|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Home Office guidance to police forces and to law enforcement agencies in general is very clear on this subject. Cautions should be used only for
low-level offending and should be used for more serious offences only in exceptional circumstances. That sends out a clear statement that in my hon. Friends constituency, as in constituencies up and down the country, we should prosecute those who are brought before the courts for serious offences and use cautions only for low-level offences.
Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): Crime reduction partnerships are making significant progress across the country in reducing the impact of retail crimeassaults on staff and against businesses themselves. What priority is the Ministers Department giving to this issue since it has withdrawn all funding for action against business crime?
Mr. Coaker: As the hon. Gentleman will know, the funding for action against business crime was reduced a number of years ago. It was only ever initiated as a way of trying to encourage local crime and disorder reduction partnerships, where appropriate, to set up partnerships with businesses, and they have been extremely successful. We want to ensure that retail crime and business crime is taken seriously. I do not know what it is like in the hon. Gentlemans constituency, but in my constituency business is part of the CDRP, works well with local policing and is a priority for the neighbourhood policing team. We want to ensure that that level of priority is available to all areas and all businesses across the country.
Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): Greater Manchester police have made a commitment in their policing pledge to respond within 24 hours to non-urgent calls. That will be very good news for local people. However, can my hon. Friend ensure that CDRPs widely advertise their policing pledges so that local people can hold local police accountable for those pledges?
Mr. Coaker: My hon. Friend will know that in the national pledge there is not only the commitment that she mentioned, but the commitment to monthly meetings. We are now ensuring that every one of the 3,600 neighbourhood policing teams across the country will have a local pledge that is clearly communicated to local people so that they know what to expect. Alongside that, we have published crime maps that will allow local people to find out quickly, at the click of a button, what the crime levels and trends are in their areas. We hope that in Stockport and elsewhere in Manchester, as well as across the country, that will give people the information they need to hold the police to account and to take action where necessary.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): Now that the Home Office has ditched its proposals for directly elected police authorities, does the Minister accept that police governance is merely back to what it was before the Police Reform Act 2002, when his predecessors introduced national targets? If so, what will be different when the current Bill goes through? What mechanism will encourage police forces to adopt best practice and strive to improve if it is not a firmly elected and democratically accountable police authority?
The hon. Gentleman will know the reasons why we have, for the time being, put on the back burner the issue of directly elected representatives on
police authorities. If he had looked at the debate that we have had in Committee on the Policing and Crime Bill, he would have seen a well-informed debate on both sides of the Committee that wrestled with this problem. He will know that clause 1 puts a duty on police authorities to have regard to opinions within
Mr. Coaker: It is not. Police authorities will have a duty to have regard to the views of the public within their area rather than just trying to find out what they are. Her Majestys inspectorate of constabulary will inspect those police authorities to see what they have done to try to find out the opinions of local people. That is an important step forward that will make a real difference.
Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Lancashire constabulary, which has in recent months increased the detection rate of drug offences directly as a result of intelligence-led operations and targeted police activity working locally with PACTPolice and Communities Togetherand using community information about drug-related criminality? That is to be welcomed.
Mr. Coaker: I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the police in Lancashire; indeed, I take the opportunity to congratulate police throughout the country. There is no doubt that we get the most effective policing in areas with effective neighbourhood policing teams where people bring community intelligence to the police to tell them what is going on and to inform them of those who are bringing misery to those areas through drugs or other illegal activity. Effective policing takes place when the police work hard with the local authority, with other partners and with the local community itself. I was happy to hear of the example of Lancashire that my hon. Friend gave. I am sure that that experience is replicated in many places across the country.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): The Department for Communities and Local Government funds the preventing violent extremism programme in local communities. The Minister said, in a debate on the Prevent strategy on 25 June:
We try to ensure that the police are involved in determining where money goes.[ Official Report, Westminster Hall, 25 June 2008; Vol. 478, c. 92WH.]
Mr. Coaker: We work hard with the DCLG on the Prevent strategy. We also work hard with the police to ensure that the groups we fund in local areas are the ones which can help us to tackle radical extremism. The Prevent strategy is an important part of our anti-terrorist strategy.
