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27 Mar 2008 : Column 367

We have heard a lot about transport today, and significant progress has also been made in that respect. Crime on London’s buses is now 11 per cent. lower than a year ago. The latest figures—for the first six months of 2007-08—show a significant fall in criminal damage, robbery and theft offences on the capital’s buses, despite a significant increase in passenger numbers. In outer London, I am pleased to say, we now have the 21 safer transport teams, which have proved a great success. We have such a team in Barnet. Its mobile telephone numbers and e-mail are available. We have 18 PCSOs, two police constables and two sergeants patrolling the north-south routes and the transport hubs. They have proved very effective in catching offenders, and in providing safety and reassurance, and useful intelligence. When they were first introduced, the London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, Brian Coleman, described them as a gimmick. My constituents certainly do not regard them as a gimmick. They want them to be made more effective and their numbers expanded.

Mr. Ruffley: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. With reference to “Erskine May”, is it in order for a Member to read a speech?

Madam Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair, but it is not uncommon for Members to refer to notes.

Mr. Dismore: I was not reading a speech; I was reading out the numbers. The hon. Gentleman may not appreciate them, so I will give them to him again, if he likes. Our safer transport team has 18 PCSOs, two sergeants and two constables, and has proved very popular, despite being described as a gimmick by the Conservative London Assembly Member for our borough.

Mr. Burrowes: What would the hon. Gentleman’s constituents say if he were to put a question in one of his numerous surveys to them asking, “Would you rather £16.5 million of the Transport for London advertising budget be spent on promoting ourselves, or on more PCSOs and CCTV?”

Mr. Dismore: I suspect people would not like money to be spent on public relations. That is inevitable; that will always be a lower priority. However, as we explored earlier, the budget that the hon. Gentleman mentions is simply not available for such expenditure. I do not think he will get anywhere by pursuing that idea.

Reference has been made to the problems of gun and knife crime. There has been significant progress, with Operation Kartel in February this year leading to 780 arrests, and a 50 per cent. reduction in gun-enabled crime and a 26 per cent. reduction in knife-enabled crime across the 11 London boroughs. Operation Blunt’s knife amnesty earlier in the year led to more than 1,000 knives being handed in, and Operation Trident solved 12 murders in 2004-05.

It is interesting that when the hon. Member for Henley says that tough gun laws must be enforced, and talks about mandatory five-year sentencing introduced to deter gun crime and to punish offenders and make
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people safer, he fails to add that he voted against those automatic five-year sentences for people caught illegally carrying guns on Third Reading of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which brought in those powers. It is remiss of him to say that he supports something when he voted against it in the House.

It is important for us to reflect on the problem of teenage murders, which is a serious one in London, although we must recognise that the vast majority of young Londoners are not involved in criminality. The 26 murders last year were 26 too many. We must look far beyond a simple law-and-order solution, and examine the social and educational factors involved. Importantly, the Mayor has made £79 million available over the next two years through the London youth offer, to give young people more opportunities to try to get out of crime.

I have already spoken for some time, but I should mention people trafficking. I have taken a particular interest in that subject through my work as Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and I commend the Mayor on the work that he has been doing, with and on behalf of trafficking victims, to provide for them.

We face significant policing challenges over the next few years, not least the challenge of policing the Olympics, for which there is a massive security budget of £1.2 billion, and the ongoing challenge of terrorism. When Londoners make their choice in a few weeks’ time, they would be well advised to vote for a man who has an excellent track record of cutting crime, looking after public safety and increasing the police service in London to record levels.

2.1 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I echo the tributes paid to the police for the dangerous job that they do. I also welcome the fact that a statement was made earlier. Although we cannot talk now about the concerns raised in Surrey, it is worth pointing out—hon. Members who have seen the press reports will know this—that if Surrey’s force has to cut £4 million from its budget, it will drop a big operation to prevent criminals moving in and out of the county, which would undoubtedly have an impact on London.

Policing in London is, of course, a priority, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, London is a prime terrorist target and the police in London need to be adequately resourced to address that issue. In passing, I should question the effectiveness of some of the measures that are being taken. Some hon. Members may have seen posters that state:

I am willing to be convinced that the campaign is effective, and I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how effective it has been. I know that it is of concern to at least 91 Members of Parliament, who have signed an early-day motion expressing concern that people are being accosted while innocently taking photographs and asked precisely what they are doing. I would like to be convinced that the campaign will be effective and will not simply add to a climate of fear.

