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3 May 2007 : Column 1660

Mr. McNulty: I do not doubt that. The hon. Gentleman will know that we have facilitated that, if the Mayor chooses to do it. It is a matter for him, but I know that he has the greatest confidence in the present chair, Len Duvall. It is right, however, that it should be an option for the Mayor to choose to chair the authority. Colleagues who have fought the last couple of mayoral and GLA elections will know that policing and law and order are significantly high on the agenda of those elections, in a way that they were not in the past, certainly in the days of the Greater London council.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): As someone who has fought the last two GLA elections, I agree with the Minister’s point about the importance of policing and I have great sympathy with the points that he has made so far. However, on the issue of the composition of the MPA, the Minister will know that I moved certain amendments in Committee on the Greater London Authority Bill. I shall not repeat the arguments, but—unlike police authorities in the counties—the MPA precept makes up some two thirds of the total of the Mayor’s precept. That provokes concern about democratic legitimacy, as people might reasonably expect that the person who delivers two thirds of the precept should be the person in charge of policing. Is that an argument for considering some way in which the Mayor could become the police authority? If there was scrutiny by the Assembly, perhaps the parties on the Assembly might recruit more candidates from ethnic minorities, or we could have a special committee, which included co-opted members, to strengthen the lines of accountability.

Mr. McNulty: I do not share that view, given that the MPA, as a police authority, is markedly different from authorities elsewhere. It is a regional police authority and cannot be compared to equivalents at county level elsewhere. Given the intricacies of the relationships and accountability flows between the Mayor, the MPA and the GLA, it is clear that the buck stops with the Mayor rather than with MPA members. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being returned twice to the GLA, with more success than the narrow squeak by which he got into Parliament. I congratulate him on becoming an MP—

Robert Neill: A passing phase.

Mr. McNulty: We will see. To be partisan, although not politically partisan, I welcome another West Ham fan to the House of Commons. As a member of what has been called since 1997 the Friday club, I still mourn the hon. Gentleman’s predecessor, who is sorely missed.

If I may now address policing in London, I wish to touch on what has happened since 2000 and then consider some of the threats and opportunities that London faces. There is much to do on a range of issues, but the past seven years since the advent of the MPA have been, yes, challenging, but also years in which the Metropolitan police, the City of London police and the British Transport police in London have stood up to and met the challenges in ways for which Londoners should be very grateful.

Those years have seen sustained increases in funding. Uniquely—the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) made a point about the precept—that
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funding has been sustained through a combination of a significant local contribution and the central Government contribution. The Mayor made clear what he wanted to spend any additional police precept on and he also made clear the balance between the transport precept, the police precept and the other precepts. By any measure, he has delivered on the promises of safer neighbourhood teams on a ward basis throughout London.

I do not wish to bombard the House with statistics unduly and I shall try to limit my use of them. But I do want to set out clearly that the Metropolitan Police Authority has received an uplift in total grants of £827 million since its first year or an increase of some 51 per cent. It has needed that uplift for significant investments in people and infrastructure.

One area in which Home Office funding has been key—it is very close to the heart of the current commissioner—is the investment of £140 million in the C3i programme. That has upgraded call handling with the aim of better communications with the public, improved information for officers and a better match of resources in deployment. That global infrastructure investment is important, alongside the increase in communications at local ward level with the development of the safer neighbourhood teams. The concentration in three purpose-built central communication command centres has led, over two years, to 16 per cent. more members of the public getting through with calls and fewer 999 calls being abandoned, with an 87 per cent. response to such calls within 10 seconds. That has in turn led to more calls being resolved at first point of contact. The 999 interpreting service has been extended to non-emergency calls offering assistance to non-English speakers. The introduction of mobile data terminals to 1,500 response vehicles and new integrated borough operation functions for fast time intelligence and risk assessment means more effective response policing in the capital. Much of that work is still being implemented, but it is astonishing how getting things right at the first point of contact with the public—on the streets with the safer neighbourhood teams or in a 999 call—makes the subsequent resolution of issues more effective and efficient.

