9.3 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I want to talk predominantly about closed circuit television and DNA, because I still feel that, despite the Home Secretary’s best efforts, the Government are going in the wrong direction on these issues. I want to make it clear that I am not talking about what I believe to be the misuse of CCTV, such as for local authorities to snoop on what people put in their bins; I am talking about the use of CCTV for the detection of crime.

A Scotland Yard study of the effectiveness of surveillance cameras revealed that almost every Scotland Yard murder inquiry uses their footage as evidence. In 90 murder cases over a one-year period, CCTV was used in 86 investigations. Officers said it helped to solve 65 cases by capturing the murder itself on film, or tracking the movements of the suspects before or after an attack. The recent case in my constituency of the “crossbow cannibal”, who was convicted of murdering three prostitutes and dumping their bodies in the river, provides a good example, as he was caught only because there was CCTV in the block of flats where he was committing his crimes.

CCTV evidence is not only a valuable tool for the police. It is invaluable in courts on two levels: to convict the perpetrators of crimes, and to acquit those who have not committed a crime. CCTV footage provides conclusive and unbiased evidence, devoid of anyone’s spin or recollection bias, which not only saves courts’ time and money, but prevents witnesses from having to go through the often stressful and unpleasant ordeal of giving evidence in court. Equally, CCTV can prove that someone is being wrongly accused of committing a crime, as was the case with Edmond Taylor. His conviction for dangerous driving was quashed on appeal when CCTV footage showed that a white man had actually committed the offence—Mr Taylor is black.

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Another useful tool that we should be promoting is automatic number plate recognition. It was through the use of ANPR, and that alone, that PC Sharon Beshenivsky’s killers were caught. On 18 November 2005, Sharon Beshenivsky was shot and killed during a robbery in Bradford. The CCTV network was linked into an ANPR system and was able to identify the getaway car and track its movements, leading to the arrest of six suspects. The chief superintendant of West Yorkshire police called the ANPR system a

“revolutionary tool in detecting crime.”

When a 2005 Home Office report on public attitudes towards CCTV asked what people thought of the statement “Overall the advantages of CCTV outweigh the disadvantages”, 82% of those surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed.

People use “civil liberties” as an argument to support the case for reducing such technology. What I fail to understand is how footage of someone taken by CCTV cameras on a public street in the public domain invades their privacy or civil liberties. If someone has chosen to walk down the street, people can see them doing it whether they are recording it on a phone, observing what they are doing or watching it through a CCTV camera. Those actions are clearly not private.

These civil liberties arguments seem to be used against the DNA database too. I believe in real freedoms, and the fact that someone’s DNA is on a database does not prevent that person from going about their daily lawful business and it does not impinge on their freedoms in any way whatsoever. During the application for judicial review of the retention of DNA in the divisional court, the now Lord Justice Leveson stated that

“the material stored says nothing about the physical makeup, characteristics or life of the person to whom they belong.”

These civil liberties arguments about DNA and CCTV are bogus.

As a result of the Government’s proposals, murderers such as Ronald Castree would be free to roam the streets and potentially kill again. Castree stabbed 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in 1975 when she was on the way to the shop to buy bread for her mother. Stefan Kiszko was wrongly convicted and was jailed for 16 years for the murder until 2005 when Castree’s DNA was taken after he was arrested but not charged over another sexual attack.

It is a fact that many violent criminals have been jailed only because their DNA was taken when they committed a minor offence. These criminals include Dennis Fitzgerald, who was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for the rape of a woman in November 1987, and Nasser Mohammed who was jailed in 2008 for raping a woman in 2002 after his DNA was taken when he was picked up for a minor offence. Often, a DNA match is the only thing that finally brings people to justice.

Figures from the National Policing Improvement Agency state that in 2008-09, 32,209 crimes were detected in which a DNA match was available or played a part, and the latest annual report on the national DNA database concluded that six in 10 crime scene profiles loaded up to the database were matched to a subject profile. In addition, 147,852 crime scene sample profiles could be solved if we had a national DNA database—these are instances where a sample has been taken at the crime scene but there is, as yet, no match.

