|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Again, I do not wish to set any hares running, but there is a debate to be had about the British crime survey, recorded crimeeven the definition of crimeand the auditing processes and trails inside policing and police stations. I have said that before, because some comparisons that are made, not least by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the EU, are utterly erroneous. I have yet to find, in any comparison that I have done, any police service anywhere else in the world that counts crime in quite the way that the UK does. The last but one chief commissioner of police in Boston worked until recently in the Home Office heading up the standards unit and he thought the situation very strange. Representatives of American forcesNew York included, by the waywould regularly come over and say, What the hell are you measuring all this stuff for? We dont measure half of what you measure here. People need to understand that when they make comparisons. The same is true on the continent. There is a slightly different definition of what an assault is and what a violent crime is, and all of a sudden the comparisons become all the more erroneous.
Does that mean that I think everything in the garden is rosy in terms of policing in the UK? Of course it does not, but that debate should be had because I suspect that we do measure too much and that, collectively as politicians, we are probably too scared not to do so now, or to change things. One of the most fundamental problems, as the Smith review showed, relates to the definition of assault and violent crime. It would be a brave politician who would stand up in government and start redefining violent crime. We have done the easy bit. Rather erroneously, trespassing on a railway line was classed as a violent crime until recently. That is clearly not the case, so we got rid of that. Bigamy was a violent crime. I do not know why, but if you looked through the list, those crimes were on it.
Mr. McNulty: Maybe so, but there are issues about threatening and harassing behaviour that does not turn into violence. In many other policing worlds, that never gets anywhere near being defined as violence, but in this country, because of the potential threat, it clearly does. All those elements are important because they go to the efficacy, efficiency and professional approach of our police.
When I talk about the link between local and national, I am not tempted by the suggestion, although I think it worthy of discussion, that if very localised teams are well established, as they are in London and will be everywhere else by April, albeit not on a ward basis, would it be worth exploring the idea of some money going straight to that level as part of policing prioritiesit would probably be only a small amountand getting a link between safer neighbourhood teams and funding? Is it worth exploringI suspect not, but I understand the pointa link between SNTs and a localised precept rather than a London-wide precept? I am not sure. I just know that a serious debate is needed on the whole issue of finance.
I shall not get into the real debate on Giulianithe hon. Member for Eastleigh addressed the headline debate. That is not wrong; let me say that it is selective. There were huge issues relating to how crime was measured in New York, how resources were put in and who paid for it. It certainly was not paid for by the federal Government. It was paid for by an array of local taxes including sales tax and phone tax. The hon. Gentleman would probably like that, as he likes local taxes. The outputs and the endgame are, to some extent, indisputable, but some of the issues are not. The notion that New York is in a better place because the NYPD, the transit police and the housing police are all now one force makes sense, as do some of the other points.
The point within that about making it compulsory to publish local crime figures is absolutely right. We will do that, and I can give hon. Members more information on what the units should be, when we will do it and what the timetable will be.
A Front-Bench MemberI cannot remember whomentioned the equivalent of beacon status. The Association of Chief Police Officers has referred to foundation forces and the like. That is sort of what I was suggesting when I said earlier that if there is sustained performance over time, perhaps we could afford more autonomywith the centre stepping back a bit, fewer performance inspections and so onand effectively free forces from central perusal, as in the local government model. I am happy to explore that. There is not much funding to un-ring-fence in the event of sustained good performance because, as I said, not a lot of funds that are left that are ring-fenced.
I take the point made by the hon. Member for Putney about the tyranny of aggregationit is an ugly phrase, but more meaningful than it soundsand of considering things on a borough-wide level, rather than a smaller one. Even outside London, it is important to look at the lower level, rather than just at aggregated borough figures, to see what is really going on with crime in a particular area. I also take the point that much youth crime is perpetrated on other young people. We need to look at that issue.
I shall gloss over the point that I was going to make about Bury St. Edmunds and foolish partisan drivel. I was obviously having a bad moment, so I shall ignore that. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds always impliesand then goes off course a wee bitthat there can, and should, be cross-party consensus on much of what we do in terms of crime and policing. I agree, and I said that to his predecessor. For all the kerfuffle around the edges, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East could corral 80, 90 or 95 per cent. of Members to serve on the Home Affairs Committee and get broad agreement. It would probably be useful for us to get away from knockabout politics every now and then on the matter and from the use of bad research rather than good.
