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Mr. Clarke: I certainly will not take strictures from the former Home Secretary, whom I regard as the one person in the House who is not equipped to make comment on these issues. I will not comment on the allegations made by my hon. Friend, although I am aware of them and understand the force with which he makes them.

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Can the Home Secretary say how many of the 1,023 cases would have resulted in deportations had the new legislation that he proposes been in place?

Mr. Clarke: No, I cannot.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and welcome his proposals. Given that this whole sorry outcome is the result of systemic failures in the Home Office going back to the 1990s, can he tell me how many foreign nationals who either have been deported or are being considered for deportation are repeat offenders whose original offences were carried out prior to this Government's introduction of measures to identify and record the number of foreign nationals in prison?

Mr. Clarke: I cannot give my hon. Friend the number to which he refers, but I can say that he is right: there are individuals who go back over a long period in precisely the way that he describes.

Dr. Julian Lewis : To his credit, the Home Secretary tried to deport several very dangerous suspected al-Qaeda organisers, only to run up against the human rights legislation that had been signed up to or enacted by his Government. It is clear from his statement today that the same would happen in relation to people claiming asylum from countries with repressive regimes. Did the Home Secretary discuss that issue with the Prime Minister before the Prime Minister came to the House today? If he did, how was it possible for the Prime Minister to say that these people would automatically be deported under the new rules, when he—the Home Secretary—has made it perfectly clear that they could not be?

Mr. Clarke: I have already dealt with the substance of the question, but let me make a specific point. Yes, I have frequently discussed with the Prime Minister the question of the operation of the European convention on human rights, and the fact that it impacts in a number of different ways. As far as I know, the Opposition still believe that we should be signed up to the convention, but if I am wrong about that, I should be interested to hear it.
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Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Get on with it!

Mr. Clarke: I am getting on with it, and I am trying to do so in such a way that even the hon. Gentleman may be able to understand.

Michael Fabricant: Patronising!

Mr. Clarke: Yes, I am patronising.

The fact is that that issue remains a central one, at the core of the whole discussion. I appeal to the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) and the spokespeople for the other Opposition parties to address the matter honestly in that discussion, on the basis of the presumption that criminals should be deported.

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Points of Order

1.31 pm

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a new Member, may I ask for your guidance on whether the usual courtesies should have applied when the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) visited my constituency recently? I saw plenty of press coverage of her visit to Wales's premier seaside resort, but found no notification to my office, either here or in my constituency, that the visit was about to take place. Do such conventions still apply, and should they have applied in my case?

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let me answer.

I do not want to become involved in any arguments between Members on these matters, but the convention does apply. What an hon. Member must do is notify the constituency Member. I stress the word "notify": the person concerned does not need permission to enter the constituency.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It may please you to know that there are standing orders in my office to inform hon. Members when I visit their constituencies. In this instance I made an inquiry, and found that both a letter and an e-mail had been sent to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon). I apologise if neither reached her. I shall make inquiries of our locator system in the House, which is run by—because I want to know where on earth my message went. I do apologise.

Mr. Speaker: There is an apology, then.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was surprised to read in column 835 of Hansard for 2 May that an hon. Lady—and she is a lady of honour: the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride)—had named me personally, and stated in the House that I was demanding the resignation of a senior Cabinet Minister. What corrective avenues, Mr. Speaker, are open to a Member who is able categorically and unequivocally to deny having made any such statement and would not make any such statement, before further damage to fraternal relations with senior colleagues and to my personal career prospects—which, admittedly, were fairly slim to start with?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has put the record straight, and perhaps next time he appears on Sky television he will be able to do so again.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I fear that Members may have been inadvertently misled about the Home Secretary's offer to resign. Speaking of an exchange with the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary said:

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Subsequently, we have been told that the Home Secretary did not offer to resign. I wonder what avenue I can explore as a Member of Parliament to ensure that hon. Members are fully informed on this matter in what I think you will agree, Mr. Speaker, is a national crisis over prisoner releases.

Mr. Speaker: The best thing to do is not to draw the Speaker into such arguments.

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Neighbourhood Policing

1.34 pm

Mr. Andrew Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): I beg to move,

Let me say immediately that if police services in England and Wales continue to respond positively to the Government's agenda on neighbourhood policing, my Bill will only gather dust. Most if not all forces have responded with professionalism and enthusiasm to the aims set out in a string of White Papers and Government Bills since 1997.

I shall largely confine my remarks to the Metropolitan area, which I believe has led the way in neighbourhood policing. Both the current commissioner and the Mayor deserve praise for not only supporting but implementing the provision of safer neighbourhood teams across London, which Sir Ian Blair has called

While both Sir Ian and Mr. Livingstone are uncontroversial characters who will no doubt stay in their respective posts for many years to come, should they for any reason move on, I would like to think that their legacy in community policing will be preserved. I also hope that the many local initiatives—not just in London—that are improving community safety can be introduced nationwide to continue the Government's exemplary record in cutting crime and antisocial behaviour. Those are the objects of my Bill.