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The DNA database can also be used to acquit the innocent. The very first murder conviction using DNA evidence, in 1988, proved the innocence of a suspect. Richard Buckland was suspected of separately assaulting and murdering two schoolgirls in 1983 and 1986, but when his DNA sample was compared with DNA found on the bodies of the two victims it proved that he was not the killer. Colin Pitchfork was later arrested, having been one of the villagers who had their DNA taken and a match was found.

Unless the Government change their stance on DNA and CCTV, they will be doing a huge disservice to people in this country. Their approach will lead to more unnecessary victims of crime and will further tarnish our reputation in the field of law and order.

9.9 pm

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): The debate is on policing, but I shall touch on the economics of the situation, which are raised so often by Government Members. The Opposition are not in denial about the deficit, but we do not accept that we caused it—[ Interruption. ] Members on the Government Benches can snigger and laugh, but they could say that we caused the deficit only if no other country with a similar economy had had the same problems. All those countries had the same problem with their economic and banking systems because of the recklessness of the bankers, the sub-prime mortgages and the fact that some banks had balances that were bigger than the GDPs of many countries. They were reckless. We saved our system and as a result we managed to save half a million people becoming unemployed.

Tom Brake: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Yasmin Qureshi: I will give away on another point, not on this one.

We recognise that there are financial difficulties, but we must ask what we will achieve when we save money. We must ask whether if we save £10 in one area, we will end up paying £20. That will happen with the police cuts and the changes to the police more than with the changes to any other service. Staff numbers might be cut in the Department for Work and Pensions without repercussions elsewhere, but when front-line police officer numbers are cut that is a false economy.

There has been discussion in the House about imprisonment and long-term sentences and, in some cases, long sentences deter people from committing offences. What really stops people committing offences, however, is the fear of being caught, being prosecuted, being convicted, going to prison and having their liberties taken away. When somebody sees a police officer on the street, they will not commit a crime. When they know that there are a number of police officers in a particular area, they will not commit a crime. We will save the money that is spent when someone is arrested on prosecuting them, on lawyers’ fees, on our prison services, on prison officers, on probation officers and on all the different agencies that work in the criminal justice system. Of course, let us not forget the poor victim who suffers as a result of the criminal offence. If we put together the cost of all that, we must ask whether it is worth making that £10 saving when we will end up spending £30 to deal with the problem that the saving causes.

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I urge the Government seriously to consider how cuts should be made in a Department such as the Home Office, given that we will have more problems in the long term. I know that the hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) said that we must not blind the House with statistics, but everybody always bandies statistics about and it is right to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) said about the fact that crime, including violent crime and crimes against properties, fell considerably during the 13 years of Labour government. That did not happen miraculously—the Labour Government invested in the police, spent money on community support officers and gave more money for fingerprint analysis, DNA evidence and technical support. The combination of those things caused the crime rate to fall. Government Members can tell us not to quote statistics, but that is the truth: crime fell under Labour and it fell for the reasons I have given.

It is not just me who says that crime will rise. The chief constables of South Yorkshire and Lancashire have said that that will happen if the numbers of front-line police officers are cut. It is inevitable—it is common sense—that more crimes will occur if police numbers are cut, so I urge the Government to reconsider this false economic measure.

9.14 pm

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): One of my regular Sunday penances, more fool me, is to read The Observer. I do that neither for the quality of its journalism nor for the need to read Will Hutton’s economic “wisdom”, but because I am keen to get my head around what the Opposition are thinking so that I can better understand why they say the crazy things they say. This weekend’s editionwas particularly interesting: it printed a column in which it bemoaned the death of political discourse because of the quality of the Opposition’s response to what happened last week over the Justice Secretary’s comments. Nothing that I have heard today in the two debates I have sat through has given me any cause to decide that the quality of political discourse in the Chamber is improving. With a few honourable exceptions on both sides of the House it has been profoundly dispiriting.

Far more spiriting was my experience of attending the civic Sunday service yesterday in Poulton-le-Fylde for the new mayor of Wyre. Next to me on the pew sat the divisional commander of the northern section of Lancashire constabulary, whom I see occasionally at the odd event and who has also been a senior policeman in the adjacent Blackpool area. We had a fascinating discussion about some of the policing challenges he faces such as the role of domestic violence, with some 36% of violent crime within the northern division occurring within a family dwelling. We had a good-natured debate about the need for, or his arguments in favour of, minimum pricing for alcohol. Our discussion brought home to me a point that the right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) was trying to make earlier—that partnership working is a good thing. We have very senior policemen who have a very good understanding of the social problems in the communities they seek to serve.

