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Voluntary/Community Organisations

7. Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): What steps he is taking to support the work of voluntary and community organisations. [59228]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): Government support for the voluntary and community sector is at record levels. We will continue to work closely with the sector in promoting a wide range of activity, including volunteering, civil renewal and public service delivery.

Jim Sheridan: I am sure that my hon. Friend acknowledges the good work of all our voluntary organisations in our communities. Perhaps one way to encourage them is through accommodating volunteers in the honours system. Will he consider early-day motion 1324, in my name, which unfortunately has little support from the Opposition parties? It encourages the recognition of volunteers in organisations and communities by the honours system.

Paul Goggins: As an assiduous reader of early-day motions, I have had the opportunity of reading early-
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day motion 1324. I appreciate that it reflects a strong view that people in, for example, sport, have already had their reward financially and through fame, and that the genuine heroes are the army of volunteers who work in my hon. Friend's community and those of all hon. Members. The answer is that both categories deserve recognition. I am delighted that, nowadays, half those   who receive public honours do so on the recommendation of ordinary members of the public. That is welcome. However, people who volunteer do not do that for the reward but for the difference that they make.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): I agree with the Under-Secretary's last comment. The Public Accounts Committee report criticised the yearly bidding round for grants as wasting the time of staff in both the Department and voluntary organisations in putting together applications. The bidding round was also criticised on the ground that the annual uncertainty led to voluntary organisations losing staff. The report concluded:


Paul Goggins: The Public Accounts Committee is right to say that the Home Office has a lead role in supporting and encouraging the voluntary and community sector. I also agree with its recommendation that we all need to think more long-term about the grants that we give to support voluntary organisations. Sometimes, grants are given for specific time-limited projects, but it is still important that we should think long-term. That is why we are introducing the compact, and the compact commissioner, who will oversee the relationship between public funders and voluntary organisations. That will provide the long-term sustainability that the hon. Gentleman seeks.

Identity Cards

8. John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): What discussions he has had with the First Minister of Scotland on the introduction of identity cards. [59229]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary meets his colleague the First Minister regularly to discuss a range of issues, including identity cards. It has always been for the Scottish Executive and Parliament to decide whether ID cards should be used for accessing devolved public services, and the First Minister and my right hon. Friend are entirely in agreement on that.

John Barrett: The Minister will be aware that the devolved Executive have stated clearly that they do not wish to use identity cards for access to devolved services. Will further meetings be arranged to find out the true feeling of the Scottish Executive and of the Scottish people, who would prefer to spend their money not on this expensive scheme but on additional police and security services? Will the Government accept the will of the public and of the majority of Members in this House, who believe that the ID card scheme is fatally flawed?
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Andy Burnham: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Home Office is always assiduous in its research. In answering his question, I can go the extra mile and be even more authoritative, because I visited the Gyle shopping centre in his constituency on 14 September with the biometrics roadshow. If he will permit me, I will read the first three entries in the public comments book from that day.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman speaks for his constituents with authority, but I, too, have consulted them, and there is strong support among them for our proposals.

Violent Crime

9. Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): What assessment he has made of the trends in the level of violent crime recorded by the police over the last five years for which figures are available. [59230]

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Hazel Blears): Total violent crime recorded by police in England and Wales rose from 703,000 in 1999–2000 to 1,185,000 in 2004–05. However, the introduction in April 2002 of the national crime recording standards and of more proactive policing practices has had the effect of increasing recorded violent crime. The British crime survey, which gives a better indication of trends over time because it has measured crime in a consistent way, shows a fall in violent crime of 30 per cent. between 1999 and 2004–05.

Mr. Jackson: Two months ago, the Prime Minister said:

Violent crime has risen by 96 per cent. since 1998, and there are now more than 1 million violent crimes committed each year. When will the Government tackle this problem effectively instead of relying on short-term political gimmicks and wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on unwanted police mergers?

