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9.2 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills). He made a thoughtful and reflective speech, which, frankly, is in complete contrast to all the

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other speeches delivered from the Government Benches this afternoon. I was astonished by how relaxed the other Conservative and Liberal Democrat speakers were about the scale of the police cuts we are experiencing as a direct consequence of decisions made by this Government—by the Conservative party, which used to be described as the party of law and order, and the Liberal Democrats, who advocated extra police officers on top of the additional officers Labour introduced throughout our period in government.

Between 1997 and last year, there was an increase of 17,000 in police numbers, and at one stroke this Government are making a reduction of 12,000. There is a very significant difference between that and the reductions we propose and absolutely acknowledge need to be made, as referred to in our motion, and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) made clear in her speech. The cuts under the 12% figure cited by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary would be very different from those under the 20% figure that this Government are imposing on police forces up and down the country.

I want to be brief in order to enable other Members to speak, so I will focus my remarks on the situation in Merseyside. Merseyside has already cut 200 officers and another 80 police staff. The force had a moratorium on recruitment during the previous financial year, and that continues. As a consequence, it anticipates a further reduction in officer numbers of 200. In other words, one in 12 officers in Merseyside will be lost in the space of just two years, and for the remaining period of this Parliament the force anticipates a total loss of 880 police officers and 1,000 police staff. In other words, one in five officers will go. I know from my discussions with the chief constable, with other senior officers and with front-line staff at the police stations in my constituency that they are doing their utmost to protect the front line, but they have said that because of the cuts in Government funding, front-line services will now be looked at.

The Home Secretary said that local police forces had the option of increasing the council tax, and when I challenged her on whether she was advocating that, she was careful in her response. I wish to reiterate something that I have said in previous debates: the capacity of a local police force to secure additional funding by increasing the precept varies enormously from one police force to another. The key determinant of that variation is how deprived the local community is. Half of Surrey’s funding for the police comes from central Government and half is raised locally, whereas 82% of Merseyside’s police funding comes from central Government and only 18% is determined by local council tax. It does not take a mathematician to work out that the capacity of Merseyside police to raise additional funds locally is considerably less than that of the police in Surrey and in other parts of the country. The Merseyside force has made great strides in recent years in improving its efficiency and the quality of its service. That is why, although it is making efficiencies and will make further efficiencies, it is simply not going to be possible for it to balance its books without cuts in the front-line service.

I hope that the Minister will be able to say something about the importance of the work done by the safer schools partnerships and, in particular, by police working

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in schools. The previous Government piloted this programme in 2002, when I was a Minister in the then Department for Education and Skills, and it was brought into the mainstream in 2006. I imagine that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have seen the very positive work done by police in schools, not only to tackle bullying but to ensure higher attendance levels and lower truancy rates in schools. Last year, “Robby the Bobby”, who is based at Lower Lane police station and who serves the Croxteth and Norris Green communities in my constituency, received the Queen’s police medal in the Queen’s birthday honours list. I want to pay tribute to him because he does great work, and I have seen that work. More importantly, however, I cite him because the work done by police in schools is so important. I would like to hear a reassurance from this Government that the safer schools programme is one to which they have the same commitment as the previous Government had.

The Minister has responded to me on this point previously, but I ask him to respond again on the issue of the differential impact of police cuts on the poorest communities. I request him specifically to meet a Merseyside delegation of MPs and those from the police authority to discuss the issue, because we could make a real difference to the front-line service in Merseyside if we could reconsider the scale of the cuts and the unfairness involved in how they have a greater impact in a community such as mine than they do in a community such as the one that he represents.

The main focus of tonight’s debate is on the fact that by going beyond the 12% figure that Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has set out, the Government are endangering the quality of front-line policing in all our constituencies, no matter which part of the country we represent. For that reason, I urge the Government to think again.

9.8 pm

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): First, I should declare an interest as a member of the Kent police authority. In that capacity, I get very frustrated about some of the numbers that the Opposition throw around. The shadow Home Secretary said that Kent’s police force had said that it was going to cut more than 500 officers, but it has not said that. The projection, once made, of 500 was on the basis of an assumption that the cut in grant was going to be significantly worse than it actually turned out to be.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) set up this great contrast between the 12% cut that Labour is very happy about and the 20% cut that we are supposedly imposing, but he does not draw attention to two key differences between those figures. First, the 20% reduction is a real reduction rather than a cash reduction, so a two-year pay freeze accounts for a significant portion of it and helps to explain totally appropriate front-loading, because that is the period in which the pay freeze will take place. In addition, the 20% does not allow for a precept, and assumes that the precept falls as much as the central grant. If we take those two factors into account, the reduction in central Government grant represents a more generous settlement than the one that HMIC said it would be possible to deliver. That reflects the importance that we place on policing and on police numbers.

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The motion is predicated on the assumption that there will be a cut of 12,000 in the number of police officers because that is the number that ACPO has put out. However, that number was put out before Tom Winsor’s report was published. It is a very long report, and I look forward to reaching its conclusion over the recess, but I have read quite a lot of it already. Tom Winsor is saying that, even for 2012-13, on the basis of his recommendations, there will be a further £200 million of savings, over and above those that police authorities and chief constables have already been pushing towards. If we generously assume that there will be add-on costs of about £50,000 per police officer, that would give us enough money for 4,000 officers. If we implement what Tom Winsor suggests in his interim report, we would get the number down from 12,000 to 8,000.

That number will have to go through the national Police Negotiating Board, and there will doubtless be some pushback from the Police Federation and others, but in some areas Tom Winsor is actually being quite generous to the police in recognising the unique contribution that they make. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), who is no longer in his place, has suggested that 40% of officers would lose £4,000 on the basis of what Winsor has said, but that is quite wrong. Tom Winsor’s point was that, back in 1978, under Lord Edmund-Davies, a 9% shift allowance for unsocial hours was incorporated into the standard police pay. Tom Winsor went on to say that, logically, we should therefore reduce by 9% the pay for the 43% of officers whose role did not require them to work unsocial hours. Rather than recommending that, however, he has now left them as they are and proposed an additional 10% shift allowance for hours worked between 8 pm and 6 am.

Another area in which Tom Winsor has been very generous to the police is that of the new expertise and professional accreditation allowance. Most police have been operating on the assumption that the special priority payments, which were introduced in 2003 and which have been quite divisive, would not be continued. If we take into account the additional allowance, which will be more costly than the special priority payments, we shall see a net increase in pay, even though most officers probably assumed that they would not get a special priority payment. Perhaps there will be a bit of give and take in the negotiations but, in those two areas in particular, Tom Winsor’s proposals are more generous than many officers would have expected.

