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the trust that exists between police and public is critical to all we do, and is absolutely vital in counter terrorism. It fundamentally affects the level of support, and of course intelligence that we receive from communities.
As has already been said, the greatest risk of extending detention without charge is that it will act as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism and cause the flow of intelligence from the community to dry up. What has the Home Secretary done to assess the effect of the proposed increase in detention on the attitude of the minority communities?
I guessed that it was Peter Clarke. If I remember correctly, those words were part of his comments in the Colin Cramphorn memorial lecture. I agree that when we consider every single measure, we must balance its short and longer-term effects on countering terrorism and its effects on keeping the community on side. That is a difficult job. For instance, I have said continually that I believe that members of the Muslim community in this country are the victims of terrorism twice over, first because they suffer like the rest of us when bombs go off, and when there are explosions and terrorist attacks, and secondly because they are at the front line of counter-terrorist measures. Of course we must always consider that. What I have relied on is a degree of scrutiny and judgmentthat has taken some timeand the view of the police, as expressed officially. That view is not that the extension
is inevitable or an absolute requirement; it is that the police can envisage circumstances in which it may become necessary to go beyond 28 days, and they therefore believe that I should raise the matter for consideration, inside and outside Government. I am therefore weighing in the balance the immediate effects and the possible consequences, and I lay great stress on the view of the police.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker): The information is not held centrally in the form requested, as arrests statistics are collected on a recorded crime basis only. Our focus is on police activity that tackles crime and brings offenders to justice. Since 2003, crime has fallen by 10 per cent. Since 2002, the rate of offences brought to justice has increased by 39.6 per cent., and sanction detection rates have increased from 19 per cent. in 2003-04 to 24 per cent. in 2005-06.
Mr. Amess: In common with the majority of the British people, my experience has been very different from the position that the Minister sets out. After great effort on my part, I received a letter from the Metropolitan police telling me that the person who burgled my mothers homeshe is in her 96th yearasked for 1,396 offences to be taken into account when he was brought to justice at the age of 19, under Operation Wipeout. Does the Minister think that the 19-year-old who burgled my mothers house is the cleverest thief who ever existed, or would he agree that it is an absolute disgrace that those offences went undetected for so long?
Mr. Coaker: We are all appalled by cases such as that involving the hon. Gentlemans mother, and we all want people who burgleparticularly those who burgle an elderly, frail, vulnerable woman in her own hometo be brought to justice. That is why we have undertaken a whole range of measures to ensure that more people are brought to justice, and to make sure that when people burgle homes, they are brought before the courts and sentenced appropriately. As regards people who commit less serious offences, we have introduced fixed penalty notices and sanction detection rates to try to encourage police officers to bring more people to justice, and to ensure that more offenders are brought before the courts, both for the kind of serious crime that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, and for less serious offences.
Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Crime in my constituency of Bridgend is at a four-year low. Auto crime, violent crime and criminal damage are down, but as the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) says, there is a problem with burglary. My local police force has found that the hot weather increases the problem, as people leave windows open and doors unlocked. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a responsibility on the public to protect themselves from crime, especially during the current heat wave, by ensuring that windows and doors are locked?
Mr. Coaker: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Of course people have a responsibility to protect their own property, and of course they should lock doors and windows and take all the other sensible measures that we should all take; but alongside that, we need to send out a clear message that burglary is a serious crime, and that we expect burglars who are caught to be charged, put before the courts, and dealt with appropriately. Although it is of course sensible for people to protect their homes and do what they can, we need to send out the clear message that burglary will not be tolerated.
Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): Last Monday, a reply by the Under-Secretary to a question I had tabled showed that the number of traffic officers declined from 7,525 in 1998 to 6,511 in 2005, which is a drop of more than 1,000 in seven years. Does he consider, as many criminals use vehicles, that that will help or hinder the arrest rate?
Mr. Coaker: The hon. Gentleman will know that the figures he quoted are last years figures. The latest figures show an increase in the number of road police. He will know, too, that we take road policing very seriously, which is why, for the first time, we included it in the national community safety plan, which is an important step forward. Automatic number plate recognition systems are being used successfully by a large number of forces, so the message on roads policing is: policing the roads is important, because it helps to disrupt criminals who have to travel. I agree with him on that, and we have taken steps to deal with the problem.
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): My hon. Friend will know that many hon. Members, myself included, would like the arrest rate in our constituencies to go down. We would like the crime rate, too, to fall rather faster. What is the correlation between the arrest rate and the crime rate? Has he done any work on that, and which police force has the highest correlation?
