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Border Security

5. Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): What plans the Government have to introduce 24-hour security at ports of entry. [16781]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): There is 24-hour cover at the UK's main 16 ports of entry and a further 25 are regularly staffed. Officers are deployed to unmanned ports to meet specific arrivals when necessary. There are no plans to have personnel manning the 350 ports for 24 hours a day. We are, however, extending the immigration service mobile response capacity based on intelligence to respond to any new or emerging threats.

Mr. Vaizey: The Minister is a fine public servant and I have no wish to malign him in any way, so I simply note with regret that the Government have scrapped embarkation controls and reduced the number of immigration officials, that there are just 10 permanent staff in one in five of our ports and, as the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality admitted earlier, that a plethora of organisations are responsible for our borders. As an exponent of the new politics, may I reach across the Chamber and agree with the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) that the time has come for a national security force, and urge the Minister to issue proposals for such a force immediately?

Andy Burnham: I was very interested to hear from a self-styled exponent of new politics. As such, why is the hon. Gentleman sticking with an old-fashioned failed pledge in the Conservative manifesto to have 24-hour coverage at ports? He considers himself something of a moderniser, and I refer him to the article by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow)—I do not know whether he still speaks to him—in The Independent today, entitled "Conservative immigration policy is simply wrong".

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that to succeed, we need the full co-operation of our European Union partners? We have taken steps during our presidency, and there is another meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council this Wednesday. Will he and his colleagues look at the operation of the external borders agency to see whether there is a way to improve or extend its scope to help us in this difficult matter?

Andy Burnham: As always on such issues, my hon. Friend is right. Good co-operation has delivered results for Britain. I refer to the juxtaposed controls introduced in Calais and the development of biometric standards. He is right that the border agency has a role in securing the external border of the EU, especially where it fronts transit countries, such as Ukraine. I take on board what he says. We all want to see progress soon.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): Why is not the Minister even the slightest bit embarrassed that if someone shouts "Nonsense" at the Foreign Secretary, that person is arrested by the terrorism squad, but if
 
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someone is one of the tens of thousands of illegal entrants into this country who know that our laws on border controls are nonsense, no one seems to do anything about it?

Andy Burnham: I am not sure how that question follows. The hon. and learned Gentleman stood on an election manifesto that committed the Conservative party to 24-hour coverage of all 350 ports of this country. I am happy to stand here and say that that ludicrous policy would have wasted many millions of pounds. Instead, the Conservatives should have deployed an intelligence-led approach, which is what we are doing. I have no embarrassment in defending our policy because it is right.

ASBOs (Plymouth)

6. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): If he will make a statement on the use of antisocial behaviour orders in Plymouth. [16782]

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Hazel Blears): Antisocial behaviour orders are one of a number of tools being used in Plymouth as part of their local strategy to tackle antisocial behaviour. Local practitioners have taken a robust stance against antisocial behaviour and report that ASBOs have been effectively used alongside other interventions, such as acceptable behaviour contracts and injunctions.

Linda Gilroy: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I hope she agrees that it is important to give confidence to victims. In reviewing antisocial behaviour orders, will she consider changing the law so that appeals by perpetrators involve a paper-based system rather than a full rehearing, which means that the victims have to give evidence again and ties up the valuable resources—the time and the commitment—of antisocial behaviour units.

Hazel Blears: I am only too well aware of the impact that antisocial behaviour can have on victims and witnesses. I congratulate Elaine Holland and Jane Kemp from Plymouth who bravely took a stand and have since set up their own helpline to help other victims and witnesses in the Plymouth area. My hon. Friend has been a tireless campaigner on those issues in her local community for many years. I am happy to consider her suggestion. I am always keen to see how we can make our antisocial behaviour legislation focused, effective and practical in protecting the rights of the law-abiding majority.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon) (Con): I am sure that antisocial behaviour orders have a part to play, but can the Minister explain why, despite five years of ASBOs, antisocial behaviour by young people in my constituency, in particular in Plympton and Plymstock, two suburbs of Plymouth, is getting worse? Will she review the use of ASBOs to see whether the Government can come up with additional measures that might help to take some of the menace and intimidation off the streets of Plymouth?
 
