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As I said, London is a unique city with unique issues, which bring unique threats. Terrorism is thus rightly an element in a debate on policing in London. The focus is across London rather than simply on the west end. The Metropolitan police has a strong role in the national dimension of the counter-terrorism effort, as well as specifically in London. The Met’s seven-point plan, Operation Delphinus, identifies the need to engender trust and confidence in all communities, which will in turn provide opportunities to create local environments that are hostile to terrorists. Delphinus will ensure regular contact with local partners, obtaining and disseminating information in compliance with the national intelligence model, as well as initiating a two-way dialogue to address community concerns—with the emphasis on two-way. We must ensure that all officers—whatever their role within the policing network in London—play their role in the counter-terrorist effort. Local forces will always remain the first responders in the case of a successful terrorist attack.

As I have said, gun and knife crime is a particular concern in London.

Richard Ottaway: Before the Minister moves away from the issue of terrorism, may I return him to the subject of the Olympics, which was brought up by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey)? As he knows, specific and detailed security plans were drawn up before the 7/7 bombings on the London underground, but to what extent will those plans be changed and reviewed as a result of what happened?

Mr. McNulty: I say to the hon. Gentleman—I mean this in the strongest terms—that the plans will be reviewed, reflected upon and analysed all the way up to and including 2012. That must be the case for security and policing. Much of what the Metropolitan police does between now and 2012 will be coloured and influenced by the multinational event that will take place then. That is the way to proceed rather than to have a blueprint of policing and security that was part of the bid book and that will not be deviated from at all. The plans must be organic and responsive, not least for the reasons that he suggests. I agree with him and happily give the assurance that the process will be ongoing all the way up to and including 2012. In the same way, other elements of policing will be coloured by the fixed event that will take place at that time.

Robert Neill: I am grateful to the Minister for giving my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) those assurances, but may I raise another related point? The Minister has referred to the overground network in south London and that is relevant to those of us who represent areas that do not have a tube. However, as we develop a security strategy in the light of the greater potential risks with the Olympics and everything else, I hope that he and other Departments will take on board the importance of ensuring the security of the overground rail network just as much as the security of the underground. I say that given what happened in Madrid where the overground commuter network was targeted. We need to ensure that there is security at the sidings and depots, which are sometimes quite distant from London, where the trains are stabled and on the busy overground commuter lines. I hope that those points will be fully factored in.

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Mr. McNulty: I think that those points will be factored in. The commissioner is clear that the police and security plans for the Olympics must be all-embracing and London-wide and include all elements of the transport network. They must not simply be a police and security plan that covers the sites where events will be held and the transport corridors between them. The plans will be developed in the light of a particular focus being on London in August 2012 and in the run-up to that.

I could go on about several other issues, but I have probably spoken for long enough. Drugs are an important dimension of policing of London. If colleagues raise that issue, I will happily respond at the end of the debate. I wanted to touch on police reform and on productivity and efficiency on which the Met has a good news story. We need not only to bed in the neighbourhood policing model for London, but ensure that it is sustained. I will shortly hold a range of assorted workshops with the presence of the Metropolitan police. The workshops will not only deal with ways to reduce bureaucracy—about which we shall do what we can—and with the efficiency of the performance framework and targets set by Government, and how policing is aided rather than hindered by them, but with a range of other issues. Given the strength of the Met’s contribution to national policing, what happens in the Met will have implications elsewhere.

I wish to make two final points. Colleagues will know that the Home Secretary has announced a review of policing under the chairmanship of Sir Ronnie Flanagan. It will look at four key areas—neighbourhood policing, level 2 services, bureaucracy and local accountability—and all the issues associated with them. While the Government and other commentators struggle with local accountability, we all start from the premise that we need some form of local accountability to complement—not to challenge—the accountability that we have in London through the overarching strategic view that is provided by the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Mayor.

