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4 Dec 2008 : Column 152

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If it turns out, on investigation, that the Home Secretary used incorrect words in her statement, would it be in order for the official record of the House to be so corrected?

Mr. Speaker: It is up to the Home Secretary. The words and the statements that she makes are up to her.

Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): Further to the point made by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) concerning our e-mails and the House of Commons server, Mr. Speaker. Can you confirm that the House of Commons server is covered by the Wilson doctrine, and that it cannot be accessed by the police or any other authorities to access our e-mails in order to investigate circumstances that we lawfully as Back Benchers and Members of this House have taken up on behalf of our constituents and others?

Mr. Speaker: As the Chairman of the House of Commons Commission, I have a serious responsibility to look after the computer system that we all use, including myself. I will look into this matter, rather than give an off-the-cuff answer from the Chair.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Further to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), Mr. Speaker. Given the unreliability of the information upon which the Home Secretary has relied today, how on earth can this House possibly give any credence to anything that the Home Secretary has said today in respect of the Metropolitan police? [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. So far there has been some excitement in the Chamber, but we have kept our comments temperate, and we should continue to do so.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): On a temperate point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has the Home Secretary given you any notice that she intends to place in the Library of the House a list of the actual—not potential—leaks that led to the calling in of the police, so that Members will be able to see whether any of them involved national security, something that she has refused to tell us today?

Mr. Speaker: That is certainly not a point of order. It is a matter for the Home Secretary.

Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In line with your suggestion of temperate language, have you considered the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) about the intemperate language used by the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change when he, in effect, accused my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) of procuring a spy, giving information on political opponents and stealing confidential information?

Mr. Speaker: That is not point of order. There are times when I tell Ministers that they should be temperate in their language, but I make no comment on the point that has been raised.

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Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With regard to the Speaker’s Committee on the search of offices on the parliamentary estate, could you clarify the situation and perhaps give the Leader of the House an opportunity to retract her suggestion about who is able to choose the members of that Committee? Yesterday, in your statement, you said clearly that you would be setting up

In business questions earlier, the Leader of the House said also that she believed that you would be nominating that Committee, but the motion for Monday says that the seven Members appointed by the Speaker will be

In other words, you and you alone will not be able to choose the Members. Our understanding is that the membership would be selected by you and you alone.

Mr. Speaker: I have expressed my wish, and I stand by my statement. The right hon. Lady may recall that one hon. Member did ask about the terms of the motion, and I made it perfectly clear that the rules of this House say that it is for the Government to put down the motion. All I can say to this House is that there is also a facility to put down amendments. I cannot go any further than that.

John Reid (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following the point of order made by the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), who asked the Home Secretary whether she would give a list of documents that have been leaked from the Department, I know from experience that by definition the only person who knows what has been leaked from that Department is the recipient of the leaked documents. Would you therefore urge anyone who has received anything that concerns national security to bring it before the whole House?

Mr. Speaker: I think that it is time to move on.

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Bills Presented

Business Rate Supplements Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Hazel Blears, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Geoff Hoon, John Healey, Mr. Pat McFadden and Mr. Sadiq Khan, presented a Bill to confer power on the Greater London Authority and certain local authorities to impose a levy on non-domestic ratepayers to raise money for expenditure on projects expected to promote economic development, and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 8 December, and to be printed (Bi ll 2 ) with explanatory notes (Bill 2 -EN).

Saving Gateway Accounts Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary James Purnell, Mr. Secretary Woodward, Secretary Paul Murphy, Yvette Cooper, Secretary Jim Murphy, Mr. Stephen Timms, Angela Eagle and Ian Pearson, presented a Bill to make provision about Saving Gateway accounts; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 8 December, and to be printed (Bill 3 ) with explanatory notes (Bill 3 -EN ).

Banking Bill

Presentation and resumption of proceedings (Standing Order No. 80A)

Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary David Miliband, Secretary Jack Straw, Secretary Jacqui Smith, Mr. Secretary Hutton, Yvette Cooper, Stephen Timms, Angela Eagle and Ian Pearson, presented a Bill to make provision about banking.

Bill read the First and Second time without Question put (Standing Order No. 80A and Order (14 October)); to be read the Third time on Monday 8 December, and to be printed (Bill 6 ) with explanatory notes (Bill 6-EN ).

Political Parties and Elections Bill

Presentation and resumption of proceedings (Standing Order No. 80A)

Mr. Secretary Straw, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Hazel Blears, Edward Miliband and Michael Wills, presented a Bill to make provision in connection with the Electoral Commission; and to make provision about political donations and expenditure and about elections and electoral registration.

Bill read the First and Second time without Question put (Standing Order No. 80A and Order (20 October)); to be considered on Monday 8 December, and to be printed (Bill 4 ) with explanatory notes (Bill 4- EN).

Corporation Tax Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary James Purnell, Yvette Cooper, Mr. Stephen Timms, Mr. Gareth Thomas, Angela Eagle and Ian Pearson, presented a Bill to restate, with minor changes, certain enactments relating to corporation tax; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 8 December, and to be printed (Bill 1 ) with explanatory notes (Bill 1 - EN).

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Debate on the Address

[2nd day]

Debate resumed (Order, 3 December)

Question again proposed,

Home Affairs and Justice

12.31 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): It is a great privilege to open the debate on the Gracious Speech.

Yesterday, the Gracious Speech made clear our commitment to supporting families and businesses through difficult economic times. Today’s debate builds on that commitment to economic security with plans to strengthen security in our neighbourhoods and on our borders, and the ties that bind our communities.