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I have had another spiriting encounter recently—at one of my street surgeries on the day before that service. As I stood on the street corner under my Conservative umbrella in the pouring rain on the Fylde coast, a local resident and I discussed long-term antisocial behaviour. I tried to persuade that house owner, who was an elderly gentleman, that it was worth reporting a crime to the police, that he should not just assume that he would be ignored and that he needed to have a bit more confidence in the police. That encounter brought home to me once again the fact that there is a fundamental disconnect. We can have as many PACT—police and community together—meetings as we like, but they do not achieve much if they are not attended. We can have as many well-paid members of police authorities as we like—promoting themselves all of a sudden to make sure they have a future—but if people do not know who they are and do not see the role they play, as people have not recently, then they are not the ones to reconnect with ordinary people. That is why I strongly support the decision to introduce police commissioners.

I speak as a Member of Parliament who is fortunate, as I mentioned to the shadow Home Secretary earlier. I know that the chief constable of Lancashire has an awful lot to say for himself but he has some excellent divisional commanders who have been working on trying to accommodate the budgetary changes in Lancashire. In Blackpool, the police have been able to increase the number of neighbourhood policemen on the beat or, to use that wonderful phrase that the Opposition love so much, on the front line. My constituents will benefit from that and I welcome it. More importantly, I welcome the shadow Home Secretary’s pledge, if I heard her correctly, to maintain police numbers as they are. I am so grateful to her for writing all of my election leaflets between now and the general election. When I get my Hansard tomorrow I will be able to say quite confidently that Labour would cut policing in Blackpool because they would take it back to where it was before we had the improvements in neighbourhood policing.

My main concern, which I would like to raise in the final minute, is that last year Lancashire police’s total external income was £310 million, less than for 2010-11, but still £2 million more than for 2009-10. However, more than 30% of the increase in the police authority’s council tax precept has gone not on front-line policing, but rather on plugging the growing gap in police pensions. I know that there is much concern in all parts of the House about changes to police terms and conditions, but it is important to look at the matter, as the Home Secretary has said, from the point of view of fairness to taxpayers as well.

By 2011 the subsidy from the taxpayer to plug the gap in Lancashire police authority’s pension scheme had risen to £23 million, up from £13 million just three years ago. I firmly believe that the police should get a fair pension and a fair deal, but taxpayers also deserve a degree of fairness. The systemic underperformance of police pension funds must be resolved because the burden falls, in the end, on all of us.

9.20 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): The Home Secretary was good enough to meet six police officers from the west midlands—six outstanding officers whom I know well. They included Tim Kennedy, described

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by one of his colleagues as one of the most brilliant forensic detectives anywhere in Britain, with an outstanding track record of detection; Sergeant Dave Hewitt, an outstanding community police sergeant, with a team of police officers with a first-class track record of keeping their community safe; and Detective Constable Tony Fisher, a man who specialises in the detection of serious crime, ranging from detecting the individual who was robbing pensioners at knifepoint at cash points and putting him away for 13 years, to the action that he took to track down somebody who was responsible for leading a gang carrying out robberies with a machete, putting him away for 17 years.

There was also Martin Heard, a police constable and an outstanding community police officer in Wolverhampton. As his community said on ITV only last week, “He was always there for us when we needed him. Now there’s no one there in his place.” He was forced out as one of the A19 officers. To add insult to injury, he then received a letter asking, “Do you want to come back as an unpaid special constable?”

Even in some of the most sensitive areas of policing, we are seeing cuts. In the west midlands 16 counter-terrorism officers are being forced out under regulation A19—nine constables, three sergeants, two inspectors and a superintendent. This is madness. It is the abrogation by Government of their first duty, which is to ensure the safety and security of our communities, and it is utterly indefensible, yet the Government seek to mount two defences.

The first defence is the “Not me, guv” defence that blames the police. The Home Secretary cuts the police, then blames the police for the cuts, in circumstances where, by the scale and speed of the cuts that she has offered up to the Chancellor, she leaves chief constables in an impossible position. The second defence is the assertion that there are only 11% of police on the front line at any one time. That simplistic nonsense fails to understand the nature of modern policing.