The number of police officers as of last September was some 31,000, or nearly 6,000 higher than in March 2001. Other than the Met, only three forces in England and Wales have a total number greater than 5,600, let alone have seen such an increase. Last September there were some 2,681 police community support officers and I understand that the Met has reached its target of 4,500 PCSOs for April 2007. There are more than 1,400 special constables—often overlooked, but very important—and more than 13,500 police support staff, an increase of nearly 3,500 since March 2001. Similarly, the Corporation of London has had an increase in total grants of £44 million or nearly 60 per cent. more in the same period.

Although there is much more to do, the figures for crime reduction reflect that investment. It is important that we look not only at inputs, but at the results of that extra investment in policing in London. Here, too, the results are on the whole impressive. Between 2002-03 and 2005-06, overall recorded crime in the Metropolitan police area fell by 8.9 per cent. and by 15.9 per cent. in the City, which equates to nearly 100,000 fewer victims of crime a year in London. In
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particular, recorded burglary fell 9 per cent., vehicle thefts by 21 per cent. and criminal damage by 15 per cent. I know, la the King’s college report, that much of the decrease in the number of burglaries is because of greater awareness and better home alarm systems, but that should not detract from the police’s performance. I also know that better technology and more in-built mechanisms to prevent car theft have contributed to the fall in vehicle theft, but that should not detract from the success of the police in London and elsewhere in addressing that problem.

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): The Minister mentions recorded crime figures. Is he aware that between 2004-05 and 2005-06 the British crime survey has said that the percentage of crimes recorded by the police fell from 47 per cent. to 42 per cent.? Across the board, only 30 per cent. of crime makes it into police figures. Is he confident that he can draw such conclusions from a data set that does not come close to having half of the actual events included in it?

Mr. McNulty: As I said, I do not want to use statistics too much today, and I certainly do not want to have a row about them. The interplay between recorded crime and the British crime survey has been known for a number of years—

Justine Greening Will the Minister give way on that?

Mr. McNulty: In a moment—it is customary to allow a question to be answered. Many commentators now invoke the BCS, after the minor blip upward of 2 per cent. over the past few quarters, even though they spent the previous 10 years rubbishing it because they did not like the numbers that it produced. I take the point about the difference between recorded crime and the BCS, but we are finding that some low-level, high-volume crimes are being reported much more often now that the safer neighbourhood teams are on the streets throughout London. However, none of that detracts from the very good work being done by police officers in London’s 32 boroughs, and in the City, to drive down crime.

Simon Hughes: I spend a lot of time trying to use the media to convince people that crime in London is generally coming down, but does the Minister agree that much remains to be done? For example, the media often try to make things sound as bad as possible, and people in political parties put out leaflets suggesting that crime is worse than ever before to increase the fear of crime for party political ends. Should not all parties make sure that they do not exaggerate matters for cheap, local purposes?

Mr. McNulty: Of course I agree with that. The hon. Gentleman has a slightly distorted view: he represents Southwark, one of the few areas run by the Liberals and where everyone else is in opposition. However, in the most non-partisan way that I can manage, I suggest that he looks to the mote in his own eye. The worst people in London for doing what he describes are the Liberal Democrats. I can give him chapter and verse about that, but I am not just a partisan politician and I do not want to miss his broad point.

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Collectively—the media included—we should not indulge ourselves in playing up people’s fear of crime. Much remains to be done, though: I meet Sir Ian Blair regularly, and he would agree that, even though the changing nature of London society raises challenges in different areas, it is fundamentally wrong to over-egg the pudding. My borough of Harrow is never above 29 or 30 in any list of crime and safety, but the perception of crime there is through the roof. I love the Harrow Times and the Harrow Observer to bits, but if I took to heart everything that they say even I would never leave my home.

Everything is hugely exaggerated, but that does not mean that we should underestimate the fear aroused even by a lower level of crime, and we must not forget that very serious crimes can have a profound impact on localities. I take the point made by the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) about what people in the ranks of all parties do, but it is just that his party excels at such things. Our responsibility is to have a proper debate about law and order and crime.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): The Minister is entitled to take credit for the improved crime figures. Communications have improved, and the safer neighbourhood schemes are making a difference. Even so, the figures show a clear problem with street crime, and particularly with young people attacking other young people and stealing phones, iPods and so on. Does he consider that there need to be changes to the present structure? What is his approach to that problem?