London is the world’s financial centre, a fact which generates specific crime issues, particularly those associated with e-crime. I hope that the Government
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will update us about the cross-departmental committee that is to be set up to examine e-crime.

Major events in London must be policed; for example, President Sarkozy’s visit yesterday would have used a lot of police resources. London has high deprivation, especially in the inner-city areas, which leads to additional or above-average levels of crime.

For all those reasons, policing in London is a priority. For many years, law and order has been the greatest concern for Londoners. This debate has confirmed that such issues will be the focus of much of the mayoral campaign, so it is worth spending a little of the little time available contrasting the offerings of the various mayoral candidates.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, Brian Paddick, has 30 years’ experience at the sharp end of policing in London. His record spans the Brixton riots and tackling hard drugs in Lambeth. He plans to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority and bring that experience to bear on it. He has pledged to introduce a guard on trams after 9 pm and on the 10 worst bus routes, and to reduce crime by 5 per cent. every year during his first term. Unlike the present Mayor, who promised to reduce crime by 50 per cent. but has so far achieved only an 18.5 per cent. reduction, Brian Paddick will resign if he does not deliver on his pledge at the end of his first term.

The Mayor has broken his promise made in 2004 to reduce crime by 50 per cent., and he appears to have thrown in the towel. Many hon. Members will be aware of his comments on gun and knife crime during the “London Talking” debate:

The Mayor, who is responsible for policing and who claims credit for successes in London, clearly has a responsibility and the ability to do something about young people killing each other in London—if he does not, he should resign and make way for someone who does.

The Mayor has pledged to deliver 1,000 new officers, and Labour Members have referred to that. It is worth examining the pledge on the 1,000 new officers whom he will apparently provide, because in fact he will not provide them: the Home Office will provide the vast majority through its funding or through the boroughs. The Mayor’s role will be very limited. We know that, within that figure, he was seeking 300 designated security posts, but only 97 will be delivered. He was also seeking 300 counter-terrorism officers, and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm whether they will be delivered. There are already significant gaps in the Mayor’s promised 1,000 new officers.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): There is a great inconsistency in the promises and delivery of the Mayor and the current Administration. Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the other frustrations felt not only by citizens but by the police is that whereas the Labour Government and the Labour Mayor keep claiming that crime is generally going down, people who live in a borough that is run by a non-Labour council receive Labour leaflets that perpetually say that the local council is responsible for crime, as though there were no possibility of people
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going out safely on the streets? There appears to be absolute hypocrisy in Labour, which wants the national message to be that crime is reducing but locally it appears to blame local councils—so long as they are not Labour ones—for increasing it.

Tom Brake: I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention, which highlights the fact that what is often said is not what is delivered in practice.

I must briefly discuss the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), who gives very entertaining evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs but who seems to have an obsession or fixation with buses; the scrapping of bendy buses seems to be the solution to all London’s problems. Whether we are talking about transport policy, tackling antisocial behaviour, it all requires—

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

2.8 pm

Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): Before I make a few brief remarks, may I offer my congratulations to my borough commander, Ali Dizaei, on his much-deserved recent promotion to assistant commissioner? His fame goes beyond his borough—I refer to his previous service in the London borough of Hounslow. I am sure that my hon. Friends the Members for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen) would join me in those congratulations. I am pleased to say that Ali Dizaei will probably continue in a role across west London; his brief service so far has been excellent in that capacity. He is an example of one of the many excellent police officers at all levels serving the community across London.

This debate is about the Mayor and policing in London as a whole. Without repeating what my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) said, I merely wish to say that the Mayor’s record on policing is exemplary. The number of police is at an all-time record level. The rather churlish comments of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) notwithstanding, 1,000 additional officers have been promised.

Stephen Pound: Tribute has been paid to the borough commander in Hammersmith and Fulham by my hon. Friend, who also represents part of the great and noble borough of Ealing. I am sure that he will therefore wish to associate himself with the comments that many of us have made about the excellent qualities of Borough Commander Sultan Taylor of Ealing.

Mr. Slaughter: I certainly do—it is another excellent appointment. My only problem with the borough commanders that we have had in west London is that they are so good that they keep getting poached and promoted. I hope that I have not set off a whole sequence of 32 borough commanders being praised, because then we will have no time for anything else.