Inspector Mark Stokes, one of the police officers whom the Home Secretary met, is an expert in designing out crime. At the 4 Towers estate, crime fell by 98% as a consequence of his work on the front line, but also in the middle office. Typically, the great bulk of the work to detect individuals guilty of domestic violence is done by way of a multi-agency approach, the multi-agency risk assessment conference, not on the front line, and it is devastatingly effective in protecting women against assault.

Offender managers work through the multi-agency public protection arrangements, managing offenders on the basis of risk—sex offenders, for example, such as the case in the west midlands of an individual who had served 28 months in prison because he had assaulted young children. He came out, applied to become a referee, became a referee, and was detected as a consequence not of detailed work on the front line, but of intelligence work that discovered what was happening, moved against him and raised the matter with the Football Association, leading to a sex offender order and that individual no longer having any access to young children. I could go on. So much of the work of intelligence and surveillance officers, for example, is not done on the front line, but it is absolutely key to successful policing.

What we are seeing is a devastating reversal of the progress made over the past 13 years. What we saw over those years was on the one hand our police learning the

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painful lessons from the mistakes of history, and on the other hand massive investment by a Labour Government, leading to 17,000 more police officers, 16,000 police community support officers, a 43% fall in crime and a model of community policing that is held in high regard worldwide and valued by our communities. Now in the west midlands we are seeing crime rising: 2,200 more vehicle crimes, 2,500 more burglaries and robbery up by 25%.

In conclusion, the Home Secretary spoke earlier about policing by consent, and I agree with her, but there is no consent in my constituency for what she is doing. There is dismay because no politician now on the Government Benches went to the people last May and said, “Vote for me and I will cut the police.” There is dismay because 2,400 will go from the West Midlands police service, and because those brave men and women with 30 years’ service, some of them 48 or 49 years old, are being forced out just when the community needs them most. The Home Secretary must realise that the Government have got it wrong and that they have to think again.

9.27 pm

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): This has been an illuminating and important debate for understanding the policy differences between the coalition Government and the Labour party. I would like to make a few observations, but first I will do as other Members have done and pay tribute to the work of the police, both nationally and in my constituency. They serve our communities well and occasionally put themselves in harm’s way, and we must never forget the demanding environment in which they work. That said, reform is long overdue.

I am pleased that the coalition Government are finally grasping the nettle and looking at restructuring, saving police officers’ time, simplifying how crime is recorded and freeing officers to focus on cutting crime. That is in contrast to Labour’s approach, which can be summarised as shifting power away from communities and back to Whitehall, introducing too many target-based systems and taking officers away from the front line. I listened carefully to the speech made by the shadow Home Secretary, for whom I have a lot of respect, and read the speech she gave to the Police Federation, but I still see no evidence—perhaps it is too early at this time—of any concrete ideas for reform.

On the subject of the Police Federation, I would like to digress briefly and mention the reception given to the Home Secretary last week, which I thought—I choose my words carefully—was unedifying, unfortunate and unnecessary. We are in difficult times and whichever party was in power it would have to make some tough decisions. Communication is very important, and we must respect the appointment. There are consequences of showing disrespect when a Secretary of State speaks to a federation, whether it relates to education, health or the police. It is important that that relationship is kept strong and that we do not get to the situation, as we see with the Health Secretary, where they decide no longer to speak to the full federation, but to smaller groups instead. I just want to put those points on the record.

I have a couple of observations to make on the Home Secretary’s speech itself. I have made the point about Criminal Records Bureau checks. I am fortunate to

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come from a family that is full of teachers, who feed me information about their problems and frustrations when trying to organise school events, take trips and provide the children with a bit of exposure beyond the school itself. Their frustration is the result of the red tape that they have to go through and the amount of paperwork required when organising those trips. I gave the example of one teacher in one school requiring a separate set of checks simply because her child went to another school where she wanted to drive a minibus. I am glad to hear that the coalition Government are going to address that issue.

Another aspect is antisocial behaviour, and I intervened on that point, but the Opposition did not make it clear whether they will move away from ASBOs or are still proud of what is considered a badge of honour. It is clear that among certain age groups three quarters of ASBOs are broken. They are breached, they do not work and we need a different form of reform which looks into the deep-rooted reasons why such ASBOs are broken.