There are some strong and developing informal models—safer neighbourhood teams and local community panels—but as more and more resources and responsibility are devolved to basic command units and the boroughs, we should do more about the accountability of the police and other public services at the borough and BCU level. I do not know what the full answer is, but I do not think that it is borough watch committees all over again. I do not think that the answer is borough police commissioners who are somehow accountable for policing but not responsible for it, but I commend everyone for at least thinking through what the local accountability model should be to complement the strategic model provided by the Mayor.

Simon Hughes: I have long held the view that, as we now have safer neighbourhood partnerships in every borough in London as well as overall partnerships, the logic of having separate police and community consultative groups, which are leftovers from the era of the riots that Scarman inquired into, is past its sell-by date. We need one borough-wide forum in which the leader of the council, the person who runs the courts and any prisons in the borough and the police chief are accountable on a regular basis to the community—businesses as well as residents. I hope that Ministers
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will be positive about encouraging the review to consider a more streamlined system that will save many people a lot of time and money and that will be more effective.

Mr. McNulty: I accept the point that there needs to be some sort of streamlining. The police and all other bodies must become much better aligned. However, I am not sure whether that will be done through the development of crime and disorder reduction partnerships, the local strategic partnerships when they are successful—they are not always successful—or through an amalgam of the two joined by local area agreements and extra funding from Government if people achieve targets. None the less, I agree with the starting premise that there needs to be greater accountability, but across function and not simply of the police at BCU or borough level. Councils increasingly have a huge role in all these matters and not least in the environmental and other issues raised by safer neighbourhood teams that are more properly the responsibility of the council rather than the police. As I have made clear, I am struggling to find the answer, but just know that there must be a greater degree of accountability and community response.

I am very grateful for the interventions thus far and hope that they presage a lively but thoughtful debate. I emphasise that we are not meeting today under the cloud of some great crisis. We can reflect on a good deal of success and, importantly, on a good deal of resilience and flexibility from the Metropolitan police and other police forces in London in responding to the needs of London communities as those needs grow, change and develop. The issues of policing London—now and in the future—are complex and policing can be done well or it can be done indifferently. I hope that the House will take this opportunity for what it is—a space to discuss and debate the issues of the day and the challenges of tomorrow in a constructive way.

I repeat what I said when I started. We owe a great deal to the men and women of the three forces that I have mentioned—officers and staff. I commend the commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, on all that he has done in terms of leadership and vision for the Metropolitan police and the men and women of the police forces throughout London. We rely on their skill, resourcefulness, integrity, willingness to serve and bravery on a daily basis. The House collectively—not just London MPs—and the country should be enormously grateful for the policing that they provide to London in such a selfless way, because that matters to the entire country. I commend to the House the Metropolitan police, the British Transport police and the City of London police for all that they do.

12.59 pm

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): I join the Minister in paying tribute to the work of officers of all ranks in all the forces that operate in London: the City of London police, the British Transport police and, not least, the Met. The Met is the largest force in the country. It receives a quarter of the national policing budget and has approximately a fifth of all the sworn officers in England and Wales—30,000 out of 140,000. Any debate about policing in London therefore becomes quite an important index of the shape of policing in the rest of the country.

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Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman mentioned the 30,000 police officers in the Met. Does he accept that that is an increase of more than 20 per cent. on when the Mayor of London was elected and will he congratulate the Mayor on that?

Nick Herbert: I will come to the point that the hon. Gentleman raises later.

Founded by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, the original establishment of 1,000 officers policed an area within a 7 mile radius from Charing Cross and a population of fewer than 2 million. Today, as well as providing territorial policing for a population of 7.2 million and covering an area of 620 square miles, the Met has capital city functions such as policing national demonstrations and protecting royalty, diplomats, politicians and Parliament, and key additional responsibilities, including counter-terrorism. The performance of the Met is critical to the safety and quality of life of millions of our citizens—not just people who live in the capital, but those who travel to work here.

The Met and the Metropolitan Police Authority state their ambition to make London the safest major city in the world. That is a fine and proper ambition. They draw attention, as the Minister did, to recent falls in residential burglary, criminal damage, violence against the person and the total number of offences. I am happy to say unequivocally that those are welcome improvements. They should not be underestimated and I will say more about them shortly. But we must not be complacent. The overall story in London in the last decade is rather less impressive—to use the Minister’s word—than some of the recent developments suggest.