I should also like to touch on the ability of police forces to make savings. We also heard about this from my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart). Most organisations try to find savings and do things more efficiently year by year. In policing, however, there was an increase in grant every year from central Government. Police forces were able to increase their numbers, deal with particular issues and have more police tackling problem areas without having to find savings in other areas to fund those activities.

In Kent, we found a deputy chief constable who had been delivering a fantastic programme in Norfolk and finding very significant savings, all of which were able to be invested in the front line. Now, in tougher times, Kent is looking to strip out some of the inefficiencies. There might be too many people in central teams, or the intelligence area might be top heavy, so we will make

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savings in those areas. We are also going to work with Essex to form a single major and organised crime division, which will bring together a lot of the specialist areas. That will enable us to iron out the peaks and troughs in demand and deliver at least as good a service using fewer officers.

When I first joined Kent police authority, I was concerned that we were not going out to find the savings and ask the difficult questions. Partly that is because police authorities are not elected, so there is no direct connection with the electorate that requires delivering the best possible policing while minimising the precepts. If one finds savings, asks difficult questions and tries to get the police to do things in a different way from the one they are used to, and which they perhaps prefer, that will always be quite difficult and with no direct electoral accountability, there is not necessarily the motivation to do that.

In my police authority, in the past year or two at least, people have worked very hard to find savings and it has one of the lowest precepts in the country. I believe that in many police authorities across the country that have had consistent grant increases year on year, there is scope to find savings and to work together much more. There is no justification for having 43 different IT systems. A large amount of the police budget is police pay, but that is partly because the police deliver almost everything themselves with a direct labour force. In many areas of the public sector, we have found significant savings through outsourcing. Cleveland police has a control centre run by the private sector—it is outsourced—but it is quite rare in policing to make those more radical changes to deliver things as cheaply and efficiently as one can by going outside the police service. A direct electoral mandate would press people to deliver policing as well as they could for as little as they could. There is significant scope for savings and I believe that reductions can be made while protecting the front line and delivering the police service that the country deserves.

9.16 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): I pay tribute to our police service. It is quite remarkable how it has evolved over the years, learning sometimes difficult lessons of history from Scarman to Macpherson. Our Labour Government backed the police service and invested massively, with 17,000 more police officers and 16,000 police community support officers. An admirable model of community policing has led to a record fall in crime, and nowhere can that be seen better than in West Midlands police authority, under the leadership of Chief Constable Chris Sims.

I have seen at first hand just how effective our police service is. In Castle Vale, the neighbourhood tasking group deals with problems of antisocial behaviour and there is excellent dialogue between the police and the local community, so that the young kids now go and play in a park and the older residents, who were complaining, enjoy their environment. When there was an outbreak of robberies in shops in Stockland Green, the police mounted an excellent operation and effective intelligence led to the arrests of those responsible. When there were two terrible knife murders in my constituency, including that of one young man who died on his doorstep in the arms of his mother, a huge police operation, with support from the community, led to arrests.

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The community values its community policing and there is complete dismay about the impact of the Government’s cuts on our police service, not least because the first duty of any Government is to ensure the safety and security of our communities. It is therefore simply wrong for the Government to impose massive front-loaded cuts on the West Midlands police service that will lead to 2,400 people going, including 300 police officers who are going right now under regulation A19. It is absolutely wrong that the high-need, high-unemployment west midlands is being hit more than twice as hard as the leafy glades of Surrey and that Ministers pretend that there is no impact on front-line policing. Policing is about much more than just those who are out on the front line: the police team working together is key. Some of the earlier references to areas such as child protection, domestic violence and counter-terrorism involve a great deal of inter-agency collaboration and intelligence gathering.

Having said that, we need to move beyond the numbers —not just how many are going, but who they are and why they matter. Sergeant Dave Hewitt, 32 years a police officer, being forced out at the age of 48, is a neighbourhood sergeant with an excellent team of neighbourhood police officers making their local community a safer place to live. Is he or is he not a front-line officer? Police Constable Ian Rees, 34 years a police officer, being forced out at the age of 55, is a motorway specialist making our motorways in the midlands a safer place to drive. Is he or is he not a front-line police officer?

Detective Constable Tony Fisher, 33 years a police officer, being forced out at the age of 50, is a specialist in dealing with serious robbery. Only in the past couple of years, he mounted an exercise to track down the individual who was robbing pensioners at cash points and put that man away, and rightly so, for 13 years. He also tracked down the gang that used machetes to rob shops, with the leader of that gang going away for 17 years, and rightly so. The community is a safer place, thanks to him. Is he or is he not a front-line police officer?

Detective Constable Tim Kennedy, 31 years a police officer, is a specialist in serious acquisitive crime—burglaries and cars—with one of the best detection records anywhere in the midlands. Is he or is he not a front-line police officer? Inspector Mark Stokes, 33 years a police officer, is a specialist in designing out crime, with an outstanding track record. On the Four Towers estate in Birmingham, for example, there has been a 98% fall in what was a serious level of crime, thanks to the work that he has done. Is he or is he not vital to the front line?

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for agreeing earlier that she will meet these A19 officers. She will find that they are the best in Birmingham and Britain. They will be sadly missed by the communities that they have served so well over many years. It is wrong—plain wrong—for the Government to say to the men and women being forced out under A19, “Thanks for your past loyalty. Thanks for your outstanding service. Here is your notice.” The Government have got to think again.

9.23 pm

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): Notwithstanding the remarks that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), the Opposition, whose motion we are debating this evening, know that it

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is not possible to have any discussion about any public sector service without having some regard to the national economic context. Colleagues on the Government Benches have mentioned the £120 million a day that the Government are spending on interest, which puts into context the £35 million a day that we are currently spending on policing, the matter under debate. All sectors of public service must be subject to review, and no sector can be immune. Policing must play its part.

It is entirely appropriate that cost reduction should be accompanied by Government reform of the public services. No sector should be immune from the need to reform, and policing must play its part. I therefore reject the proposition in the Opposition motion that does nothing other than criticise the steps that the Government have taken. It offers no alternative proposal. The motion is completely silent on what the Opposition would do to make policing play its part in reducing the burden of public expenditure or reforms to the service. We might therefore assume that the Opposition are happy to carry on spending as they were before and make no change to public service, but we would be wrong, because the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) has said that all departments, police included, would need “to make savings”. The former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), has said that Labour in government would have cut spending and reduced police numbers.

