Previous Section Index Home Page


Mr. McNulty: I suspect that the hon. Member for Henley has had another conversion and now accepts that there are Labour, Liberal and Tory councils throughout London—fewer Liberals, as they are not terribly good at it—that know and understand in terms of yobbish and antisocial behaviour that what we are seeking to do within the legal framework that we have established, and in partnership with localities, is working, and working effectively for London across the continuum from very early intervention to, in the end, antisocial behaviour orders.

Clive Efford: On the issue of the conversion of the Conservatives to supporting PCSOs, does my right hon. Friend recall the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition at the last Conservative party conference, in which he attacked two PCSOs from Wigan because they did not dive in, accusing them of standing and watching as a young man drowned?

27 Mar 2008 : Column 356

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. We are discussing policing in London. Perhaps the Minister will respond on that.

Mr. McNulty: The important point is that PCSOs have the requisite skills base for the job that they are intended for. As the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster suggested, they work well when complementing and supporting police; it was never the Government’s intention to have them replace police. Quite what individual Members of the House or people elsewhere, from a position of total and perverse ignorance, say about specific events is not for me to comment on, especially as they took place outside London. Following your instruction, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall not do so, in particular because Wigan is outside London.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. McNulty: I promised to come to Carshalton and on and on.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I thank the Minister for giving way as he has made some unsubstantiated allegations about Liberal Democrat councils. May I encourage him to come to the London borough of Sutton to see the partnership work there, which was a trailblazer in terms of the local authority and the police making a joint appointment of someone to take on the whole range of responsibilities for tackling, among other things, antisocial behaviour?

Mr. McNulty: At some stage, I shall, and I am sure that my private secretary would enjoy it enormously, seeing as he lives just down the road. Again, this is a latter-day conversion. [Interruption.] Let me make it clear that it is latter-day conversion. It is not the case, as the hon. Gentleman would have it, that—apropos the comment made earlier—all the discussions and the legislative framework around helping communities with antisocial behaviour and other things are part of the Liberal dream. They are not. I pray in aid the lamentable examples of Islington, when it was Liberal, and now, increasingly, Liberal Camden. They do not get it and simply displace the thing entirely.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) rose—

Mr. Boris Johnson rose—

Mr. McNulty: I shall give way to a rather serious London MP, rather than go out of London.

Robert Neill: Given the Minister’s concern about ill-informed criticism of police in London, will he join me in condemning the outrageous observations of the Mayor of London’s transport commissioner, Mr. Hendy, who threatened to cut off funding for the transport police operational command unit for having dared to criticise the safety record of the Mayor’s bendy buses? That is ill-informed criticism, is it not?

Mr. McNulty: A trio of lamentables—Camden, Islington and the hon. Gentleman.

27 Mar 2008 : Column 357

I need to say in conclusion, Madam Mayor, that we have had action— [Interruption.] I mean Madam Deputy Speaker. I am not aware that you are standing for the post; I am sure you are not.

In London, we have the example of real leadership and action by Ken Livingstone. That should continue. We do not need the hot air, wind-baggery and aspirations of the hon. Member for Henley, who has finally discovered that London exists as a city. In the end, Londoners will determine which way to go, especially in terms of policing.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman’s time is up.

1.25 pm

Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds) (Con): I have a lot of regard for the Minister, but he plumbed new depths with his rather churlish approach to some of the sensible comments made by Conservative Members, particularly the public statements from my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), who has contributed hugely to the debate on how to improve London policing.

I start by paying tribute to the work of all police officers in London—to the City of London force, which I have had the privilege of visiting; the British Transport police; and, of course, the Met. The Metropolitan police is unique in this country. It receives a quarter of the national police budget and contains approximately a fifth of all sworn officers. It works hard—day in, day out—to protect 7.4 million citizens. It spearheads the national effort to tackle serious crime and terrorism. However, the rather rosy picture that the Minister paints of crime levels in London needs to be tackled.

Of course the police work hard, but no one who has canvassed in this mayoral election or talked to Londoners in a normal, average week thinks that the average Londoner is happy with crime levels in London. They think more can be done. They believe that London can be made safer.

Mr. Love: Will the hon. Gentleman give way.

Mr. Ruffley: In a moment.

The current Mayor wants London to be the safest city in the world, but after eight years of the Labour mayoralty London is not even the safest city in the United Kingdom. According to the latest Home Office figures—up to 2006-07—in London there were 124 recorded crimes per 1,000 of population, which is a quarter higher than the 100 per 1,000 of population nationally. In London, there were 24 recorded instances of violence against the person per 1,000 of population. That is 20 per cent. higher than the 19 per 1,000 of population across England and Wales. In London, there were 32 recorded instances of theft, excluding car theft, per 1,000 of population. That is higher than the 22 per 1,000 of population across the rest of the UK.

Even the Home Secretary herself—

Mr. Love: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ruffley: In a moment.

27 Mar 2008 : Column 358

Even the Home Secretary herself has said that either in Hackney or in south Kensington—pick a borough, it does not matter which—she is not comfortable walking on her own at night.

Mr. Love: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and commend him for giving selective figures. Does he accept that, overall, the crime figures over the past five years show a 19 per cent. reduction? Will he add to his list and congratulate the Mayor of London on providing the back-up that allowed those figures to be achieved?

Mr. Ruffley: I will offer no such congratulation to the Mayor of London, whose record I will get on to in a moment, and no, I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of such large falls in crime. Those are recorded figures from the Home Office itself, and they stand the test of time. They show what is happening to recorded crimes—they are going up. Violent crime is up in London. Gun crime is up in London. Knife crime is up in London. Something needs to be done about that.