Yes, there have been significant falls in burglary and motor vehicle crime, but, as the Minister conceded, much of that is a consequence of technology that makes those crimes harder to commit. Those falls should therefore have been expected, as independent think-tanks have recently reminded us. In addition, the burglary rate in London is still 2.8 times higher than that in New York, for example. More seriously, according to the Met’s figures, there were just under 130,000 offences of violence against the person in 1998-99, but more than 182,300 in 2006-07—an increase of more than 52,000 or 40 per cent. in a period of roughly a decade. Is that an impressive record? In 1998-99 there were 2,285 gun-enabled crimes, but in 2006-07 there were 3,375—an increase of 48 per cent. Is that an impressive record? In 1998-99 there were about 26,000 robberies in London, but in 2006-07 there were well over 45,000—an increase of 74 per cent. The robbery rate has more than doubled since 1991. Is that an impressive record? I do not think so.

Those rises in some of the most serious crimes should be seen against the background of what has been, as the Minister quite correctly told us, a significant increase in investment in the Metropolitan police. Since 1997, budgeted net revenue expenditure has gone up from £1.8 billion to £3.2 billion. That is a huge real-terms increase of more than 40 per cent. We have to strip out the settlement last year of more than £250 million for counter-terrorism—for reasons that all of us in the House understand. But even if the additional spending on counter-terrorism is excluded, the budget has still increased by more than 30 per cent.
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in the last decade. It is Londoners who are largely paying for that increase in policing. In 1997 the police precept for a band D property in London was £63; in 2007-08 the police precept for a band D property in London will be £223.60.

In answer to the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter), who asked who should take the credit for funding additional police officers in London, my response is: Londoners. They have paid richly for that. In 1997 the Met received £162.7 million from precepts on local authorities; in 2006-07 the police precept generated more than £600 million. As the Minister pointed out, that extra funding has delivered almost 4,000 extra officers—up from 26,000 to 30,000—and 2,500 new police community support officers. The Minister told us that the Met has just hit its target to recruit a total of 4,500 CSOs.

That is welcome. But here is the story of the last 10 years: Londoners and London taxpayers are paying much more; resources have increased by a third; there are 8,500 more officers; there has been a 20 per cent. increase in the total work force; and yet overall crime—on the figures that were supplied to us by the MPA and the Metropolitan Police Service last week—is at the same level now as it was 10 years ago. There were 921,603 offences in 1998-99; there were 921,779 offences in 2006-07. So, with a 20 per cent. increase in the work force and a 30 per cent. increase in resources, the level of crime is the same. If I were a Londoner, I would say that that was not very good value for money.

Kate Hoey: The hon. Gentleman mentioned earlier the increase in gun crime. Does he agree that those of us on both sides of the House who, when the ban on handguns was introduced, said that it would make no difference to illegal guns on the streets, but only discriminate against law-abiding, decent pistol shooters who could no longer compete legally in this country, have been proved right?

Nick Herbert: I am not going to get drawn into the dispute about the ban on handguns. I will say later that I think that some of the changes that have happened in relation to violent crime were predictable and predicted. There has been insufficient action to date to deal with them.

Simon Hughes: There is an important debate to have about the value that people get for the resources that are put in. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the huge extra resources, and that was the view of ordinary Londoners and their political representatives across all parties. But could it be that it takes a while for the resources to have an effect? To be fair to everybody, including the MPA and members of all parties, the total crime figures have come down consistently for the last five years. They went up for the five years before that. We are where we were 10 years ago, but the trend now is much healthier than it was 10, eight or five years ago.

Nick Herbert: Yes, I was going to come to that point shortly, but I am happy to engage with the hon. Gentleman now. The case can certainly be made that the increase in police officers in the last few years and
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the introduction of safer neighbourhood teams has had a positive effect, both in providing reassurance to the public and in reducing some crimes. Other crimes have not been reduced; they have increased. We must address those serious issues. There are important questions about the number of police officers on the beat, their visibility and mechanisms to ensure that they can remain there. We do not know whether the trend is going to be sustained. It is important that we apply value-for-money tests to arguments that are put to us about falls in crime and that we see those falls in context. Before we pat ourselves and the MPS on the back too much for the performance over the last couple of years—I did welcome some of the reductions—it is wrong not to see that in the context of the last 10 years.

