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Alan Johnson: I agree with the hon. Gentleman: that issue is one of the most important parts of our anti-terrorism strategy. It is, of course, the subject of a separate and dedicated police presence, both in the regions and nationally. On how the costs fall, we are putting £2.5 billion into counter-terrorism in 2008-09.
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That will go up to £3.5 billion by 2010-11. I am sure that the issue of the right proportion to spend nationally and locally can be decided in a rational discussion with the regional security forces.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): I was very sorry to hear, in response to the previous question, that the Home Secretary believes that the identity card system will be a significant plank in counter-terrorism. How can that be when a good proportion of terrorists in this country are home grown? Those people will not be subject to the constraints of a voluntary ID card system in any case.

Alan Johnson: I hope that my hon. Friend heard correctly. I am saying that the identity card can be a tool; it is not the whole toolbox. Anybody who is dealing with counter-terrorism—I have talked to some of them already—will say, “Well, it certainly won’t do any harm, and it can be of some help,” but if anyone believed that it was the fundamental approach to tackling terrorism, that would be wrong.

My hon. Friend asks how the system could work. We know that the al-Qaeda training manual suggests that every agent should have a number of different identities. The fact is that locking in a person’s identity through their fingerprints and their biometrics ensures that no one else can pick up that identity. That will be an extremely useful tool in the fight against terrorism.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): Why has the Home Office made no attempt to co-ordinate the security response across the country when a tanker containing inflammable fuels is stolen?

Alan Johnson: I am not exactly au fait with what the hon. Gentleman is talking about; I do not know whether anyone else in the House is, but it certainly sounds a very important issue, and I will look into whatever point he wants to raise. I imagine that the security forces would ensure that there was a co-operative approach on that, but if he knows different, perhaps he could let me know.

Chris Grayling: Indeed, I do know different. Of course, last week, 12 people died when a rail tanker containing liquefied petroleum gas exploded in Italy. Last year in the UK, nearly 2,000 lorries were stolen. That includes examples of theft of similarly flammable materials. The US Department of Homeland Security has warned about the use of such trucks in terror attacks, so will the Home Secretary please go back to his office, put in place an urgent review of the situation, and make a written statement to the House later this week about what he can do to address the situation.

Alan Johnson: I can do all of that, but let us not play games at the Dispatch Box. If the hon. Gentleman, who is in an important position, had a concern about security in this country, he should have been on the phone to me last week, not saving it up for a clever, smart question at Home Office questions.

Overseas Students (Visas)

6. Mr. Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): What recent representations he has received on the system for issuing visas to students from overseas countries. [283789]

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The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): Since the implementation of tier 4 of the points-based system on 31 March 2009, Ministers have received a number of representations on the system for issuing visas to students from overseas countries.

Mr. Holloway: One of your own Ministers has described student visas as a major loophole in Britain’s border control. What winds people up in towns such as Gravesend and Northfleet and across the country is the perception and the reality that you have mismanaged and not controlled—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman knows the correct parliamentary language, and I am sure he will now use it.

Mr. Holloway: What will the Government do to retake control of immigration?

Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman knows that the Government introduced the points-based system for the very reasons that he mentioned—to ensure that it is simple, transparent and robust, and that it does the job. Through student visa applications, it monitors who is coming in and it is making a difference by tightening up the loophole to which the hon. Gentleman referred. That is why we are doing it.

James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): One of the key concerns surrounding student visas is ensuring that appropriate checks against fraud are made. The Minister for Borders and Immigration has suggested that for visa applications from Pakistan and Afghanistan, officers based in Islamabad have more than 11 minutes to carry out initial fraud and forgery checks. Can the Minister tell the House precisely how much more?

Mr. Hanson: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary informs me that the hon. Gentleman’s figures are wrong, and that that is not the situation. We have more than 200 individuals dealing with visa applications in Islamabad, and that is important. My hon. Friend the Minister for Borders and Immigration would be present today, were he not in Calais announcing £15 million worth of new technology to stop people coming into the country via Calais. We will look at those issues, but I advise the hon. Gentleman that his perception is not our perception on the matter.

