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We are attempting to deal with the problem. Young people have been murdered in Greenwich and the council is responding, but the Conservative response to that attempt to work in partnership with the police is to oppose the £1 million investment and say that the
23 Apr 2008 : Column 1408
Mayor should pay for the taskforce. That is okay, but I cannot see £1 million for tackling those crimes in Greenwich in the Conservative mayoral candidate’s budget for London—I cannot see it anywhere. Again, there is inconsistency and local opportunism from the Conservatives.

My final point is about leadership. We have talked about stop and search and the confidence of ethnic minority communities. It is essential for police operations that the police have the confidence of all sections of our community. If the Mayor is to be the chair of the Metropolitan police authority, as the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) tells us, he will be at the forefront, encouraging people from all sections of the community, including ethnic minority communities, to join the police force. If he attends a parade at Hendon police training college, will he expect the qualified police officers who are turning out to celebrate him, their having been called “flag-waving picaninnies”? Would he expect any black police officers to smile at him— [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have already said to the House that the tone of the debate should be thought through very carefully by Members. If the hon. Member is bringing his remarks to a conclusion, as I suspect he is, he might want to bear those comments in mind before he finishes.

Clive Efford: I will take your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but this is an important issue for London. We are talking about someone who wants to—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The point that I am making is on an important issue for the House. I wish the hon. Gentleman to take my remarks very seriously.

Clive Efford: Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is no denying that the remarks that I quoted were written down. They are on record for anyone who wants to read them. The fact is, Mr. Mayor—[Hon. Members: “Mr. Deputy Speaker.”]—Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that the debate is taking place because the Conservative campaign for London Mayor has faltered, and the Conservatives are desperate to try to score some political points. Their candidate is fraying at the edges. In every public debate, he humiliates himself. The man has had an Eton and Oxbridge education but cannot add up; there is a £440,000 hole in his budget. He wants to pay for extra police community support officers, but the money is not there. There is a £140 million hole in his transport budget. Out of generosity, we should start a campaign to get back the money spent on his education, as it was clearly wasted. That is clearly the biggest crime to debate tonight. This debate is taking place because the Conservatives’ campaign has faltered, and we have proved why it has done so in this debate on crime in London.

6.11 pm

Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): I hope to please hon. Members in all parts of the House with my speech, as I do not intend to read statistics or to insult any candidate standing in the mayoral elections next week. I am sure that everyone in all parts of the House will know who I am supporting: the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson).

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I start by paying tribute to my local borough commander, Dave Grant, and his police force and police community support officers, who do a wonderful job in my constituency of Ilford, North, and across Redbridge. The hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) read out statistics relating to my local borough and said that in Redbridge crime had dropped. We should commend the Conservative council in Redbridge for taking over when the Government stopped its funding for street wardens, and for paying for those wardens with local taxpayers’ money, and not from the Mayor’s budget. We should pay full tribute to those who deserve it—to Councillor Weinberg and the council in Redbridge.

People want to hear us discussing today the issues that are important to them. Putting aside what the statistics show, last Wednesday night I attended an area committee and a crime forum in my constituency, and I heard people say what they are honestly concerned about. That is what I want to talk about today. Whether we are talking about crime or a fear of crime, people are worried. Elderly people come to me and say that they are concerned about going out in the evenings. Recently, I went round some of my local underground stations. My constituency has one of the highest number of underground stations of any constituency outside central London. I was quite upset to find that some of them are not manned; there was no one there. We recently found that some CCTV cameras, the introduction of which was lauded by all, including me, were not actually plugged in. They were not recording anything, either live or for playback later.

We have to be realistic, and we have to react to the issues that our constituents across London are concerned about. Colleagues in all parts of the House will forgive me if I say that sometimes I get concerned, and that I fully understand why people do not vote in any elections—a problem that we should all be worried about. The reason they do not vote is the way we conduct ourselves sometimes. On occasions, we should be ashamed of ourselves for that.

Bus usage has gone up, which is good. Train usage is up, too. However, crime relating to buses and trains, no matter how low level it is, is going up, too, and it has to be tackled.

What do I mean by that? A few weeks ago I was at a station in my constituency where I felt intimidated by groups of youths hanging around. I am sure the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) will understand what I mean, because the station is only a few stops from his constituency. If I felt intimidated—I like to think that I can look after myself—what would somebody more elderly or, indeed, younger, feel?

The police should be given the powers that they need. On a recent occasion I accompanied my local police force. They made an arrest and spent hours afterwards filling in forms. That is wrong. As was said earlier, the handcuffs should be taken off our police and they should be allowed to do the job that they are there to do and arrest criminals.

