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Mr. Coaker: I know that my hon. Friend has been working hard in her local area, and that awful and tragic events have recently taken place there. She is right to point out that we need to ensure that existing laws are enforced and acted on. That is why we recently published a document to send out to local authorities and to the police reminding them of the powers that are available. May I add a point that I made to my hon. Friend—whether it is antisocial behaviour, kids on the
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street or antisocial tenants as she described, it is important that they do not merely receive warning after warning, and that sooner or later there is a consequence for their action. If that means tough action with respect to antisocial tenants, that is what should be used.

Terrorism Legislation

9. Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): What plans she has to review legislation concerning the offence of possessing articles for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism. [188121]

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): All counter-terrorism legislation, including the offence of possession for terrorist purposes under section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is subject to regular review. In the light of the Court of Appeal judgment on 13 February in the case of Zafar and others, we have considered whether any change to the legislation is needed. We have concluded that no change is required.

Mr. Wallace: In the light of that court case and the ever-growing number of young men from Lancashire being radicalised into extreme forms of Islam, does the Minister recognise that the 2000 Act has not stemmed the flow of such material? Will he consider introducing an offence of possessing propaganda for the purpose of recruitment or radicalisation, to go further than the current Act?

Mr. McNulty: Those points are perfectly reasonable, but as I have said, we have reviewed the 2000 Act, not least in the light of what is available in the Terrorism Act 2006. We think that most of the areas are covered at the moment. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Director of Public Prosecutions has said that the specific judgment on section 57 was

and was therefore unlikely significantly to affect existing convictions or forthcoming prosecutions. He subsequently wrote a letter to The Times, published on Saturday 16 February, in which he stated:

as some would have it—

Topical Questions

T1. [188088] Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): Effective and visible neighbourhood policing for local communities is a key element in the fight against crime. From April, neighbourhood policing teams will be working in every area of England and
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Wales and I want everyone to have the opportunity to shape their team’s priorities for fighting crime in their area.

Today I am announcing, with the police, the launch of the Name in Every Neighbourhood campaign. Over the next few weeks, every household will hear from, be able to contact and be able to influence their local team. A new national neighbourhood policing website will let the public find the names and numbers of their local team, and the use of contracts between the police and the public will help to deliver this important change. I congratulate police forces across the country on helping to make neighbourhood policing a reality.

Mr. Carmichael: There is growing concern in Scotland about the operation of the Counter-Terrorism Bill—in particular, clause 27, which would allow offences committed in Scotland to be tried in England, and, theoretically, vice versa. Does the Secretary of State understand that that is fraught with difficulty? Will she assure me that if the provision goes on to the statute book, it will operate only after the agreement with the Lord Advocate of very clear guidelines for its operation?

Jacqui Smith: If there are linked attacks in, for example, London and Scotland, it is important that it should be possible, through the proposals that we are putting forward in clause 27, for both those linked cases to be prosecuted in one place. That is what the universal jurisdiction that we are proposing would enable us to do. When countering terrorism, it makes sense for us to be able to prosecute in the place where the investigation takes place, wherever that is.

T2. [188089] Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): Today, the Addaction report has said that the cost of illegal drug use has been £110 million in the past 10 years and that just 10 per cent. of total spending is going on drug treatment. This week, the Government are set to unveil their strategy on drug treatment. Will my right hon. Friend consider how we can work with the police and the north Staffordshire safer communities partnership? Furthermore, will she meet Professor Crome of the Edward Myers centre, to see how we can make sure that successful police operations, such as the Nemesis operation, get more and more people into drug treatment?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker): I thank my hon. Friend for her question. Operation Nemesis in Stoke was fantastically successful and led, I believe, to a 20 per cent. reduction in crime. If we are to bear down on and reduce crime, getting drug-misusing offenders into treatment is absolutely essential. The drugs intervention programme that we have introduced is one part of that, and my hon. Friend will be aware how that operates. I understand that there are one or two difficulties in her local area with commissioning of services. Perhaps the best way of taking that problem forward is for us to discuss it, and I will be happy to do that if she wishes.

Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): The announcement made today by the Home Secretary, and earlier outside this House by the Prime Minister, of a new emphasis
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on neighbourhood policing is very welcome. However, what assurances can the Home Secretary give that the phone service will not be hit by 101-style budget restraints, that local residents will have access to ward-level crime and conviction data enabling them to be knowledgeable in holding local teams to account, and that more police, not fewer, will be available for a visible presence on the beat?

Jacqui Smith: First, on local crime information, we have committed to ensuring that by July this year crime information is available for local people on the basis of their areas. Secondly, we have been clear, not only with the additional numbers of police officers but with the police community support officers who are playing such an important role in neighbourhood policing, that those teams need to be visible and accessible. The success that we have already seen in some areas of this country in rolling out neighbourhood policing shows us the potential that there will be when it is everywhere from April.

T3. [188090] Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is well aware that the Government are committed to police community support officers. Does she share my concerns that there are seven absent or vacant posts for PCSOs in Chorley, leaving the Clayton area very vulnerable to crime, as that is the worst community support officer reduction that has taken place so far? Will she speak to the chief constable to seek to ensure that those vacancies do not remain open?

Jacqui Smith: It is of course the responsibility of chief constables to ensure that they are making the best use of the resources that they have in relation to police officers and to police community support officers, but given that eight years ago there were no police community support officers and now there are 16,000, I hope that those vacancies will not remain empty for long.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Later this week, the European Court of Human Rights is expected to rule on whose DNA is to be permitted to remain on the United Kingdom’s database. Does the Home Secretary agree that decisions of this kind should be made not by unelected foreign judges, however distinguished, but by elected Members of this Parliament? Regardless of the merits of the argument on that particular question, what representations is she making to the court to increase what it calls its margin of appreciation so that fewer decisions of this kind are made in Strasbourg and more in this House?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The DNA database has been a fantastic crime-solving tool and is something that we fully support. It would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail on the Government’s defence in the case of S and Marper, which is going to court on Wednesday. We will await the outcome of that and take action as necessary, but our position is very firmly that the DNA database is valuable and we want to retain it.

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T4. [188091] Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland) (Lab): May I tell the Home Secretary that there is great concern in Cleveland about how the funding for Cleveland police is allocated? Only recently, Cleveland’s chief constable, Sean Price, said:

also Will the Home Secretary look at how the funding is allocated so that we get fair funding?

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): I met very recently the chief constable, Sean Price, and the chair of the police authority, David McLuckie, to talk about this and a range of other matters. I have to say two things. First, Durham is not unique in having an urban core and a rural surround and the challenge of both those aspects of policing. Secondly, colleagues on both sides of the House are rather impatient that we get to the formula agreed upon three years ago rather than reopening a new one. However, I am happy to meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues from Cleveland if they want to discuss further, outwith the current budget round, the specifics of the formula and how it relates to Cleveland.

T5. [188092] Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): I welcome the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on neighbourhood policing, and in particular, the creation of the new website. Would she confirm that my constituents will be able to access details about their neighbourhood policing teams at the click of a button? Will she join me in congratulating the Wiltshire constabulary on creating 23 neighbourhood policing teams, covering the whole of my constituency, and indeed the whole of Swindon?

Jacqui Smith: Yes, I can confirm that from next month, the website will ensure that people can know the names and telephone numbers of teams who will be working day in, day out with them in their neighbourhoods. Wiltshire constabulary deserves congratulations for the way in which it has responded to the challenge of ensuring that we have visible, responsive policing in every neighbourhood in this country.

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): In the last two years, the number of killings with a knife has jumped by 18 per cent. Can the Home Secretary tell the House why, in 2005, she voted against increasing the maximum sentence for knife possession to five years?

Jacqui Smith: We, of course, have implemented an increase in the maximum knife sentence from two years to four years. Alongside that, as I announced last week, we are undertaking a range of actions to ensure that we are able to cut knife crime, particularly among young people where—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on this—it is a particular concern.

David Davis: The right hon. Lady says that she has implemented the law, but of the more than 6,000 convicted of carrying a blade in a public place in 2006,
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just two got the maximum sentence. Does she accept that a one in 3,000 chance of punishment deters no one?

