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FINANCE (NO. 2) BILL

Ordered,

COMMITTEES

Mr. Speaker: I have motions 3 to 8 to put before the House. If it is convenient, I will take them together.

Ordered,

Health

Home Affairs

Treasury

Finance and Services

Public Accounts


 
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Public Administration

PETITION

Canvey Calor Gas Site

10.35 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): I present a petition against the terminal on Canvey island for the importation of liquefied natural gas that is signed by almost 10,000 people. We must have a public inquiry into this as soon as possible, and we can accept no increase in risk for Canvey people—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. We have business to deal with. Will hon. Members please leave the Chamber quickly and quietly?

Bob Spink: Thank you, Sir.

Political dirty tricks were used by some councillors to stop other councillors from speaking for their residents on the issue, which was against the spirit of democracy and deeply offended decent Canvey people.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.
 
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Cash Deliveries

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

10.37 pm

Mr. Ian Austin (Dudley, North) (Lab): I would like to thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to raise the issue of the prevention of attacks on cash delivery crews. It should be an issue of the utmost importance to all hon. Members on both sides of the House because violent and terrifying attacks are happening to our constituents up and down the country.

I am delighted that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), is on the Front Bench and look forward to his response to the debate. I am aware that one of his ministerial colleagues met a delegation from the GMB, the British Security Industry Association and Group 4 Securicor a few months ago. I am also delighted that the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson), is in his place on the Front Bench. Although he is unable to speak in the debate, I know of his deep personal interest in the matter and how tirelessly he has campaigned behind the scenes to raise the issue and press for action. As I am sure the Minister knows well, he is not a man to be messed with.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East is not alone. There has been considerable parliamentary interest in the matter. An early-day motion on combating cash delivery crime has received cross-party support and currently has almost 100 signatories. Several written parliamentary questions have been tabled on cash-in-transit—or CIT, as it is known—crime. Despite meetings with the Minister and further recent media attention aroused by high-profile raids, such as the recent attack on the Securitas cash depot in Tonbridge, the problem persists and the violence continues.

It is worth setting out several details about the CIT industry. Its operations are vast, with an estimated £500 billion being transported around the country every year in a fleet of 4,000 vehicles, which represents about £1.4 billion every day. The industry is also a significant employer, with more than 14,000 people having jobs in the sector. CIT crews ensure that cash is efficiently recycled and redistributed in the economy to maintain the liquidity of the nation. Our lives would be very different and severely disrupted if crews were unable to undertake their deliveries for only a few days.

Members will remember the fuel protests in September 2000, when the whole nation ground to a halt. We would face a similar situation were it not for the men and women who transport the cash we all rely on every day. They make sure that we have cash in our pockets, that shops and banks are able to open in the morning and that wages can be paid. Because of the fear of copycat crime, the serious threats that couriers face as they go about their vital job are rarely reported in the media, and we need to develop a better understanding and awareness of the problem. These men and women are performing a service vital to the interests of the public and the UK economy. In fact, it shares similarities with the postal service. CIT is the only private sector service covered by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
 
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CIT attacks are escalating, both in number and in severity. In 2005, there were 836 attacks in the UK. Of these, more than 200 involved a firearm, and 170 couriers were injured. Worse still, these statistics represent a marked increase on recent years, with a rise of 10 per cent. in attacks since 2004 and an increase of a fifth on the figures for 2003. There were 26 life-threatening or disabling injuries last year. Industry employees, many of whom are GMB members, suffered stabbings, pistol whippings, severe beatings and broken bones, not to mention the post-traumatic stress that resulted. In the most extreme cases shootings take place and members of the public can sometimes be drawn into the violence. Last year, there were six shootings, and one of the victims was a member of the public. In February 2004, a member of the public was tragically shot and killed during an attack in Birmingham. In the first quarter of this year, I am afraid to tell the House, there has been a 12.5 per cent. rise in attacks, and the industry forecasts that there will be more than 1,000 attacks during the year.

In attack hotspots such as the Greater Manchester police area, the increase has been even more marked. In the first quarter of last year there were 27 attacks; in the first quarter of this year there were 38. In the Metropolitan police area, attacks have almost doubled, rising from 37 to 72 in the same two quarters. The Met's detection rate in 2005 was 14 per cent. In Merseyside, as a result of a successful crackdown, the number of attacks has fallen, from 37 in the first quarter of last year to 19 in the first quarter of this year.

Workers injured in such attacks are often unable to return to work and are forced to claim incapacity benefit. I would like to draw the attention of the House in particular to the case of Colin Baker from the black country, who worked in the industry for 16 years until he was shot in the leg while making a delivery.


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