The purpose of this speech is not to rehearse the details of the statutory framework that already exists or to recite a welter of statistics, but to show how neighbourhood policing is already working on the ground. That said, I feel it is worth reminding the House that without the consistent commitment shown by the Government since 1997, neither the powers nor the funding for neighbourhood policing would exist. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced crime and   disorder reduction partnerships and formal co-operation between the police and local authorities to reduce crime. The Police Reform Act 2002 provided for community support officers, who are now an essential ingredient of safer neighbourhood teams and who will number 24,000 by 2008. The White Paper "Building Communities, Beating Crime", published in November 2004, promised to spread neighbourhood policing to every community, and to involve those communities in how they were policed. In January this year, the respect action plan further promoted the use of antisocial behaviour orders, dispersal orders and closure orders to attack antisocial behaviour. Many of those measures are being brought together and extended in the Police and Justice Bill, which is currently before the House.

Recorded crime, as measured by the British crime survey, has fallen consistently since 1997. Both London boroughs crossed by my constituency have experienced significant falls in crime, and Hammersmith and Fulham has experienced the sharpest fall in London. The Government's aim is to see a further reduction in recorded crime of 15 per cent. between 2004 and 2008—a higher
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percentage in London—and to reduce the fear of crime through the national reassurance policing programme. Neighbourhood policing is key to both those targets.

The decision of the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police Authority, chaired by Len Duvall, to accelerate by two years the introduction of safer neighbourhood teams in all 624 wards in London presents a major logistical task. The police service in London has risen to that challenge and ensured that every ward has at least a four-person team: a sergeant, a police constable and two police community support officers. A further police constable and community support officer will be added by the end of the year.

Safer neighbourhood teams are dedicated to the wards to which they are assigned. They provide residents with a continuous and familiar uniformed presence, and they get to know their patch intimately, not only deterring crime but accumulating intelligence about both the area and its inhabitants. That is hardly revolutionary—indeed, it is what my constituents have been requesting for many years—but it is something that previous Governments and police authorities have declined to provide.

I pay particular tribute to Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham, where both the police commanders and the council leaderships have gone beyond what is required in introducing neighbourhood policing. In Hammersmith, the Labour council voted funds of £1 million a year to fast-track safer neighbourhood teams, introducing full-strength teams in most wards three years ahead of plans. In Ealing the borough commander, Colette Paul, was able to launch safer neighbourhood teams in all 23 wards on 3 April this year, having planned for their introduction in advance of any London roll-out.

But community policing in those boroughs goes far beyond the additional police resources. As leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, I had the privilege of working with three outstanding police commanders: Dick Cullen, who went on to run Hendon, Anthony Wills, who has become a national champion in the fight against domestic violence, and the present incumbent, Heather Valentine. They have worked hand in glove with both the statutory sector and the community to build trust and reduce crime. For those who remember the atmosphere of mutual suspicion and hostility that afflicted many police and local authority relationships in the 1980s, that is a sea change. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the aftermath of the London bombings last July. The work done by both the Hammersmith and the Ealing police forces to reassure and enlist the support of the whole community, especially in the wake of the attempted bombing at Shepherds Bush, was exemplary.

Both boroughs have taken enthusiastically to partnership working. That often involves teams of police, community support officers and council staff descending on an area to deal with everything from crack houses and street robbery to graffiti, dog fouling and fly-tipping. They also plant trees, give advice to the
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homeless and, quite possibly, tell people the time. How different that is from the days of the special patrol group.

Both boroughs have introduced the community payback scheme, using offenders to make reparation and environmental improvements in their community. Earlier this year, I attended the launch of the Safer Neighbourhood Annual Challenge at Hurlingham and Chelsea school. Next Monday is the awards ceremony, when children from Hammersmith and Fulham schools will explain their schemes for improving safety in their neighbourhoods.

However, what my constituents most want to know is whether community policing actually cuts crime and the fear of crime. The first indications suggest that the answer is an emphatic yes. All crime, but specifically opportunist crime such as criminal damage, fell significantly more in wards where safer neighbourhood teams were operating last year. There, public confidence in the police rose by 12 per cent. more than was the case in non-SNT wards, complaints of antisocial behaviour fell by 7 per cent. more, sightings of police officers rose by 11 per cent. more, and the belief that the police were taking public concerns seriously by 8 per cent. more.

Those are significant achievements in a very short time. We are only at the start of a policing revolution, in which public trust and the engagement of the whole community are the keys to a safer society.

I appear to be talking myself out of my own Bill. The commitment of many councils and police services is such that I see neighbourhood policing going from strength to strength without the need for legislation, but there is always a cloud on the horizon. In this case, it is in the shape of the Tory and Liberal parties, whose assembly members in London turned their faces against the improvements in neighbourhood policing proposed by the Mayor and Labour group. Overwhelmingly, it is the Labour Government and Labour councils who have provided the resources and commitment to neighbourhood policing.

I commend my Bill as an insurance policy to protect neighbourhood policing for the future. Of course, if residents in Hammersmith and Fulham and in Ealing, as well as in the rest of London and beyond, wish to take out their own insurance that policing will continue to thrive and improve in the years to come, the remedy is in their hands—they have but to vote for their Labour candidates tomorrow.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Andrew Slaughter, Lyn Brown, Jon Cruddas, Ms Karen Buck, Stephen Pound, Mr. Andrew Love, Mike Gapes, Meg Hillier, Mr. Andrew Dismore, Dr. Rudi Vis, Harry Cohen and Ann Keen.

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