What are the Government actually doing? They are making the police accountable to their communities, cutting increasing costs, removing targets and paperwork and, critically, restoring to police officers the discretion they once had. In my constituency of Rugby we are governed by Warwickshire police, a force in which, notwithstanding the Opposition’s remarks, police numbers fell between 2004 and 2009, so there have not been massive increases in police numbers under the Labour Government. Warwickshire police are currently vacating an expensive and unnecessary force headquarters to save costs, and the chief constable is doing the right thing by focusing on public protection, providing service to the community and increasing productivity on the front line.

One of the reasons I was keen to speak in the debate is that my brother is a sergeant in Warwickshire police with more than 20 years’ service. We often get together and speak about our respective roles. He tells me how he and his colleagues were frustrated by the previous Government’s tick-box approach and the massive increase in paperwork and bureaucracy that resulted in their spending less time on patrol than they did filling in forms. They were not doing what they had been trained to do—to protect the public. As a parliamentary candidate, I spent a Friday night accompanying an officer on patrol and saw just how much paperwork he had to complete.

The police look forward to many of the Government’s proposals and reforms, in particular the one to get rid of the stop and encounter form. Officers appreciate that services must accept some of the reduction in expenditure and in the cost burden of the public sector. There are three significant issues that they are having to deal with. First, the restructuring in costs will lead to fewer people being able to support them in the back office and the pay freeze. Secondly, the provisions of the Winsor report,

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to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) has just referred, will change the way they operate and the structure of their pay. Thirdly, over and above those effects officers will also be affected by the Hutton report, which in time will lead to less generous pension provision. I must tell the Home Secretary and the policing Minister that the combination of those three factors means that the morale of our officers is lower than it has been for some time. They understand the need for change, but they feel that they are burdened by those three changes all coming along at one time.

I was delighted to hear the Home Secretary acknowledge in her opening remarks that we have the finest police service in the world. I hope that the Minister, in summing up, will express the regard in which the public hold the police, who are doing a difficult job at a difficult time. I hope that he will provide some reassurance to officers who are committed to service, such as my brother and his colleagues, that their commitment will be recognised. I hope that he will ensure that those officers who work hard and from time to time put themselves on the line can feel positive about the valuable role they play and can focus on the key task of protecting the public.

In conclusion, the Government are right to be taking their current action on policing. It represents just one of a series of very difficult decisions that they have been obliged to take over the past 11 months, all of which in the long term will provide better and more efficient services to the public of this country.

9.29 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey), who spoke about not only his constituency’s interest in the debate, but that of his family. He can report back to his brother that he was able to raise those concerns in such a debate.

It is commendable that both the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary have sat through the entire debate, the feature of which is that Members on both sides have talked about not just the headline figures, but policing in their constituencies. On balance, Opposition Members have said that the cuts are going to affect policing negatively, and Government Members have said that the cuts are required to some extent because they can make the police more accountable, transparent and efficient.

In four weeks’ time, the right hon. Lady will celebrate her year in office as the first Conservative Home Secretary in 13 years. She has got used to the fact that when she enters the Chamber for policing debates, she does not get a standing ovation, but importantly we have heard what the Government propose to do and what the Opposition have said they would do in similar circumstances.

The Home Affairs Committee produced a report on police finances, and it was unanimous. The hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) is our resident expert on policing matters along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael), and the Committee concluded that there would be significantly fewer police service staff once the proposals were implemented. That is certainly backed up by all the other stakeholder organisations—be they ACPO, the Police Federation or other organisations

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that have commented on the matter. The key test for the Government is whether having fewer staff will make the police force more efficient.

I do not deny any incoming Government the right to put forward proposals to the British people and a scheme that they say will provide a better service for less money, but it will be some time before we find out what those key indicators are. As several Members have pointed out, crime is at a record low, and the question is, once the proposals are implemented, whether crime will rise. That is the challenge for this Government.

We also know that the Government’s proposals have still not been completed. There is an ambitious target not just on police finances, but on the new landscape of policing, and the election of police commissioners will have an impact on how policing operates—everyone accepts that it will. The new landscape will result in the abolition of the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Policing Improvement Agency, and the Home Affairs Committee is just about to undertake an inquiry into the likely new landscape.

I think that we will have to return to the subject once the Government have completed their template. As I have said, it is absolutely the right of an incoming Government to say that they propose to use taxpayers’ money in a way that will make the service more efficient, but my concern is that the template is not complete and, to some extent, the proposed cuts—or reductions, if we like to use that word—are a work in progress. We will not know the full effects until the rest of the landscape has been completed.

What the Government are doing on procurement and on the reduction in bureaucracy is excellent. The Home Secretary says that she has taken on board Jan Berry’s recommendations and appointed Chris Sims to take the matter forward, and that is a continuation of what the previous Government did. I see the previous Policing Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), is present, and whenever he got to the Dispatch Box when Labour was in government, he talked about cutting red tape. We on the Select Committee hope to look at Jan Berry’s recommendations to see whether they have been implemented and whether red tape has been cut.

Tomorrow, as the Home Secretary knows, we have the new permanent secretary at the Home Office before the Committee. It is of course important to save money on procurement and I would like to have seen more done under the previous Government to bring procurement under much greater central control. The right hon. Lady talked about local decision making, but I understand that vehicles are now the subject of central planning, so the Home Office is saying, “You can buy these vehicles, because this is the best possible deal that we have been able to make.” If that can be done with vehicles, why not mobile phones or all other aspects of procurement? Of course we would like to see local police forces collaborate—the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood reminded me that a conference on procurement is coming up in the near future, co-sponsored by Essex and Kent police authorities—and we want local decision making, but I cannot understand why the Home Office does not produce a procurement catalogue that has the best possible prices available and encourage all local police forces to buy from it. That is something that we will have to look forward to in future.

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My final point, which my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) made better than anyone else, is that we need to stop consulting only chief constables about what is happening. The people who really matter are the public. In his recent speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice rejected the idea of a royal commission on policing, citing Harold Wilson’s comment that royal commissions take minutes to set up but years to report. We do not need to wait years to hear about the expectations of the public, who must be consulted.

