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Bob Spink (Castle Point) (UKIP):
There are very few people in this House who have done as much as this Minister to tackle the drugs issue over the years, so I
congratulate him. Is he aware of the terrible problems caused by the date-rape drug, gamma-butyrolactone, and will he take action to control that drug?
Mr. Coaker: I will have a look at the date-rape drug that the hon. Gentleman mentionedI will not attempt to pronounce it. We will, of course, consider any drug that is brought to our attention, whether old or new, and take the appropriate and necessary action.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): Would the Minister confirm that, according to a number of measures, Britain has the worst drug problem in Europe? Would he further confirm that four fifths of all drug treatment and testing orders have come to an unsuccessful conclusion, and that only 5 per cent. of drug treatment in this country is abstinence based?
Mr. Coaker: I can confirm the following to the hon. Gentleman: if he looks at the new 10-year drug strategy that we published, he will see the use of the word abstinence, and will see that abstinence is part of the menu of options that should be made available to people who have a drug problem. Indeed, he will also know that we have received clinical advice that we should ensure that it is part of a menu of options, rather than the only option available to someone abusing drugs. I also point out that by any standardfor example, the British crime survey measurementoverall drug use is falling in the adult population, and it is falling among young people in particular. We ought to celebrate those facts, as well as deal with the issues that the hon. Gentleman highlights.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): The Association of Chief Police Officers tells me that from December this year, all forces will be able to publish neighbourhood crime maps as part of the policing pledge that I announced in July. The minimum standard required will be thematic maps of the same-crime categories, such as burglary, robbery, theft, vehicle crime, violent crime and antisocial behaviour incidents. That will be at least at ward level, and the information will be presented through easily accessible local crime information websites, which will make it possible for the public to make simple comparisons between neighbourhoods.
Mrs. James: I thank the Home Secretary for her answer. In Swansea, East, the police have been successfully using crime mapping to identify areas where they can target their resources. An excellent project is being undertaken in my constituency with Pentrehafod school, where young people are working with the police to tackle the causes of crime. Will she ensure that money continues to be invested in crime mapping, particularly when it is so successful in raising public confidence in tackling crime and the causes of crime?
Jacqui Smith: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was pleased to be able to visit south Wales recently and hear from the chief constable about the work that is being undertaken to develop local crime information and make it available to the public. As my hon. Friend rightly says, we need local people, who are the best weapon in helping fight crime, to have the information to work shoulder to shoulder with their local police forces and to continue to see crime come down.
Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Although I welcome the Home Secretarys comments about the publication of local crime maps so that the local community knows what is going on, does she share my concern that Essex police have recently regularly refused to provide information about individual crimes to the local media? The public do not know what is going on in their neighbourhoods, which contrasts with the Home Secretarys comments about the publication of crime mapping.
Jacqui Smith: It is obviously important that local police forces, such as the Essex police force, make the appropriate decisions, but I am clearas is ACPOthat we must reach a position whereby, alongside crime mapping, we provide much better information to local people and at least monthly opportunities for them to engage with their neighbourhood policing teams, which are now in every neighbourhood throughout the country, to know what is going on and what, together, they can do about it.
The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. Phil Woolas): Home Office Ministers discuss migration policy with ministerial colleagues on a regular basis through the Cabinet Committee structure, in particular the Ministerial Committee for Domestic Affairs Sub-Committee on Migration.
Several Departments are represented on the Migration Advisory Committee and the Migration Impact Forum. We also work closely with individual Departments on a range of more specific issues about migration policy.
Mr. Harper: I thank the Minister for that answer. Is it not the case that, when he said that it has been too easy to get into this country in the past, he was right, and that is the reason for the failure of the Governments attempts at welfare reform? In the past three years, 365,000 fewer UK-born citizens were in work, while 865,000 more foreign migrants were in work. I listened to his answer to the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). Even if he takes the steps that he announced, are they not too little, far too late?
Mr. Woolas: No, I do not accept that. If the hon. Gentleman is fairI know that he ishe will examine the policies of a range of Departments, including the changes that have been introduced today to incapacity benefit to help the welfare-to-work programme. Of course, the needs of the economy are being put first, as he says, by the points-based system. I therefore disagree with himI believe that the steps will be sufficient.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): Last week, the immigration Minister unrepentantly and repeatedly made it clear that he supports an upper limit on immigration to the United Kingdom to prevent excessive population growth. The Home Secretary has made it clear that she does not support an upper limit. Which is Government policy?
Mr. Woolas: I thank the hon. and learned Gentlemen for the question. There has been much debate in the House, including last Tuesday, although he did not take part, about the population trend that the Office for National Statistics published and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead so articulately highlighted. It identifies the total population, including the impact of migration. The Governments point, with which my right hon. Friend agrees, is that the points-based system allows for controlling migration for workers by a method that ensures that the trends do not come to fruition. That is the policy.
