service—need continually to develop their skills and talents.
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Finally, I turn to the contribution of the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield. It was a little intemperate in comparison with the tenor of the rest of this afternoon's excellent debate, in which many good point were made. I noticed that he welcomed the extra officers that this Government have been able to introduce, and I am delighted about that. He also referred to the 40,000 extra police officers that his party has promised—

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