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The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): I visited Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Syria and Lebanon between 16 and 19 November. In Israel I met Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, Defence Minister Barak and opposition leader Netanyahu. In Ramallah, I met President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. In Syria I met President Assad and Foreign Minister Muallem. In Lebanon I met President Sleiman, Prime Minister Siniora and several senior political leaders. I also heard the perspectives of students, journalists, religious leaders and civil society activists. I spoke to them all about the current situation in the region, the prospects for progress towards a just and lasting settlement of the middle east conflict, and how the UK is seeking to reinforce the efforts made this year to contribute to a stronger more comprehensive peace effort in 2009.
The Annapolis process has been important in building understanding between the parties. It has helped restate the fundamentals of a negotiated settlement, and that there is no viable alternative to a two-state solution. The Israel-Syria talks are a promising beginning. We should build on these to create a fresh dynamic: a more comprehensive process that can deliver a broader peace across the region.
In all four places, I made the case for accepting compromises and taking decisions for peace. I made it clear that we recognised that all faced hard choices: Israel fulfilling its roadmap commitment on illegal settlements and improving conditions on the west bank, and particularly Gaza, consistent with Israeli security concerns; the Palestinians finding a way to reunite around negotiations and non-violence; Syria moving towards playing a constructive, rather than destructive role, helping restrain the militants and restating its commitment to the Arab peace initiative; and an independent and democratic Lebanese Government surmounting sectarianism to build a state that can deliver peace and security for its people.
I heard much about the challenges. In Israel, I discussed the threat from Iran and I saw first hand the rockets which have been fired at Sderot. I also heard much about the suffering in Gaza. It is vital that both sides seek to reinforce the ceasefire: Hamas by engaging with President Abbas and moving to non-violence and the Quartet principles; and Israel by easing restrictions on life in Gaza. The recent tightening of these restrictions on humanitarian accessas highlighted by the UN Secretary-Generalis of serious concern and while I welcome the re-opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing on 24 November, I support the UN Secretary-Generals call for Israel to permit the sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of Gaza.
My visit to Syria was the first at a senior political level since the then Prime Ministers visit in 2001. Syria is an important regional player with a significant role to play in securing stability in the region. I visited now because Syria has taken some positive steps recently including beginning talks with Israel and undertaking
to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon. It came after a series of meetings with the Syrian Foreign Minister in which they had indicated a desire for a better relationship with the UK. I was clear about areas of concern: Lebanon; the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq; counter-terrorism; MEPP; and human rightsbut I welcomed the positive moves they had made and expressed a willingness to build on these. Syria has an important choice before it: to be a force for stability or instability. I urged Syria to take the former.
The thread running through the visit was the need for a comprehensive peace and for all to work for it. The UK will continue to work closely with those in the region and beyond to reinforce the peace process and work to create hope that progress is possible.
The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Vernon Coaker): I have today placed in the Library our proposals for allocation of police grant for England and Wales for 2009-10, with indicative allocations for 2010-11. I intend to implement the proposals on police grant subject to consideration of any representations and to the approval of the House.
The Government announced last year provisional funding totals for the three-year period 2008-09 to 2010-11. Three-year settlements were widely welcomed by police authorities, enabling them to develop medium-term financial strategies and control their spending. The recent multi-year pay deal for the police will help improve further still their medium-term planning. We intend to implement the settlement for 2009-10 broadly unchanged from last years announcement.
The funding settlement for next year is built on considerable investment in the police service since 1997-98. On a like-for-like basis, Government grant for the police will have increased by over 60 per cent. or over £3.7 billion between 1997-98 and 2010-11. This has helped to expand local policing considerably. Police officer numbers at the end of March this year remain historically high at 140,230 (14,405 more than 1997). The police work force overall, including officers, support staff and community support officers, has increased by 27.5 per cent. (50,246) since 1997 to 233,263 in March 2008, a record number. The work force increased by 3,166 (+1.4 per cent.) between March 2007 and March 2008.
The police reform programme continues. The Policing Green Paper From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our communities together was published on 17 July. It set out the Governments vision for the future of policing and put forward proposals to empower citizens, professionalise and free the police from unnecessary bureaucracy and to sharpen the strategic role of Government. Over 300 formal responses to consultation were received. Home Office Ministers and officials have met over a thousand people to share views and prompt debate. We are considering the many views that were put forward and will produce a public response to the consultation shortly setting out the Governments position and plans for implementation.
We have made good progress to date in implementing Sir Ronnie Flanagans recommendations on reducing bureaucracy. We are also developing the new, single national target on confidence. This target is to increase public confidence that agencies are tackling local crime and antisocial behaviour priorities.
Neighbourhood policing is continuing to transform police forces relationships with their communities through closer engagement with local people, joint problem solving and working together to make changes for the longer term to make communities safer. Every community in England and Wales now has a dedicated neighbourhood policing team aiming to identify and tackle the key policing priorities identified by local people. The next phase of neighbourhood policing will concentrate on integrating with other local authority services at a neighbourhood level. Neighbourhood crime and justice co-ordinators will help ensure that this is delivered faster and further. This next phase will also build on good practice to deliver a national pledge that guarantees the public key service standards.
