some default text...
Previous Section Index Home Page

Mr. Love: Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the Mayor of London on not only the significant increase in the number of police officers in London, but the
23 Apr 2008 : Column 1390
introduction of safer neighbourhood teams across the capital, which have made such a difference to crime at a local level?

Mr. McNulty: Absolutely. In terms of the pace of introduction, that took place in the teeth of Conservative opposition. Conservatives said that it could not be done London-wide in the original time frame, let alone a year early. As an outer London, suburban MP—my constituency is next door to that of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd)—safer neighbourhood teams are making as much of a difference in the outer London suburbs as they are in inner London. The notion that the past eight years have all been about a zone 1 mayoralty is nonsense.

Ms Butler: In my constituency in Brent, murders decreased from 10 to four in 2006-07, which is the reality of the extra investment that has gone into the police. The Opposition need to discuss statistics in terms of the reality for people on the ground. That is still four murders too many, but there has been a huge reduction. Will my right hon. Friend discuss the British Transport police? When Transport for London took over the Bakerloo line, there were 50 additional British Transport police, the stations were cleaned, the number of guards was increased and fare evasion was cut by more than half.

Mr. McNulty: Again, I agree; my hon. Friend has mentioned another dimension. I agree absolutely that four murders are four too many—27 young people murdered are 27 too many. But again, Londoners should not be treated like idiots. If Boris Johnson is the Mayor on 2 May, that appalling—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The Minister knows what I am about to say; perhaps he would like to correct himself.

Mr. McNulty: If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, did not correct me, my right hon. Friend the Minister for London would have, according to the press—I probably owe her a fine. If the hon. Member for Henley becomes Mayor on 2 May, nothing will change dramatically in the magical way suggested by the pretty little package on crime. Most of its policies are overheated or already being done. London will deal with the issues together. It is absolutely false to suggest that the hon. Gentleman has some magic bullet, rooted as his policy is in the load of bogus figures from the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): Will the Minister acknowledge that crime statistics from whatever source—a council, the Metropolitan police or the Home Office—have their limitations? They relate only to recorded crime. Does he acknowledge that a large amount of crime goes unreported?

Mr. McNulty: Yes, of course I accept that; that is partly what the changes to the national crime recording standard are all about. However, I do not accept entirely fallacious comparisons before and after significant changes in the statistics. I agree with the import of the hon. Lady’s observation: we should not be squabbling about statistics, other than when they are
23 Apr 2008 : Column 1391
as flagrantly abused as they have been today. We should, and I want to, look to the policies and substantial ways in which we collectively—Tory borough, Labour borough, Liberal Democrat borough and all Members of this House—can deal with the issue so that London remains, and improves as, the best city on the entire planet.

Simon Hughes: I am very grateful to the Minister; I shall not intervene on him again. Many of us, across the parties, have tried to deal with crime in this city. It is still far too high, although it is going down. Some of us find it absolutely amazing that on a day when the Conservatives have chosen the subject and time of this debate, and allocated only three hours to it, the person whom they put forward to speak on this issue does not even give London the courtesy of being here for those three hours. That is absolutely disgraceful and symptomatic of a completely irresponsible Johnny-come-lately attitude on the part of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson).

Mr. McNulty: Let us be fair: the hon. Member for Henley gave us 40 minutes, which probably stretched his attention span. Let us not be unduly ungenerous.

Mr. Dismore: To square the circle, the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) was hardly here the last time we debated policing in London—nor was he here for the housing debate that we had immediately before this one. I want to put to my right hon. Friend the point that I wanted to put to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley). My right hon. Friend talked about the safer neighbourhood teams; does he also welcome the safer transport teams?

In Barnet, we have a team of 22 officers and police community support officers. My borough commander has praised it as effective in combating crime, providing reassurance and collecting intelligence. Will my right hon. Friend condemn Brian Coleman, the Greater London assembly member for Barnet and Camden, who described the new team as a gimmick when it was introduced? How does that square with what the Conservative party says about safer transport teams? It now says that they are a good thing.

Mr. McNulty: I am afraid that we get that sort of thing all the time. Much of the antisocial behaviour legislation that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds prays in aid as somehow magically discovered by the hon. Member for Henley was dismissed at the time of introduction as an utter gimmick that would not tackle the real issues in London’s boroughs. I fully accept what my hon. Friend says and happily condemn Brian Coleman in all sorts of ways, including for the reason given by my hon. Friend.

For the record, I should say that £140 million a year is being spent by the Labour Mayor on transport policing. That means 1,200 officers in the transport operational command unit, 450 additional uniformed officers in safer transport teams, as my hon. Friend mentioned—mostly rooted in outer London suburbs such as his borough and mine. There are more than 700 uniformed British Transport police officers on the underground and docklands light railway and 100 such officers on the overground rail system in London. They
23 Apr 2008 : Column 1392
provide reassurance and rapid deployment to crime hot spots. Furthermore, the Government have put in place a whole series of antisocial behaviour powers specific to the BTP, with the Mayor working very closely with it and the Metropolitan Police Service in that regard.