Mr. Coaker: On the question of the individual police force, I will have to write to my hon. Friend, but he has raised an important issue. The fact of the matter is that where the number of arrests goes up, there is a correlation with the crime rate. Obviously, we want to drive the crime rate down, and crime reduction correlates with increased police activity on the streets. Alongside the number of arrests in an area, it is important to have a visible police presence on the street, which is why the roll-out of neighbourhood policing is significant. The additional measures that we have introduced such as fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder give the police another option apart from arrest when dealing with crime on the streets. As I said, there is a range of options available to the police, which they can use as appropriate on the street when dealing with criminals and crime.
Just as important as arrest rates is what happens after arrest. Is the Minister aware that figures revealed by the BBC today show that 8,000 sexual offenders have been released on caution. That is only the tip of the iceberg, however, as there was a 160 per cent. increase in the number of cautions issued for violent offences in the same period. Does the Minister agree that that is a grave affront to the basic principle that justice needs not only to be done but to be seen to be done, and that it is a direct consequence of the Governments reckless expansion of so-called summary justice and the bombardment of the police with endless illogical targets?
Mr. Coaker: May I begin by joining the hon. Gentleman in his expression of condolence? With respect to cautions, whether they concern sex offenders or anyone else who has offended, that is a matter for the police to determine according to the individual circumstances of the case. The police have available to them a menu or range of options to deal with offenders. They make a professional judgment in liaison and consultation with colleagues about the best way forward, and cautions are part of that. If the hon. Gentleman looked at the individual circumstances of each case in which a caution was used, I bet that he would find that he agreed with a significant number. If he looked at those individual circumstances, rather making a grand political point and adding them all together, he would find that the truth is much more complicated than he has portrayed it.
James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): One of the factors affecting arrest rates is the increased pressure on police officers to issue penalty notices to satisfy Government targets. Given that half those notices are paid and do not carry a criminal conviction, what confidence can the public have that issuing what are little more than glorified parking tickets is really bringing crime to justice?
Mr. Coaker: The hon. Gentleman knows that crime has fallen. Before the introduction of fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder, a large number of those offences went unpunished. We need to ensure that the system of fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder works effectively and efficiently. In many respects it does and it has enabled the police to deal with an offence on the street in a community, which they would not have been able to do before.
Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab): With reference to burglary, the Crimestoppers page in last weeks Lowestoft Journal showed that there were no burglaries at all in Lowestoft the previous week, in line with the trend. We still have a problem with criminal damage, but recently one of our safer neighbourhood teams, with the local council, blitzed an area of town, clearing away piles of fly-tipped rubbish, returning 16 children to school and seizing or reporting 20 cars. Will my hon. Friend congratulate all the people involved in that and encourage other safer neighbourhood teams throughout the country to get stuck in and deal with criminal damage?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on drawing to the attention of the House the excellent work of the Lowestoft Journal and its Crimestoppers page, which seems to be having a dramatic impact on Lowestoft,
especially the report of no burglaries that he highlighted. The important point made my hon. Friendwe should draw attention to it because of its relevance to the rest of the countryis the fact that successful neighbourhood policing, as he mentioned, involves not only the police but the council, schools and health services. Effective neighbourhood management, alongside effective neighbourhood policing, means that we get not only the sort of results in Lowestoft that my hon. Friend described, but similar results across the country.
The Minister for Security, Counter Terrorism and Police (Mr. Tony McNulty): Fourteen per cent. of officer time was spent on patrol. The figure is not broken down by rank. Some 63.1 per cent. of officer time was spent on broader front-line activities. All the figures are for 2005-06. Other front-line activities not captured by the definition of patrol include arrests, dealing with incidents, gathering intelligence, responding to 999 calls, carrying out searches, dealing with informants, and interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses.
Mr. Hollobone: Is not the fact that 14 per cent. of police constables time is spent on patrol a national disgrace? The fact that at any one time only one in 58 police officers is out on patrol is also shameful. Is it not the case that under the present Government pre-emptive patrolling by police constables on foot in most of our towns and cities effectively has come to an end?
Mr. McNulty: No, I do not perceive it in those terms, precisely because of what I said. Patrol means visible, yes, and available. To define patrol alongside policing generally is wrong. That is why we prefer the front-line figure, which encompasses all those active elements to which I referred, including arrests, dealing with incidents and gathering intelligenceall elements that go to meeting what our communities would expect from policing. That, together with the figure for officers on patrol or ready for patrol, comes to some 75 per cent. I accept the implied point that of the remaining 25 per cent., some 20 per cent. is incident-related and other paperwork. We need to drive down the amount of police time spent on paperwork, but I do not regard what I have said about front-line policing and patrol as shameful in any way. It is a matter of great celebration for our communities that our police are doing such a good job.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): Police constables on patrol put themselves at serious risk every day of their lives on behalf of us and every citizen. That was tragically illustrated in Luton town centre this morning. As a Luton Member, may I add my condolences to those of other Members on behalf my constituents, who depend upon people such as Jonathan Henry and others? I pay tribute to him and convey my sympathy to his family. Will my hon. Friend, and indeed my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, look again at how we can deal with knife crime, which is still too prevalent and at how we can protect police officers in the future?