With families working harder and more demands being placed on public resources, fair rules are essential to ensure that everyone is playing their part. Fair rules make for strong communities. That means supporting those who play by the rules, standing shoulder to shoulder with communities and giving them a fair say in setting the rules, and ensuring that those who do not play by the rules are punished in a way that reinforces public confidence.

The measures that we are introducing in the Session build on the solid foundations that we have laid since 1997. Crime is down by nearly 40 per cent., with burglary and car crime more than halved. The likelihood of being a victim of crime is lower now than at any time in more than 25 years.

The Government have taken tough and determined action to nip antisocial behaviour in the bud and turn the tables on the small minority of persistent offenders who try to make life a misery for the law-abiding majority in our communities.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I am listening carefully to the Home Secretary. May we consider violent crime? The briefing document that was supplied to Ministers—I believe that it is one of the other leaks in this place—acknowledged that violent crime was increasing, whereas the Government previously claimed that it was decreasing. Will she clarify the position?

Jacqui Smith: The hon. and learned Gentleman knows from the British crime survey and the recorded crime figures that violent crime has decreased in the past year. That demonstrates the tremendous job that the police and their partners do across the country. We have delivered neighbourhood policing in every neighbourhood throughout England and Wales. By the end of the year, we will deliver a policing pledge in every force—a new deal between the police and the public, setting out for the first time the standards of service that people can expect their force to meet.

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Alongside the pledge, there will be greater accountability to local communities through crime mapping and regular information updates, and through monthly opportunities for people to help set local priorities for local action.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): I am listening to the Home Secretary with interest. Switzerland has made an interesting departure from convention by voting to provide hard drug users with their drug on prescription. Is she willing to hold a dialogue with organisations that believe, through analysing the motivations for the Swiss vote, that that could be a method of significantly reducing crime in this country? Will she consider running similar pilot schemes in the United Kingdom to break the link between crime and drug addiction?

Jacqui Smith: We have already made considerable progress on breaking the link between crime and drug addiction by doubling the number of people in treatment. There has been a 22 per cent. reduction in acquisitive crime. We set out in the next 10-year drug strategy, which we published earlier this year, how we want treatment to develop. I believe that some prescribing pilots are already under way and we will want to evaluate and examine them carefully.

As well as the greater accountability to local people that I described, we will also introduce greater accountability to local elected representatives through the councillor call for action, which will be in place from next April. We will provide a strengthened and reformed role for police authorities through inspection and improved training and skills for their members.

Community crime fighters will be in each neighbourhood, helping local people get their say and giving our clear backing to people who want to get involved in tackling crime and antisocial behaviour.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): If the police look for things on any site, they have to explain to the owner that they either need a warrant or that the owner must be satisfied with a written explanation, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or other legislation. Are they the only two routes or is there a third?

Jacqui Smith: I think that I made it clear that the legal basis for such searches is outlined in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Given that we spent an hour and a quarter on the matter through the statement, it is disappointing that Conservative Members do not want to consider issues about crime, justice and immigration that seriously concern our constituents.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): May I take the Home Secretary back to the statistics with which she started? She knows that there has been an increase of about 22 per cent. in violent crime between 3 am and 6 am. That puts huge strain on our police forces. What will she do about it? Is it time to review the Licensing Act 2003?

Jacqui Smith: The review of the Licensing Act that the Government carried out showed that the incidence of violent crime remained unchanged on the whole. Alcohol-related violent crime has decreased, but I will deal later with the action that we should and will take on binge drinking.

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Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): In earlier debates, the Home Secretary said that she is keen for the police to build on their good community work by being responsive at all times to people who ask them for assistance. Will she report back on whether she has been able to take action to ensure that that happens? Not hearing back from the police causes a genuine problem with public confidence. Has she or her colleagues in other Departments considered whether, in supplementing the police in communities, more money and support could be provided for detached youth workers to assist with the problems that she experiences in her constituency, as I do in mine, so that those who are on young people’s side work with them, rather than those who are sometimes perceived to be against them?

Jacqui Smith: The hon. Gentleman makes two important points. I wholeheartedly agree that local people need and deserve to know the response that they can expect from the police. It needs to be a good response. That, with the agreement of the Association of Chief Police Officers, is set out in the pledge that chief constables have committed to delivering everywhere by the end of the year. It is important to find methods of ensuring that local people are clear about what they can expect because that will help build confidence.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about detached youth workers. That is why support for such youth work is an important part of the £100 million overall investment that went into the youth crime action plan. We are now in the process of distributing the money so that it can be spent and such services can be developed.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): It is fairly fruitless to bandy statistics about, as we have tried to impress upon the Home Secretary, although I entirely endorse what she says about neighbourhood policing. The scheme in my constituency, which works with the local authority, has been something of a success. She referred earlier to accountability. Given her passion for accountability, and no doubt for giving more power to a much more galvanised local electorate, what does she believe is the way forward for directly elected police commissioners, for example? Is this going to be part and parcel of the Bill that she is bringing forward, and what are her general thoughts on this matter?

Jacqui Smith: No I do not think that, and I have made it clear that I think that there should be an abolition of the police authority and a single directly elected police commissioner. That is what I have made clear previously and I still hold to that position.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): The Home Secretary mentioned accountability and more local involvement. Is she satisfied with the current arrangements for appointing commissioners to the Metropolitan police and, in particular, with the upcoming appointment?

Jacqui Smith: Yes, I am satisfied with the current arrangements for the appointment of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

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