There is also the aspect of late-night drinking. It is fair to say that Bournemouth has a vibrant nightlife, as do most towns nowadays, but one issue that the Home Secretary raised was the importance of the visibility of policing. The visibility of policing in Bournemouth has been tested, because of late-night drinking—the 24-hour drinking culture that the previous Government introduced. It has placed huge pressure on the police. They are no longer overstretched from 10 o’clock at night until 1 or 2 in the morning; they have to go until 3, 4, 5 o’clock in the morning in order to police the streets, because that is when the antisocial behaviour really kicks in.

Then, there is the amount of red tape affecting our police officers. In 2009-10, more than 52 guidance documents came from the Home Office, each one averaging 100 pages—far too much interference from Whitehall. That needs to change. That is why only 15% of any police officer’s time seems to be spent on the front line. Instead, they are pulled away to do the paperwork that the previous Government promised to tackle.

This has been a helpful debate. I am pleased to see that after 13 years we are starting to tackle some of the difficult decisions that face our police forces and our country. We need to reform the police, to reduce the red tape that exists among our forces and finally to grasp the difficult nettle of pay and conditions. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on taking on those issues—issues that were sadly ducked during 13 years of Labour.

9.32 pm

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): The thin blue line on the Government Benches is pretty thin for fairly obvious reasons: they do not have a decent alibi for making these savage and unnecessary cuts. The alibi that the Home Secretary feebly provides is that it is all the deficit and all Labour’s fault, but we all know that at least two thirds of that deficit was created by the bankers.

The British taxpayer has been robbed by the bankers, and in reality the deficit was the price paid to avoid a depression. If the Labour party and my right hon.

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Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) had not intervened, we would have been on our knees, and that investment in the banks will be paid back many times over, because the share prices will go up. Admittedly, one third of the deficit was excess investment over income to grow our economy, but there are no apologies for that.

Given that there is a deficit that the international financial community created, what should be done about it? Should we go down the Home Secretary’s path and clear the deficit in just four years, or whether we should halve it in four years? The other question is, whether we should get rid of the deficit in four years just through cuts to public services and benefits, or use three mechanisms: first, economic growth, such as notably the Germans and the Americans are using; secondly, make the bankers pay their fair share; and thirdly, yes, make manageable savings over time.

In the case under discussion, that would mean 12% cuts instead of 20%, the difference between front-line cuts and no front-line cuts. As I said in an intervention, the Government’s policy is a false economy, because the extra 8 percentage points, which will go purely on man and womanpower, will increase crime and the public will bear the cost in property or in damage to people. There is a clear choice, and the Government’s policy is the wrong choice.

We have seen it all before. Under the Tories last time, crime doubled; under Labour, crime went down 40%. Not only are we seeing the means of tackling crime reduced by cuts in police, DNA services, CCTV and ASBOs, by making sentences easier and by giving the wrong signals to rapists; we are increasing demand by cutting education, cutting jobs and increasing drug-taking essentially—[ Interruption. ] The Home Secretary seems bemused, but in reality if there is less education and fewer police, more children will go on to take drugs. That is certainly the testimony that I have heard from the police. The basic economics of the situation are completely absurd.

On top of that, we have this structural change costing £200 million—the introduction of elected commissioners, whose incentive will be to go for votes in middle-class, low-crime, high-voting areas. They will go along and say, “Yes, we’ll have some more community policing down here in this middle-class area”, but they will not do that where there are no votes and higher crime. There will therefore be a direct contradiction between the motivation of the elected commissioner and the operational chief constable who is supposed to be independent. The whole thing is absolutely farcical. What we need, clearly, is a pause. We have seen a number of pauses from this Government, including on the NHS and the woodland fiasco, and it is time to push the pause button again and do a complete reversal. In a nutshell, these changes are unnecessary, unfair and counter-productive.

Finally, I want to put in a good word for the Swansea police, particularly Chief Superintendent Mark Mathias. They are doing an absolutely fantastic job. For example, they are meeting up with retail traders to talk about the relationship between antisocial behaviour and economic growth and linking up with communities. However, they are not helped by the fact that one hand is being tied behind their backs and they are not given the support that they require.