The Home Office also contributes £76 million to the safer and stronger communities fund and the young persons substance misuse partnership grant delivered by local government. In addition, the capital element of the safer and stronger communities fund remains at £18 million. This funding will help local areas to deliver national and local improvement priorities such as those set out in local area agreements.
|Table1: Police Revenue Funding Settlement 2009-10 compared with 2008-09|
|(1)This figure includes the formula grant allocations in table 2 plus former specific grants (£208m) that are now added to general grant but are not distributed according to the formula.|
Police funding proposals within the local government finance system for England are being announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government today and those for Wales by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Provisional general policing grants (for example, Home Office police grant, revenue support grant and national non domestic rates) for English and Welsh police authorities in 2009-10 are set out at table 2. Indicative figures for 2010-11 are given in table 3.
Within the general grant provision of 2.7 per cent., the funding floor was set at 2.5 per cent. for each of the CSR years. Each police authority in England and Wales is guaranteed an increase of at least this level. The grant floor provides for stability but at the same time a degree of grant scaling has enabled us to target resources to areas with greater relative need. Our promised review of the funding formula before the next CSR is already under way with active collaboration from the police community.
The Government are clear that there is no excuse for excessive increases in precepts on council tax next year. We will not hesitate to use capping powers to deal with excessive council tax increases in 2009-10, including requiring authorities to re-bill if necessary. We took capping action against seven police authorities in 2008-09. This included designating Cheshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire police authorities for capping in advance for 2009-10. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government is announcing today that action is being taken forward to limit these authorities precept increases to around 3 per cent. in 2009-10. The three authorities have 21 days in which to challenge our decision. Any challenges will be carefully considered before final decisions are taken.
I have again ensured that Welsh police authorities are treated in line with English police authorities. I have provided additional support of £15.5 million in 2009-10 to ensure that Dyfed-Powys, Gwent and North Wales police authorities receive at least a minimum grant increase of 2.5 per cent. Floor funding is also partly funded by reducing police grant to South Wales police authority, so that it too will receive the level of grant it would if it were in England.
There are some small changes between funding for the four Welsh police authorities due to corrected data from the Welsh Assembly Government on the number of band D properties in Wales. This correction has no effect on the amount or distribution of funds for English police authorities.
Counter-terrorism fundingWe will continue to invest in counter-terrorism policing. As announced last year, funding for police counter-terrorism will be increased from £524 million in 2008-09 to £552 million in 2009-10.
Neighbourhood policing We will maintain the ring-fence on this funding for at least the next two years to ensure that it is properly embedded. Funding will increase by an average of 2.7 per cent. in each year. A total of £332 million will be made available in 2009-10.
Basic command unit fund This will run for one final year at the same level as in 2008-09, £40 million, while plans are developed for a new community safety fund to be created from the resources in the existing BCU fund from April 2010.
Protective servicesWe made available an additional £35 million from 2008-09 to 2010-11 to support tackling serious organised crime and other protective services £1l million a year was provided in the first two years, rising to £13 million in 2010-11, to ensure all forces meet the national standards for capability and capacity in protective services by 2011.
Guns, gangs and knives In 2008-09, £6.8 million was made available to the 10 police forces in the tackling knives action programme to enable them and their partners to undertake additional activity to tackle knife crime and gang-related violence. For 2009-10, we will consider making additional specific grant available to areas where knife and gun crime is particularly prevalent or there are significant concerns over gang-related activity. This will enable the police and their partners to bear down on serious violence in our communities.
The safer and stronger communities fundResource element of £61 million and the young peoples substance misuse grant of £15 million will continue to be paid into the area-based grant for 2009-10. The safer and stronger communities fund capital element will remain at £18 million, and will be paid direct to local authorities by the Home Office.
In addition to the general provision of capital grant in 2008-09, a £50 million capital fund was provided to increase the number of handheld computers in use by frontline officers. In view of the enthusiastic response from frontline officers, and the success of the programme, a further £25 million capital was announced in the Policing Green Paper as part of our campaign to reduce bureaucracy, making a total of £75 million for the whole programme over the CSR years.
Improving performance and increasing efficiency remains critical. We are acutely aware that all provisions for the police must be fully justified. At local level, as we set out in the Policing Green Paper, it is for police authorities to set ambitious local targets and to hold their service to account for delivery. Full weight will have to be given to the importance of driving increased efficiency and productivity across the public sector.
|Table 2: Police Grant Allocations by English and Welsh Police Authority 2008-09|
|2008-09||2009-10||Change on 2008-09|
|Formula Allocation(1)||Allocation(1)||Formula Allocation|
|Notes to tables 2 and 3|
(1)Rounded to the nearest £100,000. Grant as calculated under the Local Government Finance Report (England) and Local Government Finance (No.2- Provisional Settlement Police Authorities) Report (Wales). Table includes the effects of floors and scaling. (2)Figures for the City of London relate to Home Office Grant only as calculated in the Police Grant Report (England and Wales). Revenue Support Grant is allocated to the Common Council of the City of London as a whole in respect of all its functions. The City is grouped with education authorities for the purposes of grant floors.
(3)Welsh figures include Home Office floor funding.
(4)Figures for 2010-11 are indicative
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