Well, maybe. I have not yet seen any good, sustained researchresearch that is not flawed in some wayfrom Kings college. I do not share the view that the centre there is prestigious. Its recent study on knife crime involved thinking of a number, doubling it and extrapolating. Suddenly knife crime has doubled
in two years. That conclusion is not sustainable, purely intellectually, not least because of the paucity of accurate figures. That is why we have insisted that police now record crimes committed with pointed instruments.
I take the broad points made about paperwork, bureaucracy and IT. I do not doubt that if the fellows from Life on Mars appeared in front of the august Committee of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East, they would say the same thing about the 1970s. My difficulty is tangibility and getting people to say exactly what they meanwhat bureaucracy and what paperwork. This is the same as Ronnies point about what is cholesterol and what is not.
It is equally unfair, although I know that I am meant to, to talk about the lack of process and the continued balkanisation, for want of a better phraseor patchwork, if you willof IT solutions in policing. That characterisation is probably five or 10 years old. Does more need doing? Absolutely; of course. But, at its core, certainly between forces, IT is developing an impact, although more slowly than I would like. We are slowly moving towards a new police national database that will do far more than the police national computer has ever done, even though the PNC has always had a wonderful brandingeveryone thinks that we can just press a button and out pops everything we want to know about a particular individual. I am not complacent, nor am I saying that the issue has gone away. We are still suffering some of the consequences of almost informal solutions used on a force-by-force basis, so the problem is still there, in part, but it is not quite as bad as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds characterised it.
I commend what the hon. Gentleman said about honesty in the finance debate. I have made the point about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and intercept. There is something there and I have looked at it a couple of times. People are doing thingsperhaps they are just covering themselves, as in Ronnie Flanagans point about risk aversionbut they are doing them to excess in ways that they should not. Matters such as intervention and interception are important, and there had better be a paper trail, but I take the point that that can be over-egged, possibly through the misinterpretation of ACPO guidance and training.
There can, and should, be a way through the complexities of value for money and input-output models but, again, we must be careful. The better the input-output model, the better our understanding of the business processes that make policing work, but if we want to know what those are and how people do them, it will mean more paperwork, more bureaucracy and more people measuring just to get to that stage. If we could get to a stage where I met each chief constable once a year and said, Your crime is at x level this year. I will see you in three months and I want it down. Thats your target: reduce crime, life would be far easier for me and them, but that is not the case. Things are complex, but that does not mean that we should not measure or try to achieve value for money through a range of processes.
Some of those processes are very simple. Our Treasury-sponsored research with PricewaterhouseCoopers and others through Operation Quest is partly about stripping
down an internal process and rebuilding it to be far more efficient and effective in terms of public priorities. It could be something as routine as ascertaining whether call inquiries are level 1, 2 or 3 and that they are fully investigated. Good examples of that are occurring in south Liverpool and Ipswich. Much has happened in the policing world on productivity and efficiency, and much still can happenon a consensual basis if that is our political will.
The report on police funding is good, and some of the points about how all this would have happened anyway without any Government intervention, or indeed extra money, have an element of truth. However, as I said before, most are specious post hoc rationalisation or casual empiricism at best. Of course houses are more secure now and the cars built today are far more secure than those 10 or 20 years ago, or the old bangers that I used to buy. I was distraught when my first car was stolen, but I was even more distraught to find that it had been left about 500 yd away, around the corner, because it was such a banger that the thieves were most disappointed with it once they got inside. I got my car back, which was the most disappointing thing of all, really.
Moving forward on all these issues is hugely important to each and every one of our constituents. The funding framework will continue and endure. I do not say that it will not be tight, but my point, like Dr. Timothy Brains, is that the police can none the less work within it. I look forward to the inquiry into policing in the 21st century by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East. However, before he asks me to go to it, will he give me some breathing space? He has an invite in his back pocket for me to appear before the Surveillance and Society conference, which seems to cover every camera that ever existed in the entire United Kingdom, rather than just the Home Office.
I am very grateful for everyones interesthopefully a sustained interestin policing. Much unites us. Let us step away from the rhetoric and ensure that we get the policing that our communities deserve and maintain its funding into the future.