The Select Committee intends to consult the public in an online poll on the five key things that they want police officers and the police force to do. Once we have those conclusions, I hope that they will feed into the Government’s thinking on how the new landscape operates. Without consulting the public on their expectations, there is no point in having this debate. The chief constables have a vested interest—they want to protect their budgets. Police authorities want things to stay as they are, and everyone else involved has, to some extent, the same interest. However, it is the public to whom we are accountable on policing, and therefore, in the end, it is the public to whom we have to listen.

9.36 pm

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): I join the Home Secretary in the tribute that she paid to the police for their hard work and courage, which we have seen, tragically, over the past couple of days.

This debate takes place at a time when the police feel undervalued and under attack by this Government. Let me start by laying out a few facts. There is a 20% cut from central Government, with the highest percentage of that cut falling in the first two years, and the Government implementing it with no real definition of the front line. That will mean the loss of over 12,000 police officers. In every region of England and Wales, police officers and staff will be lost in every community. This means the loss of over 15,000 police staff—again, right across our country in every single community. As we heard so eloquently from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), it also means the loss of over 2,000 of the most experienced officers.

These officers are not going because chief officers want them to go—they are being forced to go because of the need to cut costs. The functions of most of these officers are not in the back office but on the front line. Front-line detectives are gone, with one detective saying “I don’t want to go and I’m absolutely gutted.” Front-line response officers are gone, along with neighbourhood sergeants, one commenting that the claim that cuts would not affect the front line was absolute rubbish. Firearms officers are gone from the front line, along with crime reduction officers and public order officers—and so the list goes on. These are just some of the front-line posts lost because of the cuts.

To listen to the Home Secretary, one would think that there is no impact on police officers—that there are no cuts on the front line—but her case is completely undermined by last week’s report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, which showed that 95% of police officers and police community support officers

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did not work in the back office, with only 5% doing so.

[

Interruption.

]

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice scoffs, but I refer him to page 4 of the report, which shows clearly that the percentage of officers and PCSOs who are in the back office is 5%. If he wants to take issue with that, he must take issue with HMIC. That figure drives a coach and horses through the Home Office’s justification for its proposals. The proposals were undermined by Sir Denis O’Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, who said that it would be difficult to protect the front line. The Government plough on regardless, oblivious to the growing chorus of anxiety and deaf to those who are expressing increasing concern and alarm. “We know best,” is the motto of the Home Secretary and the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice.

My right hon. and hon. Friends have pointed out the impact of the police cuts across the country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) praised the work of specialist officers, but pointed out the threat to the reduction in violent crime. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) spoke about the impact on Northumbria, where there is a 41% cut in police staff. My hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) pointed out the cuts to hundreds of police officers and police staff in the Lancashire constabulary. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) pointed out the importance of the introduction of neighbourhood policing and safer neighbourhood teams, which was one of the successes of the previous Government. The budgets pose a threat to those teams. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) spoke about the impact of the cuts on Merseyside, where one in five officers is to go. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) said that the jury is out on the current proposals. He was right to point out that crime is at a record low, but the question is whether it will keep falling. At a time when crime is at a record low, all this is put at risk.

As the chief constable of South Yorkshire police, Meredydd Hughes, warned in a paper to his police authority, front-line posts and specialist officers will be lost, and there will be real risks to crime levels. He said:

“A reduction in back office support will put an increased burden on operational officers detracting them from front-line duties.”

No doubt the Government will say, as they do when anybody disagrees with them, that he is just wrong. Well, I know Med Hughes and he is an excellent chief constable. He should be listened to and not dismissed. It is not just one chief constable. The chief constable of Lancashire police, Steve Finnigan, said on the “Today” programme last week, in answer to whether he would have to reduce front-line policing to meet the Government’s budget cuts, “I absolutely am.”

Of course, the protection of the front line is made so much more difficult by the loss of police staff. Who will do the necessary administrative tasks? Who will do the necessary probation work or the court reports? We have seen examples across the country of officers being needed to do such tasks and being pulled away from the public and the front line. No reorganisation on this scale will protect the front line. We have already seen

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that in Warwickshire. Reflecting on the job losses in his area, Ian Francis, the chair of Warwickshire police authority, said:

“The simple matter is yes, we are going to lose policemen from the front-line.”

The Police Federation, the Police Superintendents Association, chief officers and police authorities have all warned of the consequences of this Budget settlement. However, as with so many of their so-called reforms, the Government say that they know best. They believe that they know what is right and that they have to drive through all those who stand in the way of this so-called progress. Last week, the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice called those who oppose the Government’s accountability changes and other reforms elitist. Well, I say that the Government are elitist in their flagrant disregard for anyone who disagrees with them and anyone who stands in their way. The police and the public are deeply worried by the cuts to policing.

No one in this House of Commons, as far as I am aware, stood on a platform of having fewer police officers. The Liberals promised 3,000 more police officers—yet another broken promise. Individual Tory MPs up and down the country demanded more police officers. Tory MPs need to be sure what they are voting for, and so do Liberal Democrats.

I say to the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) that 250 personnel will be gone in his police area. He should put that on the leaflet in the local election campaign. In Carshalton and Wallington, police officers and staff are going—that should be on the next Liberal Democrat “Focus” leaflet. In Reading West, 256 officers and 564 staff are going at Thames Valley police—its Member should put that on the next leaflet and say it is down to efficiency. Although the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) was more reasonable than others, he will still have to put on his election leaflets for the Amber Valley borough council election why he justifies 290 police officers and staff going in the area. I tell you what, Mr Speaker—I bet not many of them do put that on their leaflets.

Up and down the country, people are watching—[Interruption.] The Home Secretary should listen to this. People are watching a Tory-led Government cutting police numbers and crime prevention projects. They are looking at a Tory-led Government who cannot find money for the police but can finds of millions of pounds extra for a democratic experiment in electing police and crime commissioners that nobody wants and for which the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice has yet to produce one shred of evidence. [Interruption.] Are you enjoying this? The Government were so embarrassed that the responses to the consultation paper commissioned to show how many people were in favour of elected commissioners were not published. Shall I tell the House why? Because of the 900 people asked, so few were in favour that the Government were embarrassed to publish the responses.

The cuts to the police budget are too fast and too deep. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister need to think again. They need to put aside ideology, listen to the many voices of concern and change course. The Government are looking to cut costs, but it is communities up and down the country that will pay the price of an arrogant Government failing to stand up for policing and failing to stand up for the police.