The simple fact is that London’s citizens do not feel as safe as they would like.

Mr. McNulty: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ruffley: I will give way to the Minister in a moment.

On 11 March 2008, the current Mayor of London told the Home Affairs Committee:

Let me put that in its historical context. According to the Home Office figures, which are there for all to see—I say that for the benefit of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love)—there were just under 130,000 recorded offences of violence against the person in London in 1998-99. Guess what the figure was in 2006-07: it was 182,000. That is an increase of 40 per cent., according to Home Office figures. In 1998-99 there were 26,000 robberies in London. Guess how many there were in 2006-07: well over 45,000. That is an increase of over 74 per cent.

Mr. McNulty rose—

Mr. Ruffley: I shall be happy to listen to the Minister if he can answer my questions.

Mr. McNulty: The hon. Gentleman simply cannot do this. He must quote the figures accurately. The 182,000 offences of violence against the person in 2006-07 has fallen by 3 per cent. to 173,997, and if offences of harassment are excluded—I am sure that Members know what harassment is—the figure is 13 per cent.

Members must not mislead the House, inadvertently or otherwise. It is not right to say that violent crime is going up when the correct figures tell their own story: that violent crime has fallen significantly. That is not a debating point but a matter of absolute fact, and the hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of himself.

Mr. Ruffley: I invite anyone who reads Hansard tomorrow to read what I have said, and then to view the Home Office website and compare the record for 1998-99 with that for 2006-07. Then we shall see who is right.

27 Mar 2008 : Column 359

Mr. Boris Johnson: Does my hon. Friend agree that the huge majority of Londoners would listen with more interest to the words of the Labour hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), who said only this month that scarcely a child or teenager in her constituency had not been mugged? Is not that testimony far more powerful than the fictitious statistics of that Minister?

Mr. Ruffley: I would rather take my hon. Friend’s powerful point than the fiddled and dodgy numbers and spin put out by—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. There is a bit of a heated debate going on in the Chamber, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will think very carefully about the words that he uses.

Mr. Ruffley: I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. Let me simply say that the spin-addicted Minister may decide to revisit his comments when he reads Hansard tomorrow.

Let us consider another statistic. In 2007, 27 teenagers were murdered in London, nearly all of them victims of knife or gun crime perpetrated by other youths. That lends force to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley.

Those rises in crime—which, I hasten to add, are not to be laid at the door of the police; I shall explain why in a moment—should be seen in the context of police funding. They have occurred as spending on the Met has gone up, with a budget increase of more than 30 per cent. That increase is of course welcome, but the fact remains that Londoners are paying increasing amounts through higher police precepts, and I think that many of them will wonder why crime is not falling in proportion to the amount of extra money that they are contributing.

Joan Ryan: The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) represents one of the safest constituencies in the country, but he has opposed measures to fight gun crime and antisocial behaviour here in London. He opposed the automatic five-year sentence for carrying a gun illegally. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) will explain that to us in the context of tackling violent crime in London.

Mr. Ruffley: The right hon. Lady’s rather thin and, frankly, pathetic intervention shows how scared Labour Members are of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley.

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): The net police precept in my constituency has quadrupled over the past 10 years, but we have not seen a quadrupling of the number of police officers. Over the past seven years, Wandsworth residents have paid £66 million more for fewer warranted officers who can arrest people on their streets.

Mr. Ruffley: That statistic from Putney speaks volumes.

Harry Cohen: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ruffley: I wish to make some progress first.

27 Mar 2008 : Column 360

If the Minister will not accept statistics in black and white, surely there is one thing on which we can agree: the need for greater police visibility in London. Surely there is common ground on that. There is, however, a huge difference between our prescriptions and those of the Labour Government.

I am sure we can agree that if there are more police on the beat, they deter more crime and more arrests are made. After 11 September 2001, the police redeployed 1,500 officers from outer London to the city centre. At the time, Ian Blair described the impact of that redeployment on crime levels. He said:

which, he said, represented an increase of more than 50 per cent.

After the July bombings, the redeployment of officers on the streets—for which my hon. Friend the Member for Henley has argued so powerfully in the past few weeks, and will argue powerfully for in future weeks—had a similar effect. A study in the aftermath of 7 July found that, in the six months following the incident, increased police deployment in six key London boroughs had led to a significant fall in crime. That is why London Conservatives, and Conservatives nationally, are serious about cutting the bureaucracy that is heaped on our hard-working police officers. It is not acceptable that, in London, the amount of time spent on patrol decreased from 13.7 per cent. in 2003-04 to 12.8 per cent. in 2006-07.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ruffley: I will in a minute.

Not even the men and women in the Police Federation believe the Minister when he says that he has cut—or his Government have cut—the number of forms by 9,000. The Conservatives have consistently asked the Minister to publish the 9,000 red-tape forms that they say they have cut, and he will not do it. Will he do it today?

Mr. McNulty indicated dissent.

Mr. Ruffley: Unless the Government can show what they have done to cut red tape in the last 10 years, they will have no claim to be anti-bureaucracy and no claim to be putting more police officers back on the street.

Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): May I return my hon. Friend for a moment to the subject of high-visibility policing? I know that earlier this month he visited the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and had a look at the 24/7 policing there, which I think is a fantastic achievement. It is the only borough in London where safer neighbourhood teams patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week—in two wards, Shepherd’s Bush Green and Fulham Broadway. Will my hon. Friend share with us his impressions of what I consider to be a fantastic initiative?

Next Section Index Home Page