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Mr. Oaten: My hon. Friend is right. It will be necessary to tie down the guidelines, to work with teachers' unions and to ensure that there is proper training. It is a sensitive issue and we must tread with caution.
Controlling the way in which guns and knives enter the country has been mentioned. I am worried about the purchase of such products on the internet. I have been able to print out some extraordinary information from the internet that troubles me enormously, involving not just replicas but working guns. I hope that the Home Secretary will speed up his work on that. We are introducing a number of measures, but it would help the Government a great deal if we could prevent ownership of such weapons, especially through the internet.
We will not oppose the Bill. We will try to deal with some of our worries in Committee. We hope that the Bill will make a difference, but none of it will make a difference unless we establish why individuals get drunk and carry knives or guns in the first place. That is a fundamental problem that we must resolve.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab):
The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) complained that his party was depicted as being soft on crime. His party voted against the whole of the Anti-
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social Behaviour Act 2003, and members of his party on Manchester city council opposed it on the grounds that there was already too much antisocial behaviour legislation. The hon. Gentleman was worried about the Bill's effect on civil liberties. We are all champions of civil liberties, but my constituents value one civil liberty in particular: freedom from crime and from antisocial behaviour. If the Liberal Democrats had their way, we would not be dealing with that. My constituents in the Chapman street and Platt lane areas who are victims of antisocial behaviour will not be impressed by that nitpicking approach.
Of course there are huge issues involving crime. As statistics demonstrate, no one could claim that the Government's war against crime is anywhere near wholly successful. The fact is, however, that the introduction of antisocial behaviour legislationpioneered in Manchester and, indeed, in my constituencyis one of the most important advances in this regard that any Government have achieved. This Bill will deal with the sale of drink to minors, and that could have a huge impact. In Gorton, particularly in the Chapman street area, we have heard repeated complaints about retailers selling drink to minors. The police are acting, and are prosecuting in one case, but the Bill will strengthen the process.
My constituents want to be able to live in peace. They want to be free from antisocial behaviour and from knife and gun crime. The Bill will help in that regard. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who pioneered antisocial behaviour legislation, has introduced to the dictionaries a new noun, asbo, and a new verb, to asbo. It is talked about in the streets. When the original legislation was introduced eight years ago, I told him, "The Bill looks good, but only when my constituents tell me that it is working will I be satisfied." My constituents, although they have many misgivings and want much more to be done, say that it is working. That is why they want more to be done. That is why they want action to be taken on houses that are being used illicitly as shabeens and for other purposes.
This legislation can help on that. That is why people are delighted with the drink-banning elements of the Bill. It is not necessarily gangs that are causing the problems; collections of small numbers of young people are doing so. Let me make it clear that the overwhelming majority of young people would never dream of behaving badly, but a small minority can make life hell for ordinary people, who just want to live their lives in peace. This legislation will assist in giving them the increased tranquillity that they have the right to ask for.
When I have constituents who are brave and decent enough to provide information to the police, I want the backing of the law and that is what this legislation increases. I pay tribute to Miss Irene Thorpe, who lives in Gorton and was given the MBE in the birthday honours list. She is a brave woman who has fought crime in the area. People are ready to do that provided they have legislative backing, and the Government will give them that backing.
I pay tribute to the police in our area. Of course, their response is not always what my constituents want, but the police are implementing our legislation, which they welcome. When the police and the public work togethermembers of the public in Fallowfield, Gorton and elsewhere in my constituency do work togetherit increases tranquility, makes life better, and increases
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property values, which the Liberal Democrat spokesman was complaining about. Where we have good community development, as we have in the Longsight area of my constituency, property prices are rising. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Flello) is right. People know that, if there is a lot of crime in the area, designation of the zone helps to deal with that crime. It does not decrease property values; it increases them.
I therefore say to Ministers that the measures that they have introduced, including this Bill, are making life better. The Liberal Democrat spokesman says that he is worried about naming and shaming people. A young woman in my constituency called Lorraine Ogden had ASBOs imposed on her. She went on offending. She was named on leaflets and indeed in the House. She has now said that her life has improved because she has been given the opportunity to improve her life and become a constructive citizen.