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9.46 pm

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): First, I join other hon. Members including the shadow Police Minister in paying tribute to the police for the job that they do for the whole country in every constituency, particularly at this time when, as the House did earlier, we remember PC Ronan Kerr, who tragically lost his life serving the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

We should always value the work that the police do and remember that they do a difficult and dangerous job, but none of that means that we can avoid the decisions that have been forced upon us by the need to deal with the deficit. My first point to Opposition Members is that they are silent about the savings that can be driven by police forces working together and individually that reach beyond the savings identified in the HMIC report. That report stated that savings of more than £1 billion a year were possible while front-line services were protected. It did not examine the potential savings that could be made through, for instance, police forces working together to procure goods and equipment—some £350 million on top of that figure.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out, there are 2,000 different IT systems in our forces, employing 5,000 staff. I welcome the comment of the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), that we were right to examine such procurement. He should know, and I know he does, that we have already laid regulations to drive collective procurement by forces to save money.

I repeat for the benefit of the Opposition, who have not heard or understood the point, that those savings are in addition to those identified by the inspectorate, and that they can be made by police forces working more effectively together. The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) criticised that approach when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary talked about it earlier. Do the Opposition Front Benchers not support that collective approach to procuring goods and equipment, and why did they not take it in their 13 years in government?

Let us examine another matter on which the Opposition are completely silent, which is the proposed savings that we have set out in relation to pay. Any organisation in which three quarters of the costs rest in the pay bill has to look to control that bill when resources are tight. That is the responsible thing to do. That is why we have said that, in common with other public services, we expect the police to be subject to a two-year pay freeze. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) was right that that directly answers the point about the savings that we require forces to make being higher in the first and second years than in the third and the fourth. In those years, we propose that another £350 million should be saved through the pay freeze. Here is a question for the Opposition: do they support that pay freeze? If not, they would put more jobs at risk in policing. They are adopting an irresponsible approach.

What about the Winsor savings? Police officers should know that it is proposed to plough back the majority of the savings that Tom Winsor identified in his report on pay and conditions into new allowances to reward

4 Apr 2011 : Column 857

front-line service and specialist skills. We will consider those matters carefully in the recommendations of the Police Negotiating Board. Do the Opposition back those savings, for which police forces have not budgeted at the moment? Do they support those proposals in the Winsor review? Again, we do not know because the Opposition are silent on the matter.

Let me explain for the benefit of the Opposition that the total effect of the savings of more than £500 million, on top of the savings that HMIC identified, add up to 10,000 officers. In opposing the pay reforms, the Opposition put those 10,000 jobs at risk. That is why their position is untenable.

Several hon. Members mentioned the front line. Of course, it includes not only visible policing but investigative units. However, the Opposition have again completely missed the point. The hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) shouts “smoke and mirrors” from a sedentary position, but he uses a fair bit himself when he claims that 5% of officers are in the back office. Does he expect officers to do IT and payroll? Those are back-office functions. The inspectorate says, “Look at the back and middle offices—the support functions—not the front line.” How many police officers does the hon. Gentleman think are serving in the back and middle office? The same report tells him—I assume that he has read it. A fifth of officers and PCSOs are in the back and middle office. In case he cannot do the maths, that means that 30,000 police officers are not working on the front line, and we should begin looking for savings in the back and middle office so that we can protect front-line services.

The Opposition mentioned Northumbria police and claimed that there would be an impact on front-line services. Chief Constable Sue Sim said:

“I am absolutely committed to maintaining frontline policing and the services we offer to our communities.”

Every chief constable is saying the same. They are committed to doing everything they can to maintain front-line services.

As the chief inspector of constabulary said, we must consider a total redesign of the way in which policing is delivered in this country. We must look at forces sharing services and collaborating. We must consider radical solutions, which will enable a better service to be delivered. Is the Labour party in favour of police forces outsourcing their services to the private sector? That is another matter on which it is silent. Some forces have contracted our their control rooms and their custody suites. Those are defined as being in the so-called front line. Is the Labour party in favour of those cost-saving measures? There is deafening silence from the Opposition when they are faced with difficult questions about how to drive value for money.

There is silence again about bureaucracy. The Opposition spent 13 years tying up our police officers in red tape. All the shadow Chancellor could say about that when he was shadow Home Secretary is that he did not think it mattered that officers spent more time on paperwork than on patrol. Let me say to the Opposition that the Government think it does matter and we are determined to reduce red tape and improve productivity on the front line because we want police officers to be crime fighters, not form writers.

4 Apr 2011 : Column 858

Let us look at another matter in which the Opposition seem simply uninterested: how resources are deployed. Labour is only ever interested in how much money is spent rather than in how well it is spent. Why, therefore, do Labour Members have not the slightest interest in the fact that officer visibility and availability in the best-performing forces are twice those of the poorest-performing forces within the existing resource? Apparently, they are not interested in that. Government Members have consistently made the point that, even as resources contract and even as forces find savings, they can and should prioritise visible and available policing, and good forces are doing so.

As we have heard from my hon. Friends, Kent is increasing numbers in neighbourhood policing teams, as is Gloucestershire, and Staffordshire is protecting them.

Yvette Cooper: The Minister says that good police forces are doing all the things he wants, but what does he say about the Warwickshire, South Yorkshire and Merseyside police forces, and all forces that are being forced to take police officers off the front line? Does he think that those chief constables are doing a bad job?

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Lady just does not get it, does she? She does not understand the difference between how much is spent and the service that we get at the other end, because Labour measures the value of every public service by how much is being spent on it.

Let me tell the right hon. Lady what the South Yorkshire chief constable said in January this year. He said that

“the reduced level of government funding announced late last year was expected and I’m confident that our service to the public won’t necessarily decline over the next two years.”

Let us look at the sums. Labour Members always say that there will be 20% cuts in budgets.

Yvette Cooper: Will the Minister give way?

Nick Herbert: I shall make a little more progress, and then give way.

The Labour party says that there will be 20% cuts in budgets—that is the language that Labour Members always use—but there will not be. No force will have a 20% cut in its budget, because forces raise money from their precept. Assuming reasonable rises in precept over the next four years, the cash reduction is 6%. Provided that forces do the right things, that is challenging but nevertheless deliverable.

