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Licensing Laws

9. James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What resources he is providing to local and police authorities to assist them in dealing with the liberalised licensing laws. [33828]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): Government expenditure on policing increased by more than 39 per cent., or £3 billion, between 2000–01 and 2005–06. The powers contained in the Licensing Act 2003 will assist police and trading standards authorities to tackle alcohol-fuelled disorder. In addition, we have recently announced funding of £2.5 million to boost a range of operations to crack down on alcohol-related disorder.

James Duddridge: I think that that was a no. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has called for the big pub chains to make a contribution to pay for extra policing. Does the Minister believe that there should be extra policing, and who will pay?

Andy Burnham: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was listening, because I said that an extra £2.5 million has been allocated. I do not know whether he was one of those who predicted the end of the world when the new Act came into force, but in my view its long-awaited reforms allow the vast majority of law-abiding drinkers to enjoy a quiet pint when they want, and give the police powers to clamp down on unruly establishments. That is a fair balance, which is good for the whole country.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab): Police and trading standards officers in Lowestoft are making use of their new powers to crack down on licensed premises that sell alcohol to under-18s. Sadly, however, seven of
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the 14 establishments visited during a recent effort were observed selling alcohol to under-18s. Will my hon. Friend join me in sending a message, not only to those establishments but to all of them, that selling alcohol to under-age people is antisocial and morally reprehensible and can lead to a fine of £5,000?

Andy Burnham: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and I congratulate those who have been doing that work in his area. Where work has been done through the alcohol misuse enforcement campaign to clamp down on alcohol-related crime, the result has been a significant reduction in such crime. However, he is right to say that there should be no tolerance of organisations that repeatedly sell to under-age drinkers. I support the full use of the powers that we have given police forces and others to clamp down on the sort of morally unacceptable behaviour to which he has drawn our attention.

Sir John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West) (Con): Is the hon. Gentleman aware that my police force is already in crisis, despite the figures that he has given? An all-party meeting of Dorset MPs was told only a few days ago that it would not even be possible to fund the force by increasing the council tax element of its funding, because the Government had prevented that, so the force would have to lay off staff. In Bournemouth, we have record numbers of applications for all-night licensing, and funding for the policing of the town centre is already in crisis. Nothing that the Minister has said gives me any reassurance that the situation will not become extremely bad indeed.

Andy Burnham: Dorset police, like other police forces in the country, have received significant extra resources under this Government. They have been particularly creative in using fixed penalty notices and other measures that we have put at their disposal to tackle alcohol-related crime. May I take the opportunity to remind the hon. Gentleman and other Conservative Members that tomorrow they are likely to have a new leader to impress, who appears to take a different view from the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues of the changes to the licensing laws.

Community Support Officers

10. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the contribution of community support officers to reducing violent crime and gun crime; and if he will make a statement. [33829]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): The primary role of community support officers is to provide high-visibility reassurance policing and to tackle antisocial behaviour. Home Office research and individual force evaluations have shown that CSOs are making a significant impact in these areas and are popular with the communities that they serve.

Michael Fabricant: I congratulate CSOs on their work, but the Minister says that that work is policing. Is he aware, however, that Metropolitan police officers refer to CSOs as plastic policemen and policing on the
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cheap? Is it not the case that they have no powers of arrest and that we need more police officers who can arrest and who can police?

Paul Goggins: I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's description of community support officers. Of course, I agree that we want more police officers, which is why the police force that serves his constituency now has 69 more police officers than it had in 1997. There are also 63 community support officers who were not there at all under the previous Administration, so the hon. Gentleman's area is on the way to a total of 339 community support officers by 2008. I should have thought he would be grateful for that.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Despite the negative comments of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), community support officers in North-West Leicestershire have been a great success. Does my hon. Friend agree that although the focus is on antisocial behaviour, as he told the House earlier, effectively tackling such behaviour can, in the medium and long term, drive down the levels of violent crime to which the hon. Gentleman referred?

Paul Goggins: My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I am grateful for his positive comments about the success of community support officers in his area. It is true that CSOs free up the time of police officers so that they can deal with more serious crime. CSOs also act as a deterrent, putting people off engaging in serious crime in the first place. All in all, the addition that CSOs make to policing is very beneficial.


11. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): If he will make a statement on the points system for the admission of immigrants. [33830]

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): The Government published a consultation document on a new points-based system for managed migration, "Selective Admission: Making migration work for Britain", on 19 July. The consultation period ended on 7 November. We are now analysing all the responses we have received. We anticipate that we will publish the Government response to the consultation in the new year, together with a timetable on the way forward.

John Bercow: I am grateful for that reply. Given that substantial immigration will continue to be vital to our competitiveness, will the Minister confirm both that the skills advisory body will be independent and that its reports will be published regularly as a matter of course, so that we can all see for ourselves that policy is driven by the interests of the country, not by the prejudices of the worst elements of the tabloid press?

Mr. McNulty: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, which is, as ever, thoughtful. While I am on my feet, may I commend to the House the Social Market Foundation pamphlet, "Incoming Assets: Why Tories Should Change Policy on Immigration and Asylum", which he wrote—I think that it costs £10, unless it is
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remaindered already? It is excellent, and his colleagues—not least the incoming leader, whoever he is—would do well to read it. If the points system is to work effectively, he is right that the skills advisory body should not only be independent from Government, but regularly publish its reports on the gaps that it perceives in the labour market and on how those gaps will be filled—if not by EU labour, then by labour from beyond that.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Will the Minister assure the House that before the final decisions are taken there will be full consultation with the officers at Sheffield and Croydon who will implement the schemes, which will dramatically change how the work permit section operates? Will he also assure the House that the large backlog at the immigration and nationality directorate will be eased before the scheme is implemented? Along with the new director general, I know that he is seeking to clear the backlog, so that cases are dealt with as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

Mr. McNulty: In both cases, I can give my hon. Friend the assurances he requires. I have made sure—not least by attending a consultation session with staff from both Sheffield and Croydon—that IND staff are involved in the process, which will mean significant changes, and I assure my hon. Friend that that level of consultation with our staff will continue. I hope—if I have anything to do with it, this will be the case—that the backlog at IND at Sheffield, Croydon and elsewhere will be dealt with long before the introduction of the all-singing, all-dancing points system.

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