I say to the hon. Gentleman that this is an extremely important area. It involves taking difficult decisions about who to fund in a particular local area, but if we want to make a difference, rather than just make ourselves feel better, we do have to take such difficult decisions. We sometimes have to get involved with groups that we
might not wish to, but the Prevent strategy, as part of the broader Contest strategy, is successful and it is making a real difference in many communities throughout the country by preventing the radicalisation of vulnerable young people.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): A key indicator of the effectiveness of measures to combat drug-related crime is the drug harm index. Since 2002, this has fallen by 28 per cent., representing a substantial fall in drug-related crime. Recorded acquisitive crime, often linked to drug-related crime, has fallen by a similar amount.
Philip Davies: With a 9 per cent. increase in drug offences between July and September 2008, compared with the previous year, is it not clear that the Government have completely failed to get a grip on this problem? Does the Minister accept that the drug treatment and testing orders, which result in huge reoffending rates, have been a complete shambles? Will he say what is going to be done to offer more drug addicts abstinence-based treatment orders, which are the only way forward?
Mr. Campbell: I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I point him to the drug intervention programme, which has had considerable successwe are more than meeting our target of involving 1,000 people a week. The evidence is that drug intervention programmes work to cut reoffending, and they have put in place the long-term improvements needed, instead of the revolving-door syndrome that existed when tackling drugs in the past.
Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), the drug treatment and testing order, which the Minister seems to think is going well, has been such a failure that the Government abolished it some time ago.
The link between drug-taking and crime is as strong as ever, and it is getting worse and worse. When will the Government recognise that and put more money into residential rehab, which is the best way to cure many of these youngsters, who are victims as well as criminals?
Again, I note a request for more money from those on the Opposition Benches. The hon. Gentleman may have heard me talk about drug intervention programmes, and I argued that they were one way of putting in place a successful method of cutting reoffending rates. He is right to say that the link between crime and drugs is complex, as is the link between drugs and the economy, but through the drug intervention programme
and work with persistent, prolific offenders, we are confident that we have put in place the long-term measures that will make a difference.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): Does the Minister believe that it is now time for the Government to consider restricting the terrible date rape drug gamma-butyrolactone? It leads to terrible sexual violence against women, and we need to control its use.
Mr. Campbell: I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his work on raising the profile of this matter. I can tell him that we are examining it within the Home Office and hope to bring forward proposals shortly.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): As many people will know, identity cards are to be issued to airside workers at Manchester airport in the autumn. No decision has been taken on the next stage, which will be issuing cards to ordinary people or to young people in 2010, but as they will be issued at Manchester airport, Manchester is certainly a strong contender for the phase after airports.
Mr. Leech: I thank the Minister for her reply. Does she accept that there is no evidence to suggest that identity cards will have any positive impact on dealing with crime on our streets, and that a much better way of using the money would be to put extra police officers on our streets to combat burglary, for instance, which is on a massive increase in south Manchester?
Meg Hillier: There are already more police on the streets than there have been for some time, but perhaps I can give the hon. Gentleman a little lesson in how the cost of identity cards will work. There is not a big pot of money sitting and waiting to be spent on identity cards; there will be money to spend on them only if the general population choose to take them up. It is clear from my conversations with the public and other stakeholders that there is demand for identity cards.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Given the hyperdiversity and hypermobility within the UKs biggest cities, does the Minister believe that it is sensible to consider either Manchester or the city that both of us represent, London, as testing grounds for this policy? If we are to have an identity cards system, would it not be the worst possible start to try to introduce it in one of the very big cities of the UK?
I am slightly puzzled by the hon. Gentlemans comments. We are looking to start with the airports scheme at Manchester airport and London City airport. We are still evaluating areas in which to start the general roll-out to the early adopters in the population and to young people from next year. We need to get going on identity cards. We have passed the Act, the scheme is under way and we are issuing cards to foreign nationals. I will be surprised if the
hon. Gentleman and his party do not wish to see an upgrade in passports, which is really what identity cards will build on, or greater controls and greater security in passports and identity documents in general.
Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): The Minister has just said that airport workers in Manchester will be one of the first groups to have compulsory ID cards. Labour Members may wish to know that those airport workers themselves proposed a motion that was passed overwhelmingly at the TUC conference last year, to oppose ID cards
with all the means at their disposal.
Does that not tell the Minister that when real people are told that they must have an ID card, they recognise the scheme as expensive, intrusive, pointless and a dangerous threat to our freedom? Why does she not save time and scrap it right now?
