Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Constitutional Law

That the draft Water Services etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2005, which was laid before this House on 10th October, be approved.—[Mr. Watts.]

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

European Union Arms Exports

That this House takes note of the Unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum dated 4th July 2005 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the Common Position Defining Rules Governing the Control of Exports of Military Technology and
7 Nov 2005 : Column 129
Equipment; and agrees with the Government that the Common   Position will be an improvement to EU arms control.—[Mr. Watts.]

Question agreed to.


      IsItFair Campaign

10.31 pm

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): I wish to present a petition of the IsItFair council tax campaign, consisting of 401 signatures collected by Mrs. Barbara Brown of Poole, which raises real concern about the level of council tax.

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of the IsItFair council tax protest campaign declares:

To lie upon the Table.

10.32 pm

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): It is my privilege to present a petition on behalf   of my constituents, a list of names collected by Mr. C. Perrin of March, a town in my constituency. It is part of the IsItFair council tax protest campaign. I do not necessarily agree with the campaign's conclusions, but I certainly agree with the thrust of the campaign, which is that this Government have used council tax as a means of stealth taxing huge swaths of our population who can hardly afford the levels of council tax that are now being charged. I personally do not agree with the idea behind the petition, which is completely to remove council tax and replace it with an alternative, which I   suppose would have to be income tax. I believe that a property-based tax is a sensible way forward, and it would not take a massive injection of Government money from general taxation, including income tax, to bring the levels of council tax down to a more manageable level.

To lie upon the Table.

10.34 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I, too, have great pleasure in presenting a petition that has been collected by my constituent, Mr. Perry, in Burley in Wharfedale,
7 Nov 2005 : Column 130
which is a lovely part of my constituency. The signatures that he has collected have all come from Burley in Wharfedale. This petition is also part of the IsItFair council tax protest campaign.

The Petitioners declare:

To lie upon the Table.

Surbiton Hospital

10.35 pm

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): I have the privilege to present to the House of Commons a petition on behalf of more than 7,000 of my constituents in Surbiton and across the royal borough of Kingston upon Thames, collected through the good offices of the Surrey Comet, its editor Sean Duggan and assistant editor Colin O'Toole.

The petition declares:

To lie upon the Table.

      IsItFair Campaign

10.37 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): I wish to present a petition compiled by Mrs. Vile and others who live in Hadleigh. The petition forms part of the IsItFair campaign. It is supported by the Royal British Legion, which represents those who made this country great, to whom we should listen, particularly this week as we approach 11 November.

The council tax is pernicious and regressive. It has risen by 130 per cent. since I entered Parliament, while inflation has risen by only 38 per cent. The council tax needs reform. It is an unacceptable burden on my constituents, particularly the elderly and those on small, fixed and tightly indexed incomes. Like IsItFair, I call on the Government and all local councillors to hold the
7 Nov 2005 : Column 131
council tax increase to the rate of inflation and not a penny more, although I disagree with the detailed reform proposals set out by IsItFair.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

7 Nov 2005 : Column 132

Crime (Middlesbrough)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Watts.]

10.38 pm

Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland) (Lab): First, may I put on record my great thanks to the Speaker for granting me this debate?

I want to bring to the attention of the House the work of Middlesbrough borough council, its elected mayor, Ray Mallon, and the Safer Middlesbrough partnership to cut crime and make the town a safer place. First, I   want to praise the efforts of the men and women of Cleveland police, and the force's chief constable, Sean   Price, who has made a great contribution to ensuring that the council's plans have succeeded and provided great leadership.

The success of the initiative would not, of course, have occurred without the Government, who have provided resources, financial support and strong commitment from the top. They have given a strong commitment to tackling crime and law and order problems, and have assisted the local authority and the partnership to deliver results.

I naturally want to say a little about the respect agenda which the Prime Minister has led from the front. Middlesbrough, like every urban area, has experienced problems of crime and the rise of the yob culture, but it has actively developed a strategy of policies on the ground rooted in a firm determination to take back the streets and estate from the yobs and petty criminals.

I must declare an interest. I am a very good friend of the mayor, Ray Mallon, and I respect and admire the leadership that he has given our town. Since his election, he has become a national figure. Many Government and Opposition Front Benchers visit his office regularly. It has also been visited by Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales, by the Minister of Communities and Local Government and, of course, by the Leader of Her   Majesty's Opposition. Both candidates for the Conservative party leadership have visited Ray Mallon and sought his counsel, and the great and the good of the Labour party establishment also visit and seek his support. He commands a great deal of respect at national level, and he too leads from the front.

When Ray Mallon ran for office, he made it clear that tackling crime and disorder was one of his top priorities. He has delivered on that pledge, and the success of his approach is reflected in the fact that on the tough urban beat of Middlesbrough, crime has fallen by 20 per cent. since he became mayor. His first act, which he performed only months after taking office, was to launch an initiative called "Raising Hope". Raising hopes and expectations of an effective crackdown on crime, bad manners and loutish behaviour was and is the key priority for everyone in the town.