In the outer suburbs of London antisocial behaviour is a major issue. I do not believe that many of the youths who congregate want to commit crime or even mean to commit crime. They do not realise how they intimidate people in various housing areas in my constituency. I met them one Sunday and asked whether they would like their grandparents to experience the sort of abuse
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and intimidation to which they were subjecting people. None of them wanted that. I asked them what they wanted. They wanted an area where they could play football and an area where they could be away from other people.

Again, I commend the London borough of Redbridge under its Conservative administration for building a skate park and a cycle track and for setting up a drop-in centre where the youths can go, to stop some of the antisocial behaviour. In the area where that had happened, the ward had seen a dramatic drop of up to 60 per cent. in antisocial behaviour. I believe that that is due to the input going in, backed by councillors of all political parties on Redbridge council.

Harry Cohen: I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s initial comments and join him in paying tribute to Chief Superintendent Dave Grant and all his officers in Redbridge. Is not one of the key matters the London Mayor’s youth offer, which would give Redbridge more than £1 million for the youth facilities that, I agree, are so needed in the borough? The hon. Gentleman keeps paying tribute to the local Conservative council, but it has cut grants to the voluntary sector by 5 per cent., some of which would have dealt with young people, and it has had a failed policy on swimming pools. I think there is just one swimming pool in the whole of Redbridge. Young people could use swimming pools if they were available in the borough.

Mr. Scott: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I should be delighted to answer his remarks about swimming pools. There are two swimming pools in Redbridge, one of which has major health and safety problems. The council is committed to building a new swimming pool to replace it. Unfortunately, that is opposed by the Labour councillors in the London borough of Redbridge, but the council is pressing ahead none the less.

On funding, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) give a commitment that he would not cut the funding, and I heard nothing about any redistribution. He said that the funding would not be cut.

I shall move on, as I am aware that others wish to speak. Businesses and people in my constituency tell me that low level crime is not being reported, for a number of different reasons. It could be because people cannot get through to the police. That is no fault of the police, who are trying to react as best they can with the powers that they have, and they have to set priorities. A lot of crime—I do not like to call it petty crime, because it is not petty to the victims of it—is unreported. That skews the statistics, but I shall not go into the statistics because I do not think that matters. People in London believe that crime is an issue. We are duty bound to tackle it. Whoever is Mayor of London on 2 May is duty bound to tackle it. I, for one, pledge to do everything I can to do so.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I say that we do not have a great deal of time left? If contributions are brief, I will try to call as many hon. Members as possible.

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6.19 pm

Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): Three children have died as a result of knife crime in my constituency in a little over a year—Kodjo Yenga, Jevon Henry and Amro Elbadawi. I have sat with the parents of the two children who were my constituents, as has Ken Livingstone, who made a private visit, not making political capital, unaccompanied by the media and cameras. I have listened to their grief and to what they had to say about young people and the culture and the problems that have led in some instances to gangs and in some instances to conflicts that have got out of hand.

This problem, which has claimed the lives of 27 young people, is monstrously misrepresented as a failure of the Mayor of London and the Government. It has its roots in something wider and deeper, which requires a co-ordinated, strategic and investment approach, on which we must all work and reflect on the gravity of the situation. We should by all means have a political debate about why such things are happening, but we cannot reduce this to slogans, as we have sadly heard again to some extent this afternoon.

It is distressing to have listened to the mayoral debates, to have watched some of the media coverage of the mayoral contest and seen the Mayor of London accused of ignoring, belittling and failing to grasp what has happened to our young people. An example of that was when a London newspaper ran a story in January 2008 saying that Ken Livingstone had announced new measures to deal with youth and knife crime, and then a week ago ran a story saying that he was speaking out for the first time on knife crime. I do not have the articles with me, but that is part of a calculated misrepresentation of the response of the Mayor of London and other agencies to a deeply worrying trend that we must deal with together.

In response to that, we must continue with that non-accidental choice of investing in effective policing on the streets—the 10,000 additional police officers that have been put on the streets of London by the Mayor and the Government since 2000, reversing the long-term trend that my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) described so clearly as having gone into reverse in the 1990s. Our safer neighbourhoods police are doing a superb job, not just in helping to bring down crime, as they have done, but in building up relationships and intelligence about what is happening in the streets, which is so important.