Meg Hillier: Both my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I have met trade unions a number of times. Most recently, my right hon. Friend met the trade unions from the airport on 29 January, on her visit to Manchester, and they were very supportive of the scheme. We are working closely with all the partners in the airports to ensure that the scheme delivers real benefits to airport workers, including on such matters as the portability of passes, to prevent very high costs and challenging circumstances for staff who often have to wait a long time for their security clearance before they are paid. Identity cards will speed that up, and we look forward very much to working with airports to ensure that the scheme works and that we learn lessons for the further roll-outs.
The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Vernon Coaker): Since April 2008 there has been a neighbourhood policing team in every area. The Green Paper confirmed our commitment to reducing bureaucracy and developing technology to free up officer time. It is vital that the police are able to do their jobs efficiently, without being constrained by unnecessary bureaucracy. The policing pledge includes a commitment for neighbourhood policing teams to spend at least 80 per cent. of their time visibly working on their patch.
Ann Winterton: What reassurance can the Minister give that the Policing and Crime Bill will effectively tackle the bureaucracy and targets placed on the shoulders of police officers, which have been described by Sir Ronnie Flanagan as straitjacketing them and prevent them from doing the job that local people expect them to do?
The hon. Lady makes an important point, but we do not need the Policing and Crime Bill to achieve several of the things that she would like to happen. We have already announced a large number of measures, about which I think she and officers in her constituency in Cheshire and others will be pleased.
They include the removal of all top-down targets except one. For example, the offences brought to justice target has gone. The only target in which the Government are interested is the confidence target, whereby we ask local people whether they have confidence in the policing in their areas.
The hon. Lady knows that Jan Berry is working on the other points that she made about bureaucracy. She also knows that Sir David Normington is compiling a report. There will be an announcement in the next couple of weeks, which will help to tackle some of her concerns and those of the officers in her area, about the way in which we intend to reduce the bureaucratic burden on our police officers.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): The police have had shedloads of money in the past 12 years, and most police officers work very hard. However, throughout the country, reports make it clear that police forces do not work especially efficiently and need to learn to work much more smartly. Will the Minister say a little more about the steps that central Government are taking so that the 43 police forces get their hard-working officers working more smartly?
Mr. Coaker: We have a number of programmes on work force modernisationfor example, to consider the best mix between warranted police officers and those who perform back-room, but none the less important, functions. Does some of the forensic work that goes on require a warranted police officer or an expert computer analyst? I think the answer is the latter. Similarly, it is clear that everyone would welcome it if we could modernise the work force so that we released fully warranted police officers from back-room functions to the front line. Indeed, to give my hon. Friend a concrete example, one of our measures is examining the balance between back room and front line to ascertain whether we can get a better mix that puts more uniformed officers out on the street, where people want them.
Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): Is the Minister aware that front-line policemen are despairing about what they can do with the 1,107 Roma children who have been trafficked into Great Britain by serious organised crime in eastern Europe for criminal activities? They despair because, if the children are under 10, they have no criminal responsibility and there are no Romanian or Bulgarian foster parents. If they are over 10, local authority social services have no room for them in care. If they are taken into care, they abscond, and if they are sent back to the country from which they come, they have nowhere to go because many have been sent to Britain by their familiestheir own parents have sold them into slavery. What is the Minister going to do about it? What can we do?
The hon. Gentleman, who has raised issues about trafficking in general on several occasions, makes a good and valid point. He makes an important point about children. The Government are considering what to do about trafficked children. We are wrestling with the important question that he askednot only what police officers should do, but what the state should do if it takes a young child into protective custody. What are we supposed to dolock up a child? Yet, if the child is not locked upin Holland, there is protective
custodythe criminal gangs come and get the young people, or the children abscond because the people who trafficked them contact them and tell them that the state is their enemy. All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that we are trying to find a way in which to deal with the matter. I have been to Holland to see examples there. However, although many people point to Holland as a utopia for dealing with trafficked children, the Dutch are wondering whether the policy is appropriate because children are absconding from the protective custody that they have established. Clearly, even the Dutch have not got it right, but we are trying to learn from them.
Mr. Coaker: We spend considerable sums of money on counter-terrorism. We have expanded the budget for counter-terrorism activity across the country. Indeed, the counter-terrorism unit in the west midlands, my hon. Friends area, is one of the most effective in the country at co-ordinating activity, both in its own area and nationally. Let me also say that counter-terrorism policing is not done instead of neighbourhood policing; it is done with neighbourhood policing because, as I said earlier, if we want to tackle terrorism, we need effective neighbourhood policing, as well as counter-terrorism policing.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|