Hazel Blears: I thought that I had made it clear that the British crime survey found that violent crime had come down by 30 per cent. The British crime survey has been going for 25 years, so it is not a short-term gimmick. Operation Eagle ran in the hon. Gentleman's own constituency recently as part of the alcohol enforcement campaign. This involved a dedicated team of officers focusing on violent crime and drunk and disorderly behaviour in order to make Peterborough a safer place for people to live in by tackling those problems. Does he regard that as a short-term gimmick, or does he welcome the fact that dedicated, focused policing is reducing violent crime in this constituency?

Margaret Moran (Luton, South) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the increase in reported crime in Luton is actually a success story in regard to domestic violence—if there can be such a thing? Following the introduction of the domestic violence
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courts and the doubling of the number of police in the domestic violence units, victims are now confident to report violent crime and to see its perpetrators being caught. But is she aware of the growing concern, as evidenced in my casework, about victims of violence associated with forced marriage? Will she ensure that the police are trained to deal with that form of violent crime, as well as increase the training to combat domestic violence?

Hazel Blears: My hon. Friend has a proud record of campaigning on domestic violence and crimes against women in particular. I confirm that we take those issues extremely seriously and are currently involved in a campaign to highlight issues around forced marriages. It is fair to say that some police forces have more extensive experience of those issues than others, and I encourage them to share that good practice to make sure that the police are able to respond rigorously.

Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): The Minister will be aware that four of the gang responsible for the murder of my constituent, Mary-Ann Leneghan, a 16-year-old, were under probation supervision at the time of the killing. In those circumstances, will the Home Secretary promise a full independent inquiry into what went wrong with the system and the supervision of those murderous young men?

Hazel Blears: Clearly, this is a matter of the utmost concern, not just to the families involved but to all of us. It is very important that we have a system that provides proper protection to the public. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will address that issue, together with others, in a statement to be made in the near future. It is important that we understand how to tackle them and make sure that people are protected. The hon. Gentleman has properly raised serious concerns, and the Department wants to make sure that it responds.

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): When the Home Secretary initiated his Statistics Commission review of crime I had hoped that we would see an end to the Government burying their head in the sand about the increase in violent crime. The simple truth is that it is not a statistical artefact; our constituents witness it day in, day out in their towns and cities, and it is not a mirage. The doubling of gun crime is not a mirage. The increase in knife crime is not a mirage. The 35 per cent. increase in murder is not a mirage. When will the Minister recognise that violent crime is on the increase? Most importantly, will she tell the House what she thinks is the cause of that increase?

Hazel Blears: The right hon. Gentleman paints a picture that is simply not true in many respects. In relation to gun crime, he will know that the number of fatalities has decreased. He will also know that the Violent Crime Reduction Bill contains strong measures to tackle gun-related crime, including a ban on imitations, the use of which has increased. I hope that his party will support us in those measures. He will also be aware that we are introducing a nationwide knife amnesty, and, again, the Violent Crime Reduction Bill contains further powers to tackle knife crimes. In relation to the recent alcohol enforcement campaign, he
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will know that violence decreased by 11 per cent. in the areas taking part, due to good, early intervention, proactive policing and good tactics to tackle violent crime. The right hon. Gentleman does a disservice by painting a picture that is not a true reflection of the facts. We are constantly struggling to make sure that we tackle violent crime and make our streets safer.

David Davis: I have listened to the Minister give an incredibly selective set of statistics. Let me give her a single figure: the 35 per cent. increase in murder, leaving out the Dr. Shipman murders, since the Government have been in power. What she said does not answer that. The Government got elected on the phrase, "Tough on the causes of crime". Two of the primary causes of violent crime in this country are drugs and alcohol, but this Government's policy on drugs and alcohol is out of control, which is why violent crime is spiralling out of control. What are they going to do about it?

Hazel Blears: Everyone in the House, and across society, will be concerned about homicides and murders, which are crimes of the utmost seriousness. As I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree, we have one of the lowest murder rates compared with many other countries. We also have some of the toughest gun laws across the world. That is internationally acknowledged. I am also afraid to say that both he and his party predicted that we would see mayhem on our streets and an explosion of violent crime as a result of the liberalisation of the licensing laws, but the reverse has been the case. There has been an 11 per cent. reduction in violent crime, because thousands of young people are not spilling out on to the streets at the same time. We have well-managed town centres with good, effective policing, and I would like him to acknowledge that.

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