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Hazel Blears: I have always said that our campaign against antisocial behaviour is not simply about enforcement, important though that is; it is also about support. We now have more than 6,500 parenting orders, and we have recently introduced the individual support order, which runs alongside the antisocial behaviour order to try to tackle the causes of antisocial behaviour. These are significant issues which affect the constituency of every Member of the House, so we must have a range of tools to enable us to tackle them. We are being tough on antisocial behaviour and tough on the causes of antisocial behaviour. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that in recent years, according to the British crime survey, the number of people experiencing antisocial behaviour as a significant problem has decreased significantly. Clearly, however, we have much more to do.

Criminal Assets

7. Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): What the total amount of criminal assets recovered in 2004–05 was. [16783]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): The total value of criminal assets recovered in 2004–05 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was £84.4 million. That was a record amount exceeding the previous year's total of £54.5 million.

Mr. McGovern: I am grateful for that response. The United States in particular has made great play of the amount of money it has seized in terrorist assets. What assessment does the Minister make of the deterrent value of such actions and statements? Does he favour a more public approach to the seizure of criminal assets in general and terrorist assets in particular?

Paul Goggins: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Whether those assets are funding terrorist activity or other criminal activity, the message from this Parliament and this Government is that they can no longer be relied on because we want not only to prosecute and convict people for the offences that they commit but to strip them of their assets and make sure that the proceeds go back into funding front-line services.

Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Will the Minister ensure that every assistance will be given to those seeking to recover the criminal assets of Slab Murphy, a leading Provisional IRA man—especially in Manchester?

Paul Goggins: I can confirm that there was a certain amount of activity in Greater Manchester last week, when searches were carried out on a number of domestic and business properties associated with two Manchester-based business men. The properties are estimated to be worth over £30 million. The information that is being gathered as a result of those searches will be reviewed, and a decision will be made in due course whether to apply for a freezing order or an interim receiving order.
 
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Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the figures that the Minister has given us. The work of the Assets Recovery Agency has particular significance in Northern Ireland, given the problems of prosecuting former paramilitaries there. Will the Minister assure me that the agency will pursue those former paramilitaries who have made money illegally in Northern Ireland and invested it in legal businesses in the rest of the UK, that they will be prosecuted and that their assets will be recovered to the communities, as should be the case?

Paul Goggins: I can confirm that. As my hon. Friend probably knows, the Assets Recovery Agency has a dedicated office in Belfast. I am very encouraged by the fact that last year the agency raised £4.7 million and restrained £17 million of assets. The message is clear: whether people are from Northern Ireland or the mainland, if they have assets built on criminality—if they have houses, yachts and a lifestyle based on criminality—we are after them, and we will reclaim those assets and put them to good public use.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Does the Minister agree that the current system does not incentivise police forces such as West Mercia because assets and cash recovered go to the Treasury, which keeps most of that money rather than returning it to police forces, which is what they want? Would not police forces be incentivised if they were allowed to keep all the money rather than it being creamed off by the Treasury?

Paul Goggins: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraged to learn that only a few weeks ago I was able to send back £13 million of recovered assets directly to front-line policing. We estimate that in the coming year some £30 million will be recycled to police front-line services. Indeed, in 2007–08, half of all money gained by front-line agencies will be returned to them. There is a clear incentive to law enforcement agencies operating in our communities: the more cash and assets they seize, the more money they will get back.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): The figure mentioned of £84.4 million is presumably spread across the different police forces. Is the money divided equally or is it given back to the police force that seized it, such as that associated with drug dealing in Lancashire?

Paul Goggins: The money is returned in proportion to the level of assets recovered by a particular police force. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to a statement that I made before the summer recess. He might want to check how well his police force has done, as might many other Members.


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