Yvette Cooper: The Minister again says that some police forces are doing the right thing, and some the wrong thing. He referred to Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes of South Yorkshire police, who said this week:

“We will be unable to continue to provide the same level of service we do today in such areas like neighbourhood policing”

and diversionary and problem-solving activities. He also said:

“A reduction in back office support will put an increased burden on operational officers detracting them from frontline duties.”

Is the South Yorkshire chief constable right or wrong?

4 Apr 2011 : Column 859

Nick Herbert: It is the same tired stuff from the shadow Home Secretary, reading out local press cuttings from around the country. She should reflect on the fact that police officer numbers were falling under the previous Government by the time we got to the election. In their last year in office, officer numbers fell in 27 forces across England and Wales—did we hear a squeak from them about that?—and officer numbers fell in 13 police forces in the five years before 2009.

This is what the public need to know about Labour. It would cut police budgets by £1.5 billion—we heard that this evening—and yet Labour Members pretend that that would not mean fewer officers and staff. When asked in the election campaign, Labour refused to guarantee police numbers, yet Labour Members criticise the fall in numbers now. Labour Members say that cuts are too deep and front-loaded, yet they would be cutting £9 for every £10 we will cut next year; they claim that police and crime commissioners would cost too much, but their model would cost more; and they call Opposition debates and run their cynical campaigns, but they—

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36 ).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Question put accordingly (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House divided:

Ayes 210, Noes 289.

Division No. 252]

[9.59 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Clark, Katy

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Mr Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Phil Wilson and

Lilian Greenwood

NOES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Byles, Dan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, Glyn

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Mr Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Stride, Mel

Stunell, Andrew

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Philip Dunne and

Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

4 Apr 2011 : Column 860

4 Apr 2011 : Column 861

4 Apr 2011 : Column 862

4 Apr 2011 : Column 863

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)),That the proposed words be there added.

The House divided:

Ayes 282, Noes 209.

Division No. 253]

[10.15 pm

AYES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Byles, Dan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, Glyn

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Mr Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Stride, Mel

Stunell, Andrew

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr Philip Dunne and

Mark Hunter

NOES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Clark, Katy

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Mr Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Phil Wilson and

Lilian Greenwood

Question accordingly agreed to.

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4 Apr 2011 : Column 865

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The Speaker declared the Main question, as amended, to be agreed to (Standing Order No. 31( 2 )).

Resolved,

That this House welcomes the Government’s comprehensive proposals to cut crime and increase the democratic accountability of policing while dealing with the largest peacetime deficit in history; supports the Government’s determination to help the police make savings to protect frontline services; congratulates the police forces that are increasing the number of officers visible and available to the public; notes that the Opposition’s spending plans require reductions in police spending; and regrets its refusal to support sensible savings or to set out an alternative.

4 Apr 2011 : Column 867

Business without Debate

Delegated legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Legal Services

That the draft Legal Services Act 2007 (Approved Regulators) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 14 March, be approved.—(Mr Newmark.)

Question agreed to.

4 Apr 2011 : Column 868

Bradley Manning

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Newmark.)

10.26 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate this issue, because it is important that the case is raised here in the House of Commons. I want to talk about the treatment of Bradley Manning. An early-day motion on this subject—early-day motion1624—stands in my name and is currently supported by 37 right hon. and hon. Members, and I hope that others will add their names.

I wish to speak this evening in terms very similar terms to those of the early-day motion, which reads as follows:

“That this House expresses great concern at the treatment of Private First Class Bradley Manning, currently detained at the US Quantico Marine Base; notes the increasing level of interest and concern in the case in the UK and in particular in Wales; appeals to the US administration to ensure that his detention conditions are humane; and calls on the UK Government to raise the case with the US administration.”

That is what I want to expand on in this short debate. I want to explain why I am so concerned about Bradley Manning’s case and why others should be too, and I want to ask the Minister to undertake to raise the case with the US Administration.

Bradley Manning is the US soldier imprisoned at the US marine base at Quantico, Virginia. He is accused of being the person responsible for the leaking of the US Government information—about Iraq and about Afghanistan, and from US embassies around the world—that was released into the public domain through the website WikiLeaks. Bradley Manning is a serving member of the US armed forces and he is detained in a military prison. It is important for us to note that he has yet to be convicted of any offence—I am not sure whether there is a confirmed trial date, but I understand that it will not be until May or June.

Like me, the Minister will want to be careful about describing the actions of which Bradley Manning is accused, because we have yet to have Bradley’s account and he has still to have that account considered by a court. That is why I do not want us to get drawn into a discussion of the rights and wrongs of the WikiLeaks revelations. However, I would like to concentrate on the current conditions of detention for Bradley Manning. I have read the several accounts of Bradley’s treatment which have appeared in the press. Some very good accounts that have appeared in The Guardian have come from David Leigh, in particular, but the one that I paid most attention to was the one from Bradley himself. On 10 March, in an 11-page memorandum from Bradley Manning to the commanding officer of the Quantico marine base, issued through his lawyer, Bradley Manning described for us the conditions of his detention. This is what he said:

“Since 2 March 2011, I have been stripped of all my clothing at night. I have been told that the PCF commander intends on continuing this practice indefinitely. Initially, after surrendering my clothing to the brig guards, I had no choice but to lay naked in my cold jail cell until the following morning. The next morning I was told to get out of my bed for the morning duty brig supervisor (DBS) inspection. I was not given any of my clothing back. I got out of the bed and immediately started to shiver because of how cold it was in my cell. I walked towards the front of my cell with

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my hands covering my genitals. The guard told me to stand at parade rest, which required me to stand with my hands behind my back and my legs spaced shoulder width apart. I stood at ‘parade rest’ for about three minutes until the DBS arrived. Once the DBS arrived, everyone was called to attention. The DBS and the other guards walked past my cell. The DBS looked at me, paused for a moment, and then continued to the next detainee’s cell. I was incredibly embarrassed at having all these people stare at me naked. After the DBS completed his inspection, I was told to go and sit on my bed. About 10 minutes later I was given my clothes and allowed to get dressed…Under my current restrictions, in addition to being stripped at night, I am essentially held in solitary confinement. For 23 hours per day, I sit alone in my cell. The guards check on me every five minutes during the day by asking me if I am OK. I am required to respond in some affirmative manner.”

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Ann Clwyd: I have very little time, but yes, I will.

Jim Shannon: Is the right hon. Lady aware of when the trial will take place?

Ann Clwyd: No, I do not yet know that, but I think that it will be in a couple of months’ time.