Jacqui Smith: Serious punishment is obviously an important part of countering knife crime, which is why we will change the situation so that there will be a presumption of prosecution for those who are caught carrying knives. Secondly, we will make it more likely that those carrying a knife are caught, by investing in the opportunity for police to use search wands and portable arches. Alongside that, through the extra investment into the roll-out of programmes such as the Be Safe project, which takes place in schools and teaches young people about the implication of carrying knives, we will try to prevent young people from even thinking about carrying knives on the street in the first place.

T6. [188093] John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): Security at our airports is important to us all, particularly those of us who fly to be here. Once again, today, a bunch of lunatics managed to get on to a plane and off it, and then climbed up on top of it to drape a sign from its tail. That could have been someone with explosives. The shuttle from Glasgow had just arrived, and I walked by the plane at the time. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that there will be an investigation into today’s debacle at Heathrow airport?

Jacqui Smith: Yes. This is a country in which we believe in the right to protest, but protesting in a way that could put in danger, and certainly inconveniences, those travelling on our airlines is clearly irresponsible.

T7. [188094] Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Both the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary, in response to recent oral questions from myself, have refused to say how many MPs have been bugged. Will the Home Secretary say how many MPs have had their conversations intercepted over the last 10 years? If she fails to do so, will there not be an assumption that there is a Government cover-up?

Jacqui Smith: No I will not, and there is not.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): My constituency has again been blighted by the establishment of a so-called cannabis café, to the great annoyance of local residents. It acts as a magnet for all sorts of low life coming into Lancing. Despite the best endeavours of the police, who have raided the place five times, no prosecution has been brought to close it down. It is heavily fortified, well beyond what is required for a legitimate café, and a constantly fired furnace is used to burn the evidence the minute any police come in. I have written to the Home Secretary, but can she offer any help so that places such as this, which are clearly trading illegally and are fortified well beyond their needs, can be closed down, as local residents want?

Mr. Coaker: If the hon. Gentleman wishes to speak to me straight after questions, I shall meet him to discuss that quite deplorable situation. I have not heard of anything quite as bad as that with respect to cannabis cafés. We need to ensure that we nip the
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situation in the bud, so that people see the serious consequences of such practice, and so that it does not spread anywhere else in the country. I will be pleased to hear the details because I have not heard of anything like that anywhere else in the country.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): In our country there are organisations that promote bad behaviour and drug abuse, such as the Bullingdon dining club at Oxford, which is famous for hard drinking, bad behaviour and drug abuse and is also responsible for the decline and fall of many of its members. Will the Home Secretary say whether there is any indication over a 20-year period that the use of cannabis in clubs like the Bullingdon dining club is any higher or lower or about the same as it was when the Leader of the Opposition was an active member of that club in 1988?

Jacqui Smith: What I can say to my hon. Friend is that cannabis use—indeed, all drug use—is lower now than it was in 1997. Cannabis use is lower among young people. I agree with him that we need to find positive role models for young people to encourage them to live their lives as we would hope that they would.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): A young boy in my constituency who spat at his sister recently spent the night in the Essex police cells and may end up with a record. This unpleasant but not extraordinary incident consumed a massive amount of police time and resource. When can we get back to dealing with those things through parents, families and common sense, thus saving police time?

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Jacqui Smith: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that it is always difficult in this place to comment on the details of individual cases. It is precisely in order to ensure that police forces across the country can concentrate on the things that matter to local people that we will ensure first that there is a neighbourhood policing team in every area from April and secondly, as part of the new public service agreements that we will introduce from April, that there will be more flexibility for local forces to concentrate on local priorities.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): The Home Secretary said in response to an earlier question that she wants to roll out neighbourhood watch schemes in every neighbourhood. That will not happen if North Yorkshire gets a similar police funding settlement to the constituency of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland (Dr. Kumar). Will she please review the police funding for the forthcoming financial year and introduce rurality and sparsity factors to the way in which the funding is allocated?

Mr. McNulty: As I suggested in an earlier answer, we are still seeking to implement the formula agreed some two or three years ago. The hon. Lady may want to get together with other MPs and look specifically at the rural dimension and at restoring the rural policing element of the old formula, which will clearly be at the cost of something else—I am sure that her urban colleagues would have something to say about that. I am happy to meet the hon. Lady and a cross-party group of MPs to discuss the matter further. If we do not have the formula right as regards the rural dimension and rural policing resources, I am happy to talk about it.

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