In Gorton, we have had the on the streets project. Young offenders who have who had ASBOs imposed on them are now constructive citizens thanks to the wardens who created that system in their spare time. We want to make sure that innocent people are protected and that young people do not ruin the whole of their lives when they make mistakes. The provisions in the Bill on replica knives and binge drinking will be better for those people, because they will help them to stop behaving in an antisocial way. Heaven knows they will be far better for my constituents, who have had to put up with such behaviour all around them.
Although the Bill deals with city centres, I hope that Ministers will consider extending it to district centres because, in a large city such as Manchester, not only the centre of the city but other parts are oppressed.
The shadow Home Secretary talked about the statistics of crime. Let me give him the latest statistics for Greater Manchester. In the year to March, there were 42,000 fewer offences, an 11.5 per cent. reduction. There were 2,000 fewer violent crimes, and 67,752 offences were brought to justice, an increase of 21.9 per cent. Domestic burglary was down by 10,616 offences, a fall of 28.1 per cent. The number of robberies was down 1,731, an 18.7 per cent. fall. Vehicle crime, which is one of the worst scourges that people have to put up with, fell by 9,280 offences, a reduction of 15.6 per cent. In April, the figures have improved still further.
It is not paradise. Far too many people are still putting up with crime and with antisocial behaviour. The Bill is not a panacea, but heaven knows it will help my good, brave and decent constituents to come forward to fight crime and to ensure that antisocial behaviour, gun crime and knife crime are reduced. That is what my constituents want. That is what they have the right to want. That is what they have the right to work for and to vote for, and that is what Ministers are helping them to do.
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con):
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the privilege of making my maiden speech today. I begin by declaring an interest as a solicitor. It is a welcome opportunity to speak in this debate, given that violent crime is of major concern to my constituents.
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First, as is customary, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Stephen Twigg. However, I do so less as a matter of custom, and more out of a personal respect for his record of hard work and service to an area we both grew up in and care deeply about. I am sure that his talents will continue to find a prominent place in public lifebut with respect, I trust not in Enfield, Southgate.
Before addressing the subject of the debate, I would like to describe the constituency that I now represent as Member of Parliament and the borough that I still represent as a councillor. It is long-established and distinguished, not least by its names. Enfield was literally the end field in the old county of Middlesex. Southgate was the "South gate" to the royal hunting forests.
The words "Enfield, Southgate" are rarely uttered by political pundits without being preceded by the word "leafy". Indeed, the constituency is green, with tree-lined streets, and an abundance of parks and farmland to boot. It is also suburban, in the best sense of the word, straddling the area between London and Hertfordshire. The green belt is the natural check on development and is cherished, particularly by its nearest neighbours in Hadley Wood. It needs, though, to be protected by the vigilant eyes of the active local residents associations and councillors.
The constituency includes Cockfosters, which is where I grew up. Some will know of it simply as being the end of the Piccadilly line, others for its being the subject of adverts for alcohol beverages, and others for more cerebral reasons, since it is the home of Sir John Betjeman and Trent park.
The park has been home to the Sassoon family, prisoners of war and Middlesex university. It is described, rightly, as the jewel in the crown of the constituency. Indeed, Trent park has royal links, being known by locals as the secret childhood playground of Her Majesty the Queen and Princess Margaret. Her Majesty was known to be partial to the chocolate cake cooked by the housekeeper, Mrs. Gubby. Sadly, the recipe has not stood the test of time, but Trent park certainly has. The university is due to submit plans to increase development in the park. I will oppose any plans that inhibit future generations from fully enjoying our wonderful country park.
Another significant part of the constituency is Palmers Green, which is well known not only for being the backdrop to the last Harry Potter film but for Green lanes. The street boasts a diverse collection of shops, small firms, cafés and restaurants and a diverse community. Only this weekend, the active Green Lanes Business Association, championed so admirably by Costas Georgiou, celebrated the vibrancy of the area with a successful shopping festival.