Bradley Manning’s account continued:

“At night, if the guards cannot see me clearly, because I have a blanket over my head or I am curled up towards the wall, they will wake me in order to ensure that I am OK…I am prevented from exercising in my cell. If I attempt to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise I am forced to stop. Finally, I receive only one hour of exercise outside of my cell daily. My exercise is usually limited to me walking figures of eight in an empty room.”

We also learn from this memorandum, issued through his lawyer, that his treatment ignores the repeated recommendations of the Marine Corps’ own appointed psychiatrists. They repeatedly say that Bradley Manning’s detention status should be changed. That treatment serves no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade Bradley Manning. I regard it as cruel and unnecessary.

Bradley Manning calls his conditions “improper treatment” and “unlawful pre-trial punishment”. Human Rights Watch has called on the US Government to

“explain the precise reasons behind extremely restrictive and possibly punitive and degrading treatment that Army Private First Class Bradley Manning alleges he has received”.

Amnesty International has said:

“Manning is being subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This is particularly disturbing when one considers that he hasn’t even been brought to trial, let alone convicted of a crime”.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, who I have spoken to in the House of Commons about the case, has officially raised his concerns with the US Administration and is awaiting a response.

We have not only those views but a view from inside the US Administration. Until recently, P. J. Crowley was the spokesman for the US State Department. He was a senior and well respected official and a career member of the US armed forces. Early in March he was forced to resign following comments he made about the treatment of Bradley Manning at a university seminar. He called the treatment of Bradley Manning “ridiculous”, “counterproductive” and “stupid”.

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Since his resignation, P. J. Crowley has gone on to explain why he said what he did, including in a column in The Guardian last week. He says:

“As a public diplomat and (until recently) spokesman of the department of state, I was responsible for explaining the national security policy of the United States to the American people and populations abroad. I am also a retired military officer who has long believed that our civilian power must balance our military power. Part of our strength comes from international recognition that the United States practises what we preach.”

He goes on:

“Based on 30 years of government experience, if you have to explain why a guy is standing naked in the middle of a jail cell, you have a policy in need of urgent review.”

Finally, he says:

“So, when I was asked…I said the treatment of Private Manning, while well-intentioned, was ‘ridiculous’ and ‘counterproductive’ and, yes, ‘stupid’.

I stand by what I said.”

In the article and the interviews he has given, P. J. Crowley—a career US military and Government man—sets out why Bradley Manning’s case is important. It is important because of the message it sends to the rest of the world about what kind of treatment the United States thinks is acceptable for people in detention. As for us, it is important what we say—or what we do not say—because of the message that it sends about the kind of treatment we in the United Kingdom and in the UK Government think is acceptable. That matters in countries where human rights are not so well observed. People will pay attention in China, in Russia, in Libya, where we want to be on the side of those fighting for freedom from state repression, and most of all in Afghanistan. The image that Britain and the US have in the world matters to the UK and US service personnel fighting in Afghanistan.

I know that only too well from my experience in Iraq as special envoy on human rights over a seven-year period. In my view some of the greatest damage was caused to British and American efforts in Iraq when the stories of prisoner abuse emerged. It undermined our moral authority at a time when we needed to explain that we were fighting for a better future for Iraq, free from the torture and abuse suffered under the regime of Saddam Hussein. The United States and the UK, in the way we respond to US actions, need to preserve that moral authority if we are to have a positive impact on the world and lead by example.

So what am I asking the Minister to do? Let me address the issue of British nationality, because it seems to me to have been something of a red herring. I am not raising Bradley Manning’s case because he is a British national but because I believe his treatment is cruel and unnecessary and that we should say so. I am also chair of the all-party group on human rights and so I often raise human rights cases from around the world. They might be in Burma, Chechnya, East Timor, China, or, sadly, too many other places besides. I do not raise them because they involve British citizens, but because they involve human rights abuses or wrongdoing and because I am in politics because I want to do something to try to stop those things happening.

I want the British Government to raise Bradley Manning’s treatment with the US Administration because his treatment is cruel and unnecessary and we should be saying so. We cannot deny, however, that Bradley’s connection to the UK adds an additional dimension.

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Bradley’s mother, Susan, is Welsh and lives in Pembrokeshire. Bradley lived and went to school in Wales between the ages of 13 and 17. There is a great deal of interest in the UK, and in particular in Wales, in Bradley’s case and much of that is grounded in his close connection to the UK. Both London and Wrexham have seen protests against Bradley Manning’s treatment, and I pay tribute to those people in the UK who have raised his case.

Perhaps the Minister will take this opportunity to clarify, on the record, just what the position is with regard to British nationality. My understanding is that under the British Nationality Act 1981 anyone born outside the UK after 1 January 1983 who has a mother who is a UK citizen by birth is British by descent. Perhaps the Minister will assist us by confirming that that is the case. I am aware that Bradley Manning’s lawyer has issued a statement that Bradley is not asserting any kind of UK nationality. I know that, but from the point of view of British law, is it the case that Bradley Manning qualifies for British nationality?

I shall mention briefly the British aspect of the case, which concerns Bradley’s mother and family in Wales. I have met some of Bradley’s family—his aunt and uncle—and I am in contact with them. This will be an exceptionally hard time for Bradley Manning’s family, not just for his mother and family in Wales, but for his father and that side of his family in the United States. He is accused of the gravest of crimes which, according to some reports, can attract the death penalty, and there is intense media interest in Bradley, in anything to do with WikiLeaks and in the information that was revealed about the US Government.

Part of Bradley’s family live in Pembrokeshire and their son is in a military prison in Virginia in the US. They are being contacted by journalists, campaigners and politicians who are trying to raise the case. This is a difficult situation for any family to deal with. What kind of consular, official or other support could be made available to Bradley’s mother and family? When they visit Bradley in the US, for example, can they expect assistance from British embassy staff in the US? Can they receive advice and assistance in understanding the charges faced by their son, and perhaps advice, too, about the issue of British nationality?

I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I hope that in his reply he does not say that we do not know what Bradley Manning’s conditions are. We have his own statement, backed by his lawyer, from which I read earlier. I am sure the Minister will not try to defend the harsh treatment that Bradley Manning is experiencing because of the gravity of the charges. That is beside the point. I hope the hon. Gentleman does not try to say that as he is not a British citizen, it is not appropriate to raise Bradley Manning’s case with the US Administration, because we raise cases with other countries all the time. I hope he will not fail to acknowledge that Bradley Manning’s having lived for a time in the UK, and given that his mother and that side of his family are British, creates an additional obligation on the Government to act in that family’s best interests.