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): The Minister will be aware that because of the system, a significant number of foreign students, particularly from countries such as the United States, have thrown in the towel in their attempts to come and join courses at UK universities. A number of public universities in the UK will be in financial difficulty because their students will not be turning up from overseas in September, and the future looks exceedingly bleak. Will he please look into the matter and, for once, co-ordinate with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills?

Mr. Hanson: Again, from our perspective the points system is meant to be simple, transparent, objective and robust. There is an online calculator where people can examine this. A phased introduction of the scheme is taking place. We have had a number of applications to
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date and the number of failures has been very small. I will certainly consider the points that the hon. Lady raises and pass them on to my hon. Friend the Minister for Borders and Immigration, but the purpose of the system is to make sure that we know who is coming in, that it is secure and that it provides robust and transparent operations.

Policing Priorities (Public Participation)

7. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): What plans he has to increase public participation in the determination of policing priorities. [283790]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): The single confidence target puts the public at the heart of local policing. The policing pledge guarantees regular public meetings that will help determine local priorities. We are strengthening police authorities’ responsibility to consider the views of the public. All this is backed up by a strengthened inspectorate acting in the public’s interest.

Mr. Swayne: Would it not be a much better idea simply to elect people capable of making those decisions? If the Minister thinks that is a good idea—it seems to work elsewhere in the English-speaking world—it is our policy, so the best way of implementing it would be to have a general election very soon.

Mr. Hanson: I could happily fight an election in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency on the basis of crime. He knows that over the past five years, domestic burglary in Hampshire has fallen by 22 per cent. and vehicle crime in Hampshire by 26 per cent. Police numbers in Hampshire are up and Hampshire funding is up by £109 million over the 11 years of this Government to date. If he wants to fight on those figures showing crime down, investment up and more police officers, I will happily take him on.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): A moment ago we discovered that the Home Secretary pays no attention to the information that he gives in written answers to me, so let us try another written answer. Why has the amount of time that police officers spend on incident-related paperwork risen so sharply in the past year? How is that consistent with the stated aim of the policing pledge for officers to spend 80 per cent. of their time on patrol?

Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman will know that that is old information. It dates back to a period before the policing pledge was implemented, and since the pledge has been implemented, the situation has improved dramatically. If he looks, as he will do later this year, at the figures on front-line services and reductions in bureaucracy, and at the action that we have taken since the pledge was implemented 12 months ago, he will see a great improvement. He will know also that my colleague Jan Berry, who has produced an independent report, will produce shortly further recommendations for Ministers to improve still further on reducing front-line bureaucracy. That is what the issue is about. Again, I say to the hon. Gentleman: crime down, police numbers up. That is a record on which I am very happy to argue the toss with him.

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Control Orders

8. Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): What his most recent assessment is of the efficacy of control orders; and if he will make a statement. [283791]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): The Government keep all counter-terrorism legislation under regular review. That includes control orders, where we are currently considering the impact of the recent House of Lords judgment.

Simon Hughes: While many people will be grateful on a one-off basis that the Home Office has given the relevant papers for Abu Rideh to leave the country and join his family abroad safely, will not Ministers now accept that the case made from the Liberal Democrat Benches consistently and by former Law Lords regularly, and now upheld by the senior court of the land, is that control orders should go and go now and be replaced by alternatives that uphold civil liberties rather than take them away?

Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman will know that I am not able to comment on individual cases, but the House of Lords judgment obviously raises a number of key issues. We are reflecting on those issues, and I assure him that, as before, the various House of Lords judgments will ensure that we remain fully compliant with human rights legislation. We need to look at and reflect on the question of disclosure in some control order cases, and I shall report on behalf of myself and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the House on the outcomes very shortly. We have written to the High Court to outline the Government’s approach; it is content with that; and we will respond very shortly.

Illegal Drugs

11. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What estimate he has made of the number of people addicted to illegal drugs. [283794]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): Illegal drug use is a hidden activity and the actual number of people addicted to any drug is unknown. However, it is estimated that 329,000 people in England were problematic drug users in 2006-07—that is, people using either opiates, crack cocaine or both.

John Mann: The estimate is 329,000, so, ever since I gave detailed recommendations to the previous Home Secretary, and the one before that, and the one before that, the numbers have gone up. Yet, the numbers in my constituency have gone down, as they have for overdoses, deaths, hospital admissions from overdoses, and burglaries. When will the Minister’s Department look at those recommendations and see why the system that is used in my constituency, and in Australia, Sweden and many other countries, is working and dealing with drug addiction, unlike the Government’s own policy?