Over the past five years—Conservative Front Benchers should take notice of this—crime in London has fallen by 20 per cent. It is all very well for the Conservative
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spokesman to say to his researchers, as he doubtless did, “Please go away and find me some statistics, however obscure, to try to suggest that that is not the case.” In almost every area of serious crime—whether it is murder, gun crime, robbery, rape or grievous bodily harm—reductions in crime have been in double figures. I am glad that I am not still at the criminal Bar, because I fear that I would find it difficult to earn a living; in fact, I always did, owing to the Government’s appalling legal aid rates.

Tom Brake: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one area of concern, which is borne out by the statistics, is what is happening with young people committing homicides and being murdered?

Mr. Slaughter: I entirely agree that that is a serious problem. The death of Kodyo Yenga in Hammersmith and Fulham only a year ago was one of a number of tragic events at that time but we must keep this in perspective, as such events are still rare. One death, particularly of a young person, is a serious matter. However, I feel that the issue has been sensationalised—not by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington and his party, but certainly by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) who has not graced the Chamber with his presence during this debate. That is a disgrace as he seeks— [ Interruption. ] He was present for about 10 minutes. No doubt he has another more important—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have already ruled that I will not allow comments to be made about who is or is not in the Chamber.

Mr. Slaughter: I accept that. Of course, as he is an Oxfordshire MP, perhaps he should not have been present at all for a debate on London policing.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman of my ruling.

Clive Efford: When the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) talked about crime figures, he took 1998 as his starting point. The point that the Mayor would make, which the statistics bear out, is that crime rates are in line with police numbers. As police numbers have grown and the Government and the Mayor have invested in extra police, crime has come down. The hon. Gentleman should remember that.

Mr. Slaughter: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that he wants to speak and I shall therefore say what I need to with greater speed.

The Mayor of London has transformed policing, most usefully by introducing neighbourhood policing—an initiative that has been followed throughout the country. That subject is a particular interest of mine, and I introduced a ten-minute Bill on it about two years ago. There was resistance among the police to neighbourhood policing, which was initially described as reassurance policing, but I always believed, as did the Mayor, that it would have an effect in cutting crime, and it has. I also believed that it would assist intelligence-led policing. The safer neighbourhood teams throughout the boroughs—

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Stephen Pound: We have seen failures, as we certainly did in the Brixton command not too recently. Does my hon. Friend agree that when the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) says that the Liberal candidate for Mayor would resign if crime did not fall, that is roughly analogous to my saying that I would control myself if Carla Bruni came knocking at my bedroom door? Neither scenario is likely to occur. [ Laughter. ]

Mr. Slaughter: I have an image in my head that I wish would go away.

Stephen Pound: So do I!

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Please may we have some order in the Chamber and a debate on policing in London?

Mr. Slaughter: I agree that a little more control is needed on all sides, Madam Deputy Speaker.

When Hammersmith and Fulham, which is part of my local authority, was Labour-run, it was the first authority to decide to put neighbourhood officers into all wards. Before that programme could be completed, the Mayor accelerated the programme of neighbourhood policing and put the six-member teams into all wards in London in record time. The Tories opposed that. They try to weasel out of it now, but they opposed additional policing in every budget proposed in the GLA. They are now trying to climb on the bandwagon.

It is a similar story in Hammersmith and Fulham. The new Tory council says that crime is its No. 1 priority, whereas its priority is actually making £36 million in cuts. It will invest £750,000 a year in policing and make cuts worth £36 million in services. That gives a good idea of the priorities of Conservative councils. Where it has put in that extra policing, it calls it 24/7 policing. The police find that very offensive, because when we talk to them they say that they thought that they worked 24 hours in any event, but that the Conservatives in Hammersmith say that they did not.

That extra policing has been introduced in only two wards, displacing crime into other wards. The Evening Standard—the Boris Johnson house magazine, so I hope Conservative Members will trust it—said that of the 20 areas with the most residential burglaries, two are in Hammersmith and Fulham, in wards that neighbour those where enhanced policing has been introduced. The Labour opposition’s policy, which it will implement when it returns to power in 2010, is to introduce police task squads across all wards with high crime. That proposal, which chimes with the Mayor’s policies, is the way we need to go.

I mentioned my local Tory authority as an example of how a Tory Mayor would behave. Nothing can be said about what the hon. Member for Henley has done, because until his selection as candidate a few weeks ago he showed no interest whatsoever in London or policing in London other than opposing measures such as the five-year compulsory sentence for carrying a gun, which was a measure to reduce crime, particularly in London. His financial illiteracy—

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