They must continue to use their enforcement powers as effectively as they can and we can constantly refine the strategies for so continuing, as the Flanagan report helps us to do. They must use the new powers that we have given them, including stop and search, which is a vital tool, and stop and account, and they must ensure that never again do we return to that calamitous collapse in confidence and trust between the communities, particularly our minority ethnic communities, and the police that occurred in the 1980s, because that does not work. Whether people choose to bandy around the term political correctness, as they so frequently do on these occasions, let us just remind ourselves that that collapse of trust, confidence and community intelligence leads to more crime and lower detection rates. It fails on its own terms. We must all do better, which includes my local authorities, at integrating services and information
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between schools, youth services, housing managers, residents and the police. We must continue rebuilding our youth services, which were shattered, and the £79 million investment by the Mayor will help. It is no good having youth clubs, if they are not open.

Angela Watkinson: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Buck: I will not, because I want to finish my contribution to allow others to participate.

It is no good having youth services, if we do not have skilled outreach workers on the streets. We must ensure that we have not only warm words, but money to increase access to sport, rather than introducing charges that deter people from taking part.

I urge the Minister to laugh in the face of the dismissal by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) of the

and press ahead with preventive work with families. Unusually for me, I support the leader of Westminster City council, Sir Simon Milton, on this issue, who has said that he wants

He clearly disagrees with the dismissal of parenting classes and family work advocated by the hon. Member for Henley.

Crime is coming down, because extra policing works. It has not happened by accident; it has happened because we have invested in the police, youth services and preventive work. Every crime is one too many, but it is critical that we do not fall into the trap set by Conservative Members, who say that nothing works and that nothing can be done. They selectively quote statistics to try to indicate that crime is rising, when crime is falling.

6.26 pm

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate on an issue of great concern to many of my constituents, who regularly get in touch with me about it. Like many hon. Members, I have been disappointed by the tone of the debate. I am also disappointed that I am again the only Wandsworth MP to contribute to a debate about crime in London, which is a concern not only for my constituents, but across my London borough. My constituents have a number of concerns about crime. They are worried about their children; they are worried when they come home from work late, which I do when we have late votes here; and my constituents who run businesses are concerned about the lack of policing when they open their shops late, which I shall briefly discuss later.

Although we have heard a lot of talk about safer neighbourhood policing—we welcome our local safer neighbourhood teams—beat policing is nothing new. For years, having the police out in the community has been the bedrock of keeping crime down in communities across England, let alone London. The Government have rebranded beat police as safer neighbourhood teams, but community beat police officers are critical whatever name is used to describe specific teams in specific wards. In my part of London, we have to wait
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far too long for our safer neighbourhood teams to get their full complement. As I have said, compared with the number of warranted officers in the Wandsworth borough command unit a decade ago, we have fewer officers. We have police community support officers, who play a vital role in tackling crime locally, but they were never meant to be a substitute for the officers whom we have lost in Wandsworth. When my constituents find that their London precept for the Met has quadrupled to fund a lower level of warranted police officers in their local community, they do not think that they have got a good deal.

The officers work extremely hard. I pay tribute to the safer neighbourhood team in Roehampton, which is led by Sergeant Pete Salmon. Given the number of officers, it has done a fantastic job in getting out into the community. They work with the local community in not only places such as the Alton estate and the Lennox estate, but the university of Roehampton, which forms an increasing part of the Roehampton community as it grows. The team’s problem—and one that we as a community have in areas such as Roehampton—is that although it works hard, there is not enough of a police presence alongside it. I am thinking not only of the day time, when many of the safer neighbourhood teams operate; I am thinking particularly of the night time, when there are an increasing number of crime-related issues across my constituency. Safer neighbourhood teams that patrol during the day are simply not there at night, so they cannot address those issues.

I particularly want to talk about local businesses. Like many London constituencies, my constituency, which includes places such as Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, does not contain large companies. The lifeblood of our local economy is small businesses, which are particularly prone to crime. The window of the Putney Tandoori on the Lower Richmond road, for example, has been smashed two or three times. Time and money has to be spent, and the shop has to be shut down, for the windows to be repaired. That has a real impact on the profitability of a business. When businesses on Danebury avenue are constantly being raided, the circumstances do not make for viable businesses; I know that Greggs bakery there has had such problems. If we are to regenerate parts of London—and we certainly want to regenerate Roehampton—clamping down on crime and making sure that people feel safe at any time of the day or night is really important.

My concern about today’s debate is that it has not been on behalf of people; frankly, too much of it has been about point scoring by the Labour Benches. If any of my neighbour MPs in Wandsworth had been here to speak in this debate, they would have been able to make the points that the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) was left to read out. I look forward to finally having a debate on crime in London in which my colleagues—

Mr. Slaughter: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is the second time that the hon. Lady has criticised fellow Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan), for not being here. She knows full well that he is a Whip and cannot take part in this debate. Her point is very unfair.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Comments about who is or is not in the Chamber are always really a waste of time.

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