Mr. Grieve: I detect that, when the immigration Minister is in the sight of the Home Secretary, he suddenly starts to lose his independence of thought. It is clear that two Government positions are coming from the Home Officethe immigration Ministers and the Home Secretarysand they cannot be reconciled. If the immigration Minister wants to achieve what he says, and prevent a population of 70 million, there must be curbs on immigration. The Home Secretary does not accept that. Given that the Prime Minister appears to endorse the immigration Ministers view, are we to assume that we should defer entirely to the immigration Minister on those matters and forget what the Home Secretary tells us?
Mr. Woolas: I think that we have confirmation that those on the Conservative Front Bench have no credible policies. The Government have repeatedly stated that had the points-based system that we have introduced been in place 12 months ago, 12 per cent. fewer migrants would have come to this country to work than otherwise. In that wayit seems to be almost a primary-school mathematical point that the hon. and learned Gentleman is seeking to make political mischief out ofthe policy is reconciled. I wish that he could say the same of his.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith):
My Department is responsible for protecting the public from terrorism. I am now strengthening the rules to exclude from the UK individuals who foster or spread extremism. There is no place in our society for people who encourage violence or preach hatred, and we will create a presumption in favour of exclusion of all those who have engaged in this behaviour. Where it is in our interests, we will name those whom we stop from entering the UK. Those who have courted extremism will have to have retracted such views publicly before they can be allowed in. I am also taking action to exclude European economic area nationals and their families before they travel here if they pose a threat to
public security. Coming to Britain is a privilege. We will refuse to extend that privilege to anyone who wants to use hatred to undermine our way of life.
Ms Keeble: I welcome that statement. On a different subject, my right hon. Friend will be aware of the high level of concern about alcohol-related crime. Is she considering introducing proposals to tackle binge drinking and especially the heavy price cutting by retailers?
Jacqui Smith: I know that my hon. Friend has done a lot of work on the issue, not only in Northampton, but through the legislation that she sought to bring forward. As we made clear when we published the consultation before the summer, we are looking carefully into how we can strengthen the current voluntary code on promotions to tackle irresponsible promotions. As the consultation comes to a close, we will have more to say about that in the near future. I agree with her that we need to take further action to help to prevent binge drinking and irresponsible promotions.
T3.  Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): I was delighted in the summer when the Home Secretary appeared to indicate that the Government would support my campaign to make it mandatory for licensed premises to offer 125 ml measures of wine alongside other measures. Doing so would improve consumer choice at the same time as improving awareness of how much individuals were drinking. Are the Government proposing to bring forward such a proposal and will she meet me and the various organisations that have supported the campaign, including Alcohol Concern and The Good Pub Guide, to discuss how we can take it forward?
Jacqui Smith: The hon. Gentleman has raised a point precisely about promotion and how alcohol is marketed, which is the subject of the current consultation. I am sure that he will have made representations to that consultation, and I or one of my ministerial colleagues would be happy to meet him to discuss the issue.
T2.  Martin Linton (Battersea) (Lab): What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Mayor of London about the damage to police morale caused by his action in sacking the most senior police officer in the country for what appear to be purely political reasons?
Jacqui Smith: The Mayor of London did not choose to consult me before he made the points that he did to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who incidentally I believe to have played an important role in helping to reduce crime and develop neighbourhood policing across the Metropolitan police area. The Mayor, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Home Secretary have a responsibility to work together for the benefit of policing in London and nationally. I hope that from now on that is what we shall be able to do.
T4.  Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con):
My constituents and the people of Britain are deeply concerned about the level of both legitimate and illegal immigration to this country, which has apparently led to a forecast of 70 million Britons in the not-too-distant future. To his credit, the immigration Minister
also shares that concern. Could the Home Secretary specifically please say whether she believes there should be an upper limit on immigration and whether she views the prospect of 70 million Britons in the next 20 years with equanimity?
Jacqui Smith: My hon. Friend the immigration Minister has completely reinforced the view that I expressed last week in the debate on immigration, which was called in Opposition time but to which the shadow Home Secretary did not feel it appropriate to contribute. I have made it completely clear that assumptions about population levels increasing to 70 million fail to take account of the points-based system that we are introducing. As my hon. Friend has identified again today, had that system been in place last year, it would have resulted in lower numbers of people coming through those routes into this country. So it is completely consistent that our points-based system places a strong control over three fifths of those who come into this country, as opposed to the policy of the Opposition, which proposes to place an arbitrary capwhose number the Opposition will not give uson only one out of five people coming into this country.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): The Home Secretary will know that, last week, the Home Office was forced to admit that many police forces had incorrectly recorded serious violent crime, with the result that the figures gave the impression that levels of violent crime were lower than they actually were. What steps is she taking to ensure that that kind of situation can never arise again? Did it arise as a result of her Departments guidance, or was it a mistake made by the police forces themselves?