It is now traditional for the newly elected Member for Enfield, Southgate to include in his maiden speech the north circular road, which runs through the constituency. I should choose my words carefully, as I would not want to suggest that this clogged-up artery is the site of any significant movement. It does not so much run though as pass through, and usually its traffic does not even do that. Sir Anthony Berry, in his maiden speech some 40 years ago, and, after him, Michael Portillo, expressed hope that the road would be widened shortly.
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Even now, with the London Mayor's latest and inadequate road plans exhibiting in the constituency, there is an unmet need for a full widening scheme properly to tackle congestion. I sincerely hope that this will be the last maiden speech in which this issue needs to be raised.
The constituency still retains its local heritage as a collection of villagesSouthgate Green, Oakwood, Grange Park and Winchmore Hill. During the election campaign, it was clear that constituents felt an increasing sense of powerlessness over what happens in their community. They want their local voice to be louder on issues as varied as the proliferation of mobile phone masts and local policing. I wish to amply the voice of Enfield, Southgate. I believe that my role is not to rely on the powers of the state being used on their behalf, but to return those powers to the people who make the real difference.
A true description of my constituency needs to include mention of some fine people who give the local community its strength. Enfield, Southgate is the proud home of the oldest woman in England, Judy Ingamells, who is 111 years old. One of the highlights of the election campaign was to visit Mrs. Ingamells and experience what she says is the secret of her long life: a good sense of humour. Her motto for life will no doubt meet with approval from Labour Members; "Never look back, always look forward." Was she the originator of that motto? Mrs. Ingamells was born during the Administration of Lord Salisbury, has lived through the Administrations of many other great Prime Ministers and still lives in hope.
Enfield, Southgate has many public servants, none more so than Malcolm Hudson, the head teacher of St. Paul's Church of England school in Winchmore Hill, who is retiring next month after 12 years of excellent leadership, backed up by years of distinguished service to education. I have come to appreciate the ethos of service that is displayed by many local people in education, health, transport and the police. The challenge is to provide the necessary freedom and opportunity for these people to flourish, and to enable local solutions rather than their being smothered by the heavy hand of government.
The heart of the constituency is to be found in its voluntary and local associations. Two in particular come to mind, from whose services, respectively, 1,000 people each week benefit. The first is TAB centre plus, situated in Bowes ward in a pocket of deprivation. The local church, under the compassionate leadership of David James, has reached out to its neighbours and its premises provide the base for countless diverse community activities. The second is the well known Chicken Shed theatre company, which has its home in Southgate and has provided theatrical excellence throughout the last 30 years, working with and being accessible and available to a complete cross-section of young people. Both these organisations shine out as beacons in the local community. Neither benefits significantly from state funds, but their strength is the voluntary commitment of dedicated people.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to indulge in a tour of my constituency. Some hon. Members may question how the subject of today's debate could be relevant to leafy Enfield,
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Southgate. That question was shockingly answered nearly 12 months ago, when a local young man was brutally and senselessly murdered on his way home in Southgate Green. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Within a mile there have been other murders, serial rapes, stabbings, shootings, an armed robbery and an abduction.
I believe that we will not significantly reduce violent crime until we have seriously tackled drug abuse. I saw for myself during the campaign how drug dealing was openly taking place on the residential streets of Enfield, Southgate. I have been to our local prison, HMP Pentonville, on many occasions; only, I hasten to add, in my professional capacity as a criminal solicitor. I am told by inmates that the prison is awash with drugs. It is apparently easier to obtain crack cocaine and heroin on the inside of prison than on the outside. This madness has to stop.
Tackling drug abuse requires action on many different levels, and I await with interest the Government's review of cannabis classification and trust that good sense will return. For the last 11 years, most of my clients, sadly, have been drug addicts. I have seen the crucial role that strong families play in rehabilitation. When a drug addict is serious about rehabilitation, we need to be ready with a compassionate response. Effective treatment is required, as is practical support for the family.
Reducing violent crime and making our streets safer is the priority for me as Member of Parliament for Enfield, Southgate. I am committed to work with the council, local people, the police, families and other agencies to combat crime and to turn back the worrying tide of drug abuse which is now lapping at our borders and threatening our children.
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