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Strategic Policing priorities

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): In July 2008 I was privileged to be able to announce that the British crime survey had shown that the police service, working with its partners, had achieved an 18 per cent. reduction in crime over the last three years. On the same day, I published “From the Neighbourhood to the National”, the Government’s policing Green Paper, which set out a radical new vision for policing in the 21st century.

The Green Paper set out proposals for the Home Office to take a much more strategic role in policing by moving to a single top-down numerical target for police forces in England and Wales, with the removal of all others set for forces by central Government. This target focuses every force on whether they have the public’s confidence that they are identifying and addressing the crime and ASB issues that matter most to their local diverse communities. In addition, building on the reviews of Sir Ronnie Flanagan and Louise Casey, we outlined proposals for reducing bureaucracy and introducing a new policing pledge so that police officers could focus on the public’s priorities and provide an accessible, transparent and consistent service that meets public needs and expectations.

It is in this context that I am today putting forward my strategic priorities to the police service for 2009-10. Under the provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002 I am required each year to set out strategic policing priorities (SPPs) for the police service and these provide the national framework within which police authorities then set their local policing plans. This year I have moved away from prioritising specific crimes and I emphasise the strategic context in which local accountability and planning should be undertaken so that forces tackle the issues that matter most locally and get best value for money for the public from the resources devoted to policing.

The move to a new approach has been highlighted in a number of national strategies, such as: the “National Community Safety Plan 2008-11”, “Cutting Crime: A
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New Partnership 2008-11” and the “National Security Strategy”, as well as the PSA cross-Government priorities for 2008-11, especially PSA23, PSA24, PSA25 and PSA 26. In addition, a set of local priorities will underpin the new policing pledge, which will also set out a common national entitlement for what people can expect from the police. It should be emphasised that neither the pledge nor these national strategies contain additional specific top-down numerical targets for forces, and are intended to support forces and authorities in responding to the local priorities that are agreed with local people.

Forces will work collaboratively with local partners—including through crime and disorder reduction partnerships and community safety partnerships—to meet shared local objectives. In England this includes those objectives that are agreed through local strategic partnerships within local area agreements.

I have laid great emphasis on the need to focus on local priorities in the Green Paper but, as its title “From the Neighbourhood to the National” suggests, it also delivers an equally vital message on the importance of delivering the national priorities. I have set out a vision that sees policing delivering a high quality service to the public at all levels, from the local to the regional and on to the national.

For serious and organised crime, I believe there is a continuous line stretching between these levels. This means forces need a continuum of effective policing in response, which relies on effective collaboration and co-ordination among relevant partners; and that means, in turn, forces and authorities working outside and across individual force boundaries.

Our expectation is that forces and authorities will work in the interests of regions and the country and to collaborate to achieve improvements. Collaboration takes various forms, from tackling serious and cross-border crime to the development of the national counter-terrorism network in bringing together intelligence, investigative and operational activity against the terrorist threat. This relies heavily on confidence in policing. The success of a key component of our counter-terrorism strategy—Prevent—depends, in part, in the confidence local communities have in their police service.

There must be a priority on the cohesive view of all aspects of policing, through building confidence in the service, and leading to a more effective police service at all levels. There is little benefit in increasing public confidence through local policing and ignoring protective services. These may be services with less of a public face and more uncertain demand, but they have the potential to impact heavily on public confidence if they fall short.

The Green Paper emphasises that greater collaboration across the police service is essential to mitigate this risk and to realise the necessary improvements in protective services. The same emphasis should apply for specialist crimes.

In summary, the SPPs for 2009-10 are to:

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International Development

St. Helena

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): DFID and Her Majesty’s Treasury are in continuing discussions about issues of concern regarding access to St. Helena. As a result, there will be a pause in negotiations over the St. Helena airport contract. The Government of St. Helena and relevant commercial parties have been advised of the situation and will be kept updated.


Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr. Shahid Malik): In July this year, my predecessor the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) announced that Ministers had decided to implement the recommendations of the independent review of the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody, 21 July 2008, Official Report, column 75 WS. The review itself was made public in February of this year.

The review made recommendations for significant reforms to the existing structures. Its central recommendation was the establishment of a three tier body, the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody. A ministerial board, which I will chair jointly with ministerial colleagues from Department of Health and Home Office, will include the heads of key agencies and will form the first of the three-tiers. The Board’s principal source of advice and recommendations will be an independent advisory panel on deaths in custody, which will form the second tier. The panel will be independently chaired and made up of experts in relevant fields.