Joan Ryan: I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has yet had time to read “Enfield Council News”, which tells us, as I am sure that he will be pleased to know, that the overall reduction in crime in Enfield has been 5.3 per cent. Perhaps more important than that percentage figure is the fact that that means that there are 1,386 fewer victims of crime. That is a very important figure. Not all Conservatives are as decrying or churlish about that success in fighting crime as those in the Chamber. The cabinet member for community safety and the voluntary sector, who is a Conservative member, says:

I echo those words. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the degree to which this is being replicated across London boroughs?

Mr. McNulty: I can tell my right hon. Friend that it has been replicated across London boroughs. The most interesting thing is that three of my hon. Friends in the Chamber are from outer London boroughs—the areas supposedly being starved of resources and attention by the Mayor. I am afraid that I am a rather impatient man, so I did not wait for the latest edition of “Enfield Council News” but went on to the website, which refers to offences having fallen by nearly 10 per cent. between 2003-04 and 2006-07—a trend that continues in 2007-08. That matters in terms of substance, as it goes on to talk about notable changes such as motor vehicle crime being down by 17.6 per cent., residential burglary down by 8.9 per cent., and sexual offences down by 22.5 per cent.

Robert Neill rose—

Mr. McNulty: Those statistics matter and show what is going on in reality.

Robert Neill: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McNulty: I was not sure if the hon. Gentleman was rising—of course I will.

Robert Neill: I thank the Minister for giving way in his ever-courteous manner. Given that he claims that the Government have had so much success and invested such a large amount of resources, why were 27 teenagers murdered in London last year as opposed to 17 the year before? How is that a measure of success?

Mr. McNulty: That is almost beyond contempt and quite shameful in the context of 27 times pain and tragedy for local families. The notion that the record level of police officers who are on our streets would, if somehow further increased, reduce those tragedies is complete and utter nonsense.

Robert Neill: Pontius Pilate.


23 Apr 2008 : Column 1393

Mr. McNulty: No—absolutely not Pontius Pilate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I suggest to the House that we try to lower the temperature a little? Nothing is gained by personalising these matters or arguing for ever about statistics. I know that other things are happening outside this Chamber, but the House should also bear it in mind that this debate is really about what this House has responsibilities for. I should be grateful if the Minister and all hon. Members would bear those thoughts in mind as we proceed.

Mr. McNulty: I take your admonition entirely, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In the third or fourth paragraph that I read, and in my response to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Ms Butler), I said that the four murders last year in her borough were four too many. No Labour Members, or, I think, Members in most parts of this House, are washing their hands of the levels of crime in this fair city of ours. To be very serious, up to about eight years ago, when we first recaptured a London police authority, and in my own Department in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, there was perhaps far too much washing of hands and coping with acceptable levels of crime instead of dealing with it. That is not what has prevailed over the past 10 years, even on the sort of figures that the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) introduces and overcooks. There has been a significant decrease in crime, according to the Met’s own figures. That has been repeated quite happily by a range of Conservative councils throughout London, and I pay credit to them for assisting in that process, along with Labour and Liberal Democrat councils. We cannot have it all ways. We cannot traduce the figures, and by traducing them, traduce what every single policeman and woman does in service to London, nor can we have a series of policies proffered that treat London as though nothing has happened for the past eight or 10 years—as if it were year zero.

It was suggested that we get rid of the stop-and-search account. That is going to be done. The Government accept fully what Ronnie Flanagan says about the stop-and-search account. That will be done—so nothing new there. Section 30, section 60 and section 44 stop-and-search details are being looked at as we speak. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is certainly being looked at; I initiated the consultation myself some months ago. There has also been an undertaking by the Metropolitan Police Authority, under the Mayor’s tutelage, to look in great detail at every aspect of stop-and-search in London.

There are more police, with a greater uniformed presence on our buses and trains and in public spaces, such as stations. That process has been going on for quite a while. I had a hand in it myself some time ago, when I was the Minister responsible for London’s transport and I worked closely with the Mayor. He is a Mayor who, I might say, understands entirely how much a bus costs and how much it costs to run. As a starting premise, we should accept what our police, our police community support officers, our councils and the people of London have done, working together with our Mayor.


23 Apr 2008 : Column 1394

Mr. Evennett: I shall try to be constructive, but is it not true that the police are spending less time on patrol and on front-line policing than they were? Is the Minister looking at that, with a view to getting more police on patrol?