Mr. McNulty: I do not dispute that, nationally as well as in London, crimes by young people on other young people are the hardest elements to shift. I shall say more about that later, but the record of the Metropolitan police in respect of street robbery initiatives is as good, if not better, than any other force. None the less, the matter remains very difficult: in every set of quarterly crime statistics, the number of such crimes seems always to rise, or at least not to fall as much as other categories.

However, I do not believe that crimes by young people on other young people can be resolved by yet another piece of legislation, and I would say that the same is true about crimes involving guns, knives and gangs more generally. After the latest horrendous round of crimes involving guns and knives in London, we made it very clear that we will do what is necessary in terms of legislation, but that our approach needs to be broader. We must look at how we do what we do, how we engage with young people and how we can work with communities to ensure that such crimes do not happen. We need to get it through to people that carrying knives is not clever or brave, or even terribly useful for purposes of defence, and that gun crime should be outlawed.

We also need to understand the consequences of the successes that we manage to achieve. For example, it is well known that the Trident programme in respect of gun crime in the black communities across London has been enormously successful. Now we have to consider whether our success with getting guns away from adults
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has led to even younger people getting hold of firearms and using them. I am not sure about that, but investigations are in hand. However, we must get the whole of society fully engaged in tackling knife and gun crime, and in tackling the crimes that young people commit against each other.

The theft of mobile phones, iPods, MP3 players and the other things that people in our acquisitive society carry around with them is a key element, but there is more to it than that. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) is right to say that we have still to crack all the problems of street robbery and the violent and non-violent crimes perpetrated by young people against each other. However, those are problems that need to be addressed collectively, with contributions from people in education and other disciplines.

Some formidable initiatives doing precisely that are being taken in boroughs across London run by all parties. A range of voluntary and community organisations funded by the Government are doing a huge amount of work to assist in that goal, and the police are looking at the matter in much more detail.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Earlier, my hon. Friend talked about the very welcome investment that has gone into the Metropolitan police. We all welcome those extra resources, but has any thought been given to how the extra policing needed by the Olympic games will be paid for? Will the money come from central Government, or will London ratepayers have to pay additional charges?

Mr. McNulty: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced her spending plans recently, and they included the overall police and security budget. Sir Ian Blair and his Metropolitan police colleagues are looking at that in more detail, but the Government start from the premise that the games are national activities that happen to be taking place in London. As a result, central Government will provide the funding for them.

The starting budget for the Olympics contains elements to cover security at the sites being developed for the games, rather than policing. Over the course of this year, we will be firming up what the policing budget should be, and working out what needs to be spent now to ensure that the 2012 Olympics will be safe for everyone.

The games are a real opportunity for London’s police and population to celebrate everything that is so wonderful about London. After all, it is the only world-class city—and I say that with due respect to Tokyo, New York, or anywhere else. Those cities are very nice, but I am London born and bred.

The figures speak for themselves, but of course I accept that they do not tell the whole story. We must also take account of the impact of crime on communities, and work to develop new ways to respond to crime in London. However, murder is down by nearly 4 per cent., grievous bodily harm by over 6 per cent., common assault by nearly 10 per cent., and crimes involving offensive weapons by 8.7 per cent. In addition, gun-enabled crime is down by more than 11 per cent., Trident gun crime is down by 15 per cent., and knife-enabled crime is down by almost 4 per cent. Again, however, the Met faces daily the impact of each and every one of those crimes on communities and individuals.

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Justine Greening: The Minister has just said that common assault is down, but the figures for reporting that crime show a fall of only 9.7 per cent. whereas we would expect a far greater reduction—almost 20 per cent. Does he accept that those figures and the British crime survey figures indicate a proportionate rise in common assault?