Mr. McNulty: First, I join my hon. Friend in passing on condolences to the family of Jonathan Henry and, indeed, to anyone associated with policing in Bedfordshire, not least in my hon. Friends home town of Luton. As he says, it was an appalling incident and we all pass on our sympathies.
On my hon. Friends broader point, we are doing much on knife crime, but it would be wrong, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at the last summit held in Downing street, to assume that it can be dealt with only by legislation by the Government. Yes, it is about legislation, but it is also about culture, awareness and education and some of the responsibility must go to parenting and families. Only by tackling all three of those elements, which we are trying to do, will we get rid of the scourge of knife crime. However, I broadly agree with all the sentiments that my hon. Friend expressed.
Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds) (Con): The Ministers figures from 6 March 2007 show that a staggering 16.5 per cent. of patrol officers time is spent on paperwork. Has he any workable proposals to cut red tape for our police?
Mr. McNulty: The issue is not simply red tape. About half the time that the hon. Gentleman refers to is spent on incident-related paperwork. There must be proper due process in relation to audit trails and paperwork, not least in preparation for the matter being dealt with in the criminal justice system. I am with the hon. Gentleman on the other half of the equation: some 7.98 per cent. of the figure relates to non-incident-related paperwork. Through work force modernisation, considering who is doing what job in the police force and greater use of technology such as handheld personal digital assistants, we are working closely with the Association of Chief Police Officers and assorted forces to drive that figure down. I am with the hon. Gentleman on that figure, but the notion that somehow we will get rid of all paperwork is not correct because of, quite rightly, due process in relation to the criminal justice system.
Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): In the light of that answer, does my hon. Friend agree that a truer estimate of time spent on the streets would involve the increase in neighbourhood policing? That is the cornerstone of Sussex polices approach; they have introduced 53 new specialist neighbourhood teams, ensuring that every neighbourhood has its own dedicated group. Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will support the extra funding that has gone into those areas and, indeed, increase it, so that such measures can reflect what is necessary for local people and what they feel is important?
Mr. McNulty: I broadly agree with my hon. Friend and will certainly agree to support the existing funding levels and the overall policy of neighbourhood policing, which is making a profound difference to communities up and down the country, as I see when I go out and about on my travels. She also can be assured that the sustainability of the neighbourhood policing fund and policy will be an important cornerstone of our bid in the comprehensive spending review, but it is not for me to pre-empt or prejudge the outcome of that review.
Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con):
The definition of front-line policing that the Minister
said that he preferred includes time filling in forms. Officers involved in that are not on the front line; they are in a back office. Four years after a previous Home Secretary promised a bonfire of the paperwork to free up more police time, the Police Federation says that bureaucracy has got worse, and the Governments own figures show that police officers spend more time on paperwork than on patrol. Instead of waiting 10 years to set up another review, when will the Government act to cut red tape and get police officers back on the beat, where the public want to see them?
Mr. McNulty: As I said to the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone), it is fundamentally mendacious to assume that the 14 per cent. figure relates only to the time when the police are available and carrying out policing. That is simply not the case. Yes, of course we need to drive down paperwork, and we will be saying to the Flanagan review that we need to do more on targets and wider bureaucracy, but it is not right for the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) to dismiss as blithely as he does the figure of 63.1 per cent. that I quoted, which I repeat relates to arrests, dealing with incidents, gathering intelligence, responding to 999 calls, carrying out searches, dealing with informants and interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses. I do not doubt that paperwork may be involved, but one does not have to be a genius to work out that any such paperwork probably contributes to affording our citizens due process under the criminal justice system. I would be happy to find out which part of the criminal justice system the hon. Gentleman wants to get rid of.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): Policing of major events is the responsibility of the relevant local police forces from their normal budget. In exceptional cases, in which particular strain would be placed on a police authoritys budget, additional Government support may be provided.
Ben Chapman: Is not it absurd that Merseyside police should be refused extra resources for policing the many events during the European capital of culture year of 2008, especially given that Liverpool represents the whole United Kingdom that year and in light of precedent for other events elsewhere? Does my hon. Friend agree with the statement in another place that the people of Merseyside should be so pleased that Liverpool has been honoured in such a way that they should be prepared to forgo adequate policing for the duration?
Joan Ryan: May I take the opportunity to congratulate Liverpool on being awarded the status of European capital of culture? It is a fantastic opportunity for Liverpool to show not only Europe but the world what a great city it is.
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