Mr. McNulty: Yes we are, as Ronnie Flanagan said in his report and, I hope, as we will say in some depth in the forthcoming policing Green Paper in the spring. I take some of the hon. Gentleman’s point to heart. More and more of our policing teams need to be out on the front line, and increasingly they are. We have heard a rather bogus slicing of figures this way and that by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, who used them rather obtusely instead of just using the figures themselves. I do, however, accept the starting premise of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett).

The absolute key has been getting neighbourhood policing teams in place in every ward in London. By any token, that is an astonishing feat in the defence of law and order. It is to the great credit of the Mayor and the leadership of the Metropolitan police, and it should not be traduced lightly by Johnny-come-latelies of any description, whether they can be bothered to attend these debates or not.

By the bye, Conservatives’ debates on crime in London are rather Olympian in nature. I have checked, and this is the third Opposition day debate on crime in London that they have managed during my 10 years in the House. They come along every four years. We had one in 2000, just before the mayoral election, I understand—the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey will know far better than I. There was one in 2004, after the election, and we are having one now. We are pleased that momentarily, perhaps every four years, the Opposition show some concern about crime in London. I do not decry that, but perhaps it might be helpful if they did so a bit more often.

We broadly agree with the other points made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds about sorting out crime in London, largely because many of them are being dealt with already. We have already made sure that the Met and other police services are moving towards ensuring that local crime information is provided so that communities can hold basic command unit commanders to account. There might not yet be a pretty little map, but if the extent of the contribution of the hon. Member for Henley to policing in London is that there should be a pretty little crime map as well as the information, God bless him.

With regard to substance, it is quite right that more and more is being done on our transport network and in our town centres. In many areas, councils working with the police are doubling—and more—the number of safer neighbourhood teams in specific town centres. That is all built on a good record that stands up to any sort of scrutiny. It is not sufficient and does no one credit to dismiss measures as gimmicks when they are introduced, yet now say they are the best things since sliced bread.

The Mayor of London has made it clear for some years that he wants the formula under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to be recalibrated so that more goes to the Metropolitan police and local policing services, rather than to the judiciary, the prosecution or the
23 Apr 2008 : Column 1395
Home Office. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that she was minded to consider that, especially in the context of drug seizures, and to ensure that it happened. At the time—barely weeks ago—the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) dismissed it as a gimmick, yet the hon. Member for Henley now apparently thinks that it is a good idea. Perhaps if the two connected now and again, we could get some consensus and have a proper debate about how that would help London.

An enormous amount of work has been done, although it is not enough—God knows enough tragedies happen that show that it is not enough. However, the tackling guns and gangs action programme has done much work, which led to Operation Kartel. Action took place during the February half-term in 11 boroughs, supported by TGGAT, which led to a 50 per cent. reduction in gun-enabled crime compared with the same period in 2007; a 26 per cent. reduction in knife-enabled crimes; 542 fewer personal robbery offences, and the seizure of 170 weapons, a good deal of cash and a kilo of cannabis. We are already considering purchasing 200 hand-held search wands for several operations targeting those who carry weapons. Those measures are not panaceas. Taken together, they will help to drive down crime and liberate our communities from its impact.

We are considering establishing a mediation service to prevent gun feuds from escalating. We are working with colleagues from the Department for Children, Schools and Families to try to ensure that the youth action plan and our tackling violent crime action plan knit together the contributions from a range of central and local authorities. No doubt that will be helped by the Mayor’s plans to bring a further 1,000 officers into the Met and by working with London’s communities to listen to and tackle their concerns, not least through the neighbourhood policing teams, which matter, as I think everyone would agree.

In London, the security and safety of all our communities is our No. 1 priority and I contend that it is the No. 1 priority of the Mayor of London.

Mr. Dismore: I am pleased that the Mayor, if he is re-elected, has identified the resources for an extra 1,000 police officers. However, is my right hon. Friend aware that Richard Barnes, the Conservative leader of the London assembly, said that he did not think that so much money should be spent on police in London? Of course, he knows that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) said that the police and transport should be subjected to cuts.

Mr. McNulty: My hon. Friend is right. On a range of other policies, we have heard nothing substantially new.

The Opposition tell us that withdrawing free bus passes from young people would be new and novel, yet almost 10,000 have already been withdrawn. We are told that action under the Proceeds of Crime Act and fighting for London’s assets are new ideas, yet the hon. Member for Henley voted to weaken the provisions in the Act and cannot afford us more than 40 minutes of his time. All those matters are far too important for anything other than a broad consensus on what unites us in fighting crime and offending in our communities.
23 Apr 2008 : Column 1396
That consensus appears to exist among most MPA and GLA members. London is ill served by trivialisation and shroud-waving by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and the hon. Member for Henley, who will remain the hon. Member for Henley and nothing more after 2 May. I commend the amendment to the House.


Next Section Index Home Page