Following a recruitment process conducted in line with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, I am pleased to announce the appointment of my noble Friend Lord Harris of Haringey as the first chair of the panel. Lord Harris has considerable experience of the criminal justice system and other areas of public service. The panel will play an important role in helping to shape Government policy in the area of deaths in custody. As panel chair, Lord Harris will be influential in setting the panel’s objectives, its programme of work and the tone for its relationships with other stakeholders. The new ministerial council will become operational from April 2009. Lord Harris will undertake some early work to ensure a smooth transition from current arrangements. I look forward to working with him.

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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's Ninth Annual Report

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): I have today laid before the House a copy of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s annual report and accounts for the year 2007-08 which was published today, in accordance with schedule 7, paragraph 5(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

This is the ninth annual report published by the Commission.


EU Transport Council

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I will attend the second Transport Council of the French presidency, which takes place in Brussels on 9 December.

The Council will be asked to reach a general approach on a regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004, which established the single European sky (SES). As well as consolidating the original SES package, the proposal aims to strengthen the network approach and introduces environmental performance. It offers a pragmatic solution to the drive towards improved performance of the European air traffic management system. While reflecting the need to set performance targets at an EU level, it allows member states to generate their own national plans to contribute to the targets. Furthermore, it recognises the need to examine pan-European network aspects by introducing the role of a network management function to facilitate greater co-operation in the use of scarce resources. In general terms, the UK is content with the draft general approach text being put to the Council.

The Council will be given a progress report and may be asked to reach a partial general approach on an amending regulation extending the responsibilities and competencies of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). EASA was initially responsible only for the airworthiness of aircraft. Its responsibilities were widened to include air operations, flight crew licensing and the oversight of third-country aircraft earlier in 2008. The present draft regulation extends EASA’s responsibilities to the safety of aerodromes, air traffic management (ATM) and air navigation services (ANS), as part of the single European sky initiative. Responsibility for implementing the rules is to remain with member states. The Government broadly support the proposal to extend EASA’s remit, but we consider that there are a number of technical areas where the proposal could be improved. These include clearer applicability and scope for aerodrome safety and a clearer licensing framework for aerodrome operators. The negotiations to date have focused on the ATM/ANS aspects of the proposal, and member states are keen to ensure that the regulation builds on the existing regulatory system established under the single European sky initiative.

The final item of the aviation agenda is in external relations. The Council will be asked to adopt two decisions authorising the Commission to open negotiations towards
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comprehensive aviation agreements with Tunisia and Algeria. The UK supports the mandates which are in line with others given to the Commission recently to negotiate comprehensive aviation agreements with a number of Mediterranean countries.

In the first of two items on land transport, the Council will be invited to reach a general approach on a directive amending the 1999 directive on charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of infrastructure—the Eurovignette directive. The UK is broadly supportive of the intention behind the directive, which is to allow member states more flexibility to apply the “polluter pays” principle within any lorry charges they may choose to introduce. Some member states are arguing that it is too soon to reach agreement so the likelihood of an outcome is uncertain. The UK opposes the Commission’s proposal for mandatory earmarking of revenues for transport and associated spending.

The Council will be given a progress report on the proposed directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. This was debated initially at the October Council, when the UK expressed its view that it should be a third pillar—Justice and Home Affairs—measure. The majority of member states were in agreement with this, and the UK has continued to take this line in Council negotiations. The UK view is that the progress report should make it clear that full consideration will be given to a third-pillar approach. This represents the best prospect for real progress towards achieving the improvements in road safety that we all want to see.

The presidency plans to put draft conclusions to the Council, arising from the Commission’s communications on the greening of transport, the strategy for the internalisation of external costs in transport and the reduction of rail noise on existing rolling stock. I expect to be able to agree to the conclusions.

The Council will be asked to adopt a resolution on the establishment of a European regional data centre for the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) of ships. This will be an implementation in Europe of a safety of life at sea (SOLAS) regulation, adopted by IMO in 2006. I expect to be able to agree to the resolution.

MOT Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): I have today published an analysis of the costs and benefits of the MOT scheme in response to a Davidson review recommendation on the subject.

Our analysis suggests that a significant number of additional road traffic accidents would be likely if MOT test frequency was reduced. This is primarily because the annual MOT failure rate is already high—around 35 per cent.—and if we were to reduce test frequency there is a very real risk that the number of unroadworthy cars would increase significantly. In turn, the number of road casualties would inevitably increase.

Clearly any significant increase in road traffic accidents or in the number of road casualties would be a wholly unacceptable outcome; and, for that reason, our view is that the MOT test frequency should remain unchanged.

I have placed copies of the document in the Library of the House. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.

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