Mr. Campbell: I am delighted to talk at any time with my hon. Friend about what works in his constituency, but he knows that we can report success in a number of areas. For example, this summer the millionth person is
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likely to go through the drug intervention programme, and overall drug use is down. We are not complacent in any way, but I do believe that we are making progress.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) raises a very important point. Does the Minister agree that how successful his Department and the Prison Service are at dealing with drugs in prison matters very much, first, because of the difficulties in prison and, secondly, because of the difficulties when people leave prison? Is he satisfied that the Prison Service is appropriating enough funds for the treatment of drug addicts and to deal with the problem?

Mr. Campbell: Funding has gone up significantly to achieve the results that the hon. Gentleman looks for in prisons. Of course, we want action to rid people of their drug habits and to end the link with acquisitive crime before they enter prison, but he is absolutely right: we need a seamless system. This means that when someone is in prison they receive the treatment that they need, that it continues when they leave and that, hopefully, they can break the habit and return to a normal life.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): Has my hon. Friend had an opportunity to assess Portugal’s great success over the past eight years in reducing drug misuse? Will he transfer some of that best practice to the UK?

Mr. Campbell: I saw the report from Portugal and I was left with the impression that it is too early to say what the effect of its change in policy has been, and we have to be careful in the message we send out about the harm that drugs do. We look at what happens in a number of countries around the world to make sure that we can learn lessons.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Is it not the case that many who resort to illegal drug use end up in prison because they commit crime to feed their addictions? The best and most cost-effective way to deal with the problem is to ensure that the treatment that such people need is given before they have to resort to crime. The fact is that not enough places are available. Would not ensuring that more places were made available now be a cost-effective and smart move by the Government?

Mr. Campbell: It is expensive, but for every £1 invested we save £9.50 across the life of a drug user. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need early intervention, and we also need to make sure that there are resources for treatment. We are seeking to achieve, and are providing, those things.

Incidence of Crime (Nottingham)

13. Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): What estimate he has made of the effects on police force expenditure of changes in the incidence of crime in Nottingham in the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [283796]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): Nottinghamshire received general grants of £132.5 million in 2007-08, £136.9 million in 2008-09 and £141.4 million in 2009-10—an overall increase
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of £9 million, or 7 per cent. As a result, chief constables have flexibility in using the resources and Nottingham’s police-recorded crime fell by 14 per cent. between 2005 and 2008.

Mr. Allen: Does my right hon. Friend accept that crime has fallen not only because of the excellent work of the police and the crime and drugs partnership, but because of the pre-emptive and early-intervention work of children’s, health and employment services? Will he consider the possibility of redistributing discretely some of the money saved within the police service, so that more effort can go into intervening on children effectively and early, and so that those children do not become offenders?

Mr. Hanson: My hon. Friend makes an important point. All that investment in early prevention, children and support to families has a good downstream consequence in reducing reoffending and stopping people entering the criminal justice system in the first place. The results will undoubtedly mean that policing resources are saved downstream. He makes an interesting suggestion; justice system reinvestment into other areas is key. I want Nottingham police to use up front the resources saved from the 14 per cent. reduction in crime, to help crime prevention methods such as those that he has mentioned.

National Identity Scheme

15. Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): What recent representations from members of the public he has received on the introduction of the national identity scheme. [283798]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago—before he arrived.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I thank the Secretary of State for that helpful answer. Is he aware that disquiet about ID cards extends well beyond Home Office matters to data held about health and many other aspects that involve many other Departments? The Government are clearly having great difficulty in keeping such electronic data secure. Will the Secretary of State ask his colleagues throughout Whitehall whether they, too, will contemplate a climbdown and decide to leave such data in private hands?

Alan Johnson: There has not been any climbdown. However, we need to be absolutely clear. When the House enacted the Identity Cards Bill, it put in place safeguards, checks and balances to ensure that the use of the information was restricted to the public interest, according to the terms of the Bill. The information on the identity card will not include people’s health records, criminal records or other information that various people raise from time to time. It will include basic information such as gender, age, address and the necessary status of the individual. It will not include any other information.

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