Jacqui Smith: I am sorry: I do not often have to correct my right hon. Friend, but I have to correct something that he has just said, which was that the change in the counting rules, which had been agreed alongside police officers and independent statisticians, meant that the levels of violent crime had been misreported. That is wrong. The levels of violent crime have not been misreported. In fact, the reduction in violent crime of 7 per cent. that we saw reported last Thursday is reliable and can be depended on. We were clear that we needed to ensure that, within the category of violent crime, everything that should be counted as most serious violence was so counted. That is why we, alongside the police, reviewed the counting rules and why some of the changes announced last week were made. It is right that, within the category of violent crime, the subsections that crimes are recorded in should be complete and consistent across the country.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): The consultation on the transposition of the EU directive in the communications data Bill will end of Friday. However, this is currently a menu without any prices. What estimate can the Home Secretary give of the likely cost of the proposed database containing every e-mail, voice-mail and mobile phone call made in this country?
The hon. Gentleman isknowingly, I suspectconflating two issues. The consultation on the EU data retention directive is designed precisely to help us to identify the cost of implementing that directive, as
will happen in every other country across Europe. I have also made it clear, however, that as we look to the future and to changes in technology and the requirement to maintain the capacity of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to use current capabilities in communications data, we will publish a consultation document that will make clear the challenges and the proposed options for dealing with them. I look forward to widespread consultation as we take that work forward.
T5.  Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): In the past two weeks, more than 2,000 residents of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham have registered their objection to a lap-dancing club seeking a licence in a residential area close to local schools. However, the task of opposing those establishments is made difficult because of a lacuna in the Licensing Act 2003. Will my right hon. Friend use the forthcoming policing and crime reduction Bill to ensure that local communities are given greater control over the licensing of lap-dancing clubs[Hon. Members: Reading!]by allowing councils to license such venues as sex encounter establishments
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): We recognise that there is public concern about this matter, and agree that current licensing arrangements are inadequate. Local people have legitimate concerns for objecting to the planned location of a lap-dancing club, and we want to empower local authorities to take account of those legitimate concerns. The Home Secretary has committed the Government to bringing forward changes as soon as is practically possible.
T6.  Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): I would imagine that Members on both sides of the House would deplore the use of animal experimentation for the testing of cosmetic and other similar products. However, the situation is different for the testing of medical products when there is no alternative. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that, when a licence for such experimentation is given, there is no persecution of the people undertaking those tests, be they in universities or other places of experimentation? In my own constituency, a couple of years ago, several people were persecuted for undertaking work to save the lives of others.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier):
We take this matter very seriously, and the Home Office is keen to stamp out extreme crimeindeed, any crime. In the case raised by the hon. Gentleman, after a lengthy police operation involving more than 50 police officers, the individuals concerned received 12 years each in the case of the three men who pleaded guilty and four years in the other case. I think that those sentences speak for themselves, as the maximum possible would have been 14 years, so I think that that is a good result. We have strengthened the law to enable us to prosecute people who take this unacceptable action. The Home Office tries hard to
ensure that we get the right balancethe hon. Gentleman properly alluded to itbetween allowing experimentation where no other alternative is possible and making sure that extremists are caught.
Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South) (Lab): May I tell the Home Secretary that the people in Blackpool and its police force are delighted at the extra funding made available for tackling knife crime, particularly in schools? May I ask my right hon. Friend also to press the trading standards authorities throughout the country to follow the example of Blackpool council in cracking down vigorously on those who sell knives to under-18s, which remains a big issue despite changes in the law?
Meg Hillier: The issue is not just about knives sold in shops, but those sold on the internet. My hon. Friend should be commended for his efforts in promoting awareness of knife crime for many years. It is interesting to note that Lancashireincluding Blackpool, of courseis one of the areas involved in the tackling knives action plan. When the police used their search equipment, they found no weapons, but their test purchase operations during the weekend of 18-19 October, which concentrated on markets and discount shops, recorded a 40 per cent. failure by those shopkeepers to follow procedures when they sold weapons to under-age people. Prosecutions are now pending; I look forward to the results coming through.
T7.  Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware of the real concern across my constituency about antisocial behaviour? Does she agree with the Police Federation that 24-hour drinking has stretched the police to breaking point and contributed to rising levels of antisocial behaviour?
Jacqui Smith: The Police Federation and I have discussed the issue and it has recognised that changes in the licensing legislation have not, in most cases, led to much longer opening hours and that there has been an overall reduction in violent crime against individuals during the evenings. The Police Federation will continue to work with us on the work that I mentioned earlier, which is intended to make sure that we clamp down particularly on irresponsible promotions in areas where the link to crime and disorder is most obvious.
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