To jump ahead further, let me raise something of which the MPS does not like to be reminded: the comparison of the performance of the New York city police in the 1990s with that of the Metropolitan police during the past decade in which their resources have increased significantly. In the 1990s, there was a significant—42 per cent.—increase in the work force on the streets in New York, which was about twice the increase in London. However, crime fell by a huge 75 per cent. over that period, so there was a disproportionately large fall in crime in New York in the 1990s.

Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): If we are going to have an informed debate, surely we must make the point that demographic factors were a far greater determinant of what happened to crime in New York than police resources. We need to ensure that we consider not only police resources and total investment, but a range of demographic, social and cultural factors that have an impact on levels of crime.

Nick Herbert: The hon. Lady raises an interesting point that is often made to argue against the impact of the policing changes made in New York in the 1990s. Factors such as changes to the abortion law are often cited as being responsible for part of the reduction in crime, but those changes also applied in the rest of the United States. A recent study conducted by an eminent criminologist that is summarised effectively in the latest Conservative party policy document on this issue—I am happy to send a copy to the hon. Lady—shows that at least half of the 75 per cent. reduction in crime in the 1990s could be attributed only to changes in policing. The two fundamental changes in policing were an increase in accountability regarding the management of data and precinct commanders—many of those lessons are being learned in London, but are yet to be learned in the rest of the country—and an increase in police numbers.

Mr. Slaughter: I know that my local Conservatives and Conservatives in the Greater London assembly have consistently opposed and voted against increases in support for the police in London. Do Conservative Front Benchers share that view? It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to talk about value for money, but does he support the increase in the number of police officers and CSOs in London or not?

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Nick Herbert: The hon. Gentleman does not seem to have spotted that I am making an argument in favour of an increase in police numbers. Increasing the number of police on the streets is important. It had an absolutely fundamental effect on the amount of crime in New York and it may be starting to have an effect on levels of crime in London.

Robert Neill: Perhaps we can lay to rest this canard that is trotted out by the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) and the Mayor of London—it seems to be believed by only the two of them. I have proposed most of the alternative budgets of the assembly’s Conservative group. Conservative alternative budgets and some of those put forward by the Liberal Democrats would have made more resources available for policing. For example, we suggested that if the Mayor cancelled the western extension of the congestion charge and the Uxbridge tram, several hundred more police officers could be made available to police London’s transport network, yet Labour assembly members rejected that proposal last year.

Nick Herbert: I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Since the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush and I seem to agree about the importance of investing in police officers on the beat, will he set out his position? Hammersmith and Fulham council is conducting an important experiment in which it is increasing the number of police officers on the beat by delivering 24/7 policing and massively strengthening the existing neighbourhood policing teams, which do not work across 24 hours. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the council is increasing the numbers in two target wards by five times, so each team will have a total of 30 officers, rather than six. At the same time, the council is reducing its council tax. Does he support that particular increase in police officers on the beat?

Mr. Slaughter: If I get the opportunity to make a speech, I will deal with the hon. Gentleman’s point in some detail. He attended a conference at Hammersmith town hall to talk about the subject. The many members of the public who came to the conference expected to be able to express their views on policing, but instead listened to two hours of political speeches from five members of the Tory party that would have put Stalin to shame. The police and the public hardly got a word in—I hope that we are not going to hear more of that today.

Nick Herbert: We will be hearing many lectures on Stalinism from the Labour Benches over the next few months. I am sorry that the Home Secretary is not in the Chamber to hear the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. Hundreds of people attended the summit at Hammersmith. There is massive support for the pilot schemes that the council are introducing to put more police on the beat at less cost to the taxpayer. However, it appears that the hon. Gentleman does not support the policy.

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