I know that directly from my constituency postbag, and also from the comments of people whom I meet in the streets, in their workplaces and at a series of coffee mornings that I hold throughout my constituency. For them, knowing that action is being taken to tackle crime
7 Nov 2005 : Column 133
and antisocial behaviour is the key to the hope of a   better quality of life. "Raising Hope" is truly a partnership approach, based on Ray Mallon's appreciation of the realities of policing in areas where the louts have established a dominant foothold. It is an   intelligence-led approach, and the police share data   and information on a daily basis. They work with   other control agencies, notably the council and its street-warden service, but also local businesses, retailers, pubs and clubs and schools. Their approach links the panda car with the CCTV operator, the school head fighting truancy with the mobile truant patrols in the town centre, and the street warden with the local shop. Above all, it links all those agencies in a relationship with the people and communities of the town.

Mayor Mallon's philosophy is holistic. To him, a clean, safe environment is one in which crime and antisocial behaviour are driven to the margins. To him, a confident community is one that knows it can report vandals and petty criminals to the authorities, who will listen to their concerns and take action against those who are reported. He also recognises that inequalities and divisions in local society, between rich and poor, young and old and black and white, create an environment in which crime and intolerance can flourish. He argues for the need to rebuild a 19th century industrial town as a new city fit for the 21st century, a city with new businesses, new jobs, new forms of leisure and consumption and clean, swift, efficient transport rising from the foundations of the old. Although all those priorities are ends in themselves, they all play a key role in crime eradication and in making Middlesbrough a truly safe community.

Ray Mallon has used the legislation provided by successive Government Acts and initiatives to structure his approach. Crucial legislation for him was the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 from the Home Office and the   Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Local Government Act 2003. Combining the crime-fighting powers conferred on councils and elected mayors by   that legislation, he was able to weave together an all-embracing culture in the council and, crucially, outside it.

Ray Mallon has told me of his frustration with those agencies that publish glossy mission statements and strategy documents and then retire from activity. Those agencies are convinced that, by merely drawing up those   documents, they have fulfilled their obligations to their stakeholders and clients. He has told me that he feels that that is one key reason why there is so much cynicism among the general public over the effectiveness of crime-busting measures.

In order to sell his mission to the people of Middlesbrough, Ray Mallon embarked on a comprehensive road show engaging in debate and discussion with people across the town. I have been present with him at many of those events and he in turn has been prepared to assist me when I have held similar "meet the people" sessions in the part of Middlesbrough that lies in my constituency.

Ray Mallon takes a personal interest in listening to the people on the front line of local government. Too many councillors, he argues, relate only to chief
7 Nov 2005 : Column 134
executives, policy officers and departmental heads. He listens to people in local government such as street wardens, road sweepers, toilet attendants, lollipop ladies and home carers, who seldom, if ever, get to meet their councillors face to face to give their views on the service that they provide and how it could be improved. Mayor Mallon regularly drops in at depots and offices to hear what those employees say and he believes that it has paid dividends.

Mayor Mallon also recognises that many of the problems facing local communities suffering from crime and antisocial behaviour come from the activities of local young people. He and his cabinet, most notably Councillor Barry Coppinger, the council's lead member for community security, see diversionary activity as the key to peeling youngsters off the road to crime.

The local drug scene is an example. The headlines talk of crack and heroin. Sadly, crack and heroin abuse does exist in our community. Indeed, much of that abuse contributes to the basic motivation of most of the muggings and burglaries that take place across Middlesbrough. A crack or heroin addict needs constantly to replenish his or her high and usually it is someone else's money, handbag or cash till that becomes the target. That is why the crackdown on hard drugs is central for both Cleveland police and the council's community wardens.

However, far more common than hard drugs is the use of so-called recreational drugs for Saturday night fever—mainly ecstasy and other amphetamines. The   council's drug strategy reflects that division. The strategy and council staff back Cleveland police 100 per cent. in their "get a dealer a day" campaign and in their work of identifying, targeting and then raiding crack and heroin dens, but they also run education programmes across schools, youth clubs and colleges, alerting youngsters to the dangers posed by the abuse of recreational drugs and to what that abuse can lead to.

Youth activity and empowerment is central to the council. A small sum spent on a youth centre in an informal setting on an estate, or a minor shift of moneys from the mainstream education budget to a special diversionary scheme run at a street level can bring great rewards. It can pay valuable dividends for the future and can be achieved easily and effortlessly if the will is there.

The alternative, of course, is to do nothing. That may safeguard the sanctity of a local council's or school's budget in the short term, but will cost society heavily in the years to come. It can cost heavily as antisocial behaviour or teenage deviancy becomes the modus operandi of sub-criminal and criminal behaviour in early adulthood. That is why the need to ensure the success of the respect agenda is so vital.

We have to remember that we all pay a price for allowing criminality to flourish unchecked. There is the human price wreaked on the powerless and vulnerable by the activities of the thugs and the hooligans, and the   physical price of constantly having to resource an ever-expanding police and community security budget, let alone the price of running an effective offender management service and the Prison Service.

For the respect agenda to take root and flourish, and for it be accepted for real by a jaded public, it has to be seen as part of an all-embracing and holistic programme that is a core part of the life of the community and
7 Nov 2005 : Column 135
adopted by all agencies as central to their work. What has been achieved in Middlesbrough shows the way to roll out the respect agenda across the streets, towns and cities of the United Kingdom. I invite my hon. Friend the Minister to Middlesbrough where he can see for himself what we have been able to achieve.

What I have articulated today is a real programme for raising the hopes of our people and improving their quality of life. I am sure that my hon. Friend will return from Middlesbrough with a great deal of information that he can use for the subsequent respect agenda.

10.52 pm

Next Section IndexHome Page