I hope that the Minister can give two undertakings tonight—first, that the British Government will officially raise the case with the US Administration, and secondly, that the Government will consider what support they could provide to the British family of Bradley Manning as they try to do whatever they can to help Bradley.

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10.43 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Henry Bellingham): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) on securing the debate, which is of considerable interest not just to a number of right hon. and hon. Members but to her constituents and others in Wales, as well as to the country as a whole. The right hon. Lady is deservedly well respected for her understanding and championing of human rights. Her work in Afghanistan and Iraq is widely admired.

As the Foreign Secretary said last week during the launch of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s report on human rights:

“Our government promised from the outset a foreign policy that will always have support for human rights and poverty reduction at its irreducible core. It is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience, and neither is it in our interests.”

I therefore welcome this chance to discuss matters that give rise to concern among Members of the House. Although recent events in the middle east and north Africa continue to demand the attention of my ministerial colleagues, it is important that we do not lose sight of developments elsewhere in the world, including in the countries that are closest to us.

The right hon. Lady makes a number of points about the treatment of Private Manning, including those from a memo of 10 March 2011 from Private Manning to his commanding officer, released by Private Manning’s lawyer. I have read the memo and have listened carefully to the different points that the right hon. Lady has made, including allegations of mistreatment in detention.

Her Majesty’s Government are committed to working towards the eradication of mistreatment that may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We do not condone its use for any purposes. We take allegations extremely seriously and, where appropriate, raise general and specific concerns with foreign Governments. That is why we fund work to support professional and ethical policing. We also fund human rights approaches to prison management and initiatives to support a robust legal system and civil society, including an independent judiciary, which all contribute to tackling mistreatment.

As far as Her Majesty’s Government are concerned, the conditions in which an individual is detained must meet international standards. Conditions that fail to meet this standard may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This is particularly important for an individual in pre-trial detention. The manner in which a detainee is held depends on an objective assessment of the security risk posed by that individual, their health and their behaviour in prison. This must be justified by the detaining authority. In general, we are content that conditions in the US detention system meet international standards and that there is a clear legal process for a detainee to be able to challenge their conditions of detention.

In this case, President Obama himself has said that he has sought and received assurances from the Department of Defence that Private Manning’s treatment is “appropriate” and meets US “basic standards”. Of course, the United States has an effective and robust judicial system. It is a champion of human rights the

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world over. However, where crimes are alleged to have occurred they must be investigated. This is currently the case. The fact that we have seen the memo from Private Manning to his commanding officer is evidence that his legal representation is working. We must allow the legal case to follow its course without interference.

Where representatives of this House or members of the public have concerns, we have a duty to listen. On 16 March the right hon. Lady raised her concerns about Private Manning’s treatment with the Foreign Secretary during the oral evidence session of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and on 17 March she repeated her call for discussion of the issue during business questions. Be assured that we are in no doubt of her concerns, which we know are shared by a number of Members across the House. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) has already received more than 30 letters from Members of the House.

In line with the Foreign Secretary’s response to the right hon. Lady during the Foreign Affairs Committee evidence session, a senior official in our embassy in Washington called on the US State Department on 29 March. He drew its attention to her concerns over Private Manning and handed over a copy of the uncorrected transcript of the Committee’s oral evidence session and a copy of her early-day motion 1624, which was tabled on 17 March. He also drew attention to the debate taking place today as a measure of the level of parliamentary interest in the subject. The State Department took note and agreed to convey the information to all those dealing with the case. Our US interlocutors know that where we have concerns we will raise them. The strength of our relationship empowers us to discuss difficult issues and we will continue to raise concerns where and when necessary. However, let us be clear that President Obama has stated that he has received assurances that Private Manning’s treatment is meeting basic standards.

I know that there will be many who feel that we should do more in the light of reports of Private Manning’s links to the UK. The UK Government have a duty to protect his privacy and as such it would not be appropriate to discuss his nationality without his consent. I note that his lawyer wrote on his blog on 2 February:

“Private… Manning does not hold a British passport, nor does he consider himself a British citizen”.

Therefore, it is clear that he is neither asking for our help, nor considering himself to be British. Although I have said that we do not normally discuss a person’s nationality without their consent, I will say that the right hon. Lady’s understanding of the British Nationality Act 1981 is accurate. Any person born outside the UK after 1 January 1983 whose mother is a UK citizen by birth is British by descent.

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Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): May I, from the Government Benches, urge the Minister to convey to our American friends and allies that those of us who believe that, if Private Manning is guilty of the leakage of which he is charged, he did a very terrible thing indeed, are nevertheless convinced that it is fatal to snatch defeat from the jaws of a sort-of victory by focusing attention on the conditions in which he is being held, rather than on the question of the guilt or innocence of his conduct? The word “counter-productive” should be at the forefront of our American allies’ minds when they consider how to treat him.

Mr Bellingham: I thank my hon. Friend for his very wise remarks. He is a candid friend of our American allies, and his points are very well made. All people who are detained in custody deserve to be treated in detention according to the highest international standards, and we certainly expect nothing else—nothing less—from the United States.

To return to the point about Private Manning’s nationality, we must respect his wishes on the matter and recognise the limitations on UK involvement. The right hon. Lady mentions Mr Manning’s family. We have not had a direct request from them, but obviously, if it comes to consular assistance of any kind, we will look at that request as and when one is made.

Private Manning is serving in the US armed forces and has been detained in the US while he is subject to legal proceedings. He has access to legal counsel who, from the reports I have seen, appear to be very active in defending his case. That case is ongoing, and we are confident in this instance that US judicial processes are sound.

In the light of the right hon. Lady’s representations tonight, I will instruct our officials at our embassy in Washington again to report the concerns of this House to officials in the State Department. I will also discuss with the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire, who has responsibility for north America, what else we might be able to do, while respecting the views of Private Manning and his legal counsel.

I can assure the right hon. Lady that we are concerned: we have listened very carefully to what she has said before; I have listened to what she has said tonight; and, as I assured her a moment ago, in response to that we will instruct our officials at our embassy in Washington again to report our concerns to officials in the State Department.

Once again, I thank the right hon. Lady for raising the issue. I hope that what I have said is of some help and of some interest to her.

Question put and agreed to.

10.52 pm

House adjourned.