Mr. McNulty: No, I do not. As I have already said, there is interplay between the BCS and recorded crime figures, and the hon. Lady may not understand the component parts. The British crime survey measures individual responses to crime rather than crime reduction, but of course people can have a nice time quoting figures from either the BCS or recorded crime statistics to fit their argument. The reality is the interplay between the two, and the fundamental point that the hon. Lady misses is that they do not set out to measure exactly the same thing. The BCS is not a measure of recorded crime, which the police do in a different way. London deserves a bit better than a rather foolish debate about the interplay between the BCS and recorded crime figures.

The development of neighbourhood policing in London over the past five years is the jewel in the crown. It has different nuances for each borough, which is entirely appropriate. A framework of six, with one sergeant, two police officers and three police community support officers in each ward, is a far-sighted neighbourhood policing method. That the model may be adapted for different areas and that—shock, horror!—Bromley’s safer neighbourhood team may do things differently from Harrow’s or that the teams in Bermondsey and Tower Hamlets might work differently despite their proximity only goes to show the responsiveness and substantiveness of the model. As the teams bed in, I hope that boroughs will learn from each other about best practice rather than it being spread only from ward to ward.

Just as important as the visibility of the safer neighbourhood teams and the work they do on a daily basis are the imaginative ways in which they talk to and respond to the ward communities they police across London. The work of safer neighbourhood teams, either at ward level or in clusters of wards, can be extraordinarily powerful when aligned with environmental and other council services in the borough in a neighbourhood management approach.

The Metropolitan police has a good record on diversity over the past five years and a good story to tell. The work force are more diverse than ever before. One of the useful by-products of the development of the PCSO model is the increasing number of recruits from black and minority ethnic communities, especially in London; there is also a stronger gender balance than in the routine force. The same can be said of special constables, where the Met has exceeded its target of 25 per cent. recruitment from BME communities and achieved a figure of 30 per cent. Recruitment of police officers in London, especially from a BME background, remains a challenge, however, so I hope that with the advent of the National Policing Improvement Agency many of the issues formerly dealt with by Centrex will be looked at in some detail.

The British Transport police, too, does a fine job in London. The BTP is the responsibility of my right hon.
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Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the service in a debate on policing in London. The BTP’s responsibility for our railway and underground systems is a discrete but significant task. The routine safety of passengers and their sense of security and well-being and the terrorist threat require a robust response. In a single year, London Underground carries more than 1 billion passengers and, on 8 December 2006, for the first time ever, carried 4 million passengers on a single day. The BTP certainly does not lag behind developments in the Met and other forces; it does a fine job.

Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the safer stations campaign has been extremely successful? The Mayor of London ensured that there were 89 more British Transport police and that stations were better lit, which has meant that people can travel more safely.

Mr. McNulty: I agree absolutely. The BTP has interpreted neighbourhood policing by working with the Mayor to increase the BTP presence, with PCSOs, throughout the network, not least—so that I avoid being described as partisan for north London—on the south London rail network, where that presence may be needed more than on the tube, which is usually far busier. The introduction of such a scheme on Southern led not only to increased revenue for the rail company but a greater sense of security at work for rail staff—importantly—as well as for passengers.

Mr. Khan: Will my hon. Friend congratulate Southern and South West Trains, whose work in partnership with the local police, council and businesses, led to Balham, Earlsfield and Wandsworth Common stations all receiving accreditation and a safe station award? Not only does that make crime figures actually go down, but it makes passengers feel safer—a point which my hon. Friend referred to earlier. That is the twin challenge we face: being safe and feeling safe.

Mr. McNulty: I am happy to congratulate the BTP in that regard and apologise to my hon. Friend for making his point before he was able to do so, which is something I did earlier, too.

The BTP has a key role working with the Metropolitan police to counter the ongoing threat of terrorism in London. Although no one says that things could not be better, the efforts of the BTP have achieved positive outcomes. Last year, total recorded crime on London’s railway and underground networks fell by 8 per cent. The detection rate for crimes of violence against the person and for robbery—two issues of real concern on the network—are up by 5 per cent. and 8 per cent. respectively. Finally in this section of my speech, the Airwave system is being implemented underground—an initiative colleagues may want to discuss.

I do not want to detain the House for too much longer, so I am trying to whizz through as much as I can to allow other Members to speak. However, it is right and proper in debates such as this for Ministers to take as many interventions as possible so that Members can make their points at this stage.

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