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The view of the police, which is reflected among the public, was shown by the complete silence that met the Home Secretary when she spoke to them. If she does not have the confidence of the police, how can she hope to succeed? These polices do not make sense economically, socially or in terms of crime, and I urge her to think again.

9.36 pm

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): This has been an interesting debate with many contributions. I am particularly pleased that my hon. Friends, to a man and woman, have put forward the message that what we are seeing is very damaging to each and every one of our communities. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) and my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) and for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) pointed to the real damage that the budget cuts are doing to policing in their areas, highlighting the impact of the fight against crime on other important community services.

Interestingly, the unity among Labour Members was not matched by Government Members, many of whose interventions and speeches pointed to the fact that the Government are in some difficulty on this whole agenda. The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), who also spoke about himself, eloquently explained at some length the damage being done to the Government’s law and order credentials on sentencing and issues relating to policing. The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), who is not in his place, asked his own Home Secretary to look at the disproportionate impact of the cuts on policing. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) pointed to the potential harm done by the bureaucracy surrounding CCTV, ANPR and DNA. However much the Home Secretary tries to pretend that all is well and everything is going just swimmingly, it is clear that there are tensions and problems.

With regard to all this, it sometimes seems to me that I live in a parallel universe. I am struck by what the Home Secretary said at the Police Federation conference and by what she has said to the House. There was not a sliver of doubt in what she said—not one jot or iota of movement to suggest that maybe, just maybe, there might be other people who have a point, or that if she is not totally wrong, perhaps she needs to trim a little bit. Everybody who has opposed the Home Secretary, and indeed the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, is regarded as wrong, and their views are rejected. The view from Government Front Benchers is this: “We will plough on. It doesn’t matter what anybody else says—we are going to carry on.”

I say to the Home Secretary that the Government are out of touch on crime. They are taking big risks with the cuts to police numbers. The Prime Minister, who prides himself on being in touch, has not made one major crime speech since becoming Prime Minister. There is no cross-Government strategy to cut crime. Crime went up under the Tories before. If the Home Secretary, the Policing Minister and other Ministers carry on like this, they are at risk of that happening again, and it is communities across the country that will pay the price.

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The Home Secretary tells the House that there is no choice but to slash the budget by 20% and to lose 12,000 police officers and 16,000 staff. I say to her that that is a choice the Government have made. There is an alternative, but the Government do not want to pursue it. I will not use the example of aid that was given by the hon. Member for Monmouth, because we support that money. The Government have protected certain budgets. The schools budget is protected. The health budget is quite rightly protected. The Defence Secretary fought for the defence budget and secured changes to it. Where was the Home Secretary when it came to the police budget? Where was she when she should have gone to the Prime Minister and demanded that he give the police the budget they deserve? She was nowhere. Why was that not a priority? The police suffered a disproportionate cut to their budget, which is forcing chief constables up and down the country to make cuts.

I do not blame the chief constables, as the Home Secretary has done, for cutting police numbers. The blame for that lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of this Government, who have made the decisions about the budgets. It is not the chief constables who should be blamed, but the Home Secretary and her Ministers.

As well as police numbers being cut—some of the most experienced officers have already gone—the front line will be affected. I guarantee to all Government Members that if they speak to police officers in their constituencies, they will say that it is impossible for what is happening in their area not to impact on the front line. [ Interruption. ] The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) says that she does not think that that is right. I tell her to put that on her website. I will check it in the next couple of days to see whether it is on there.

Dr Huppert: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Vernon Coaker: I will give way in a moment, because I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will put out a press release on what he says. It will come out how the loss of officers and staff in Cambridgeshire is impacting on the front line there. I was in Cambridgeshire yesterday, and I spoke to front-line officers who told me that that was the case.

Dr Huppert: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. It is a shame he did not have the courtesy to say that he was visiting Cambridgeshire. I spoke to the chief constable this morning—the hon. Gentleman would know this if he had been here earlier—and there will be no loss of police constables in Cambridgeshire. The hon. Gentleman is simply wrong.

Vernon Coaker: Before the hon. Gentleman gets on his high horse, I should say that I have not heard of the new rule that one has to let an MP know every time one visits friends. I went to see friends of mine in Cambridgeshire who happen to be police officers, and they told me what the impact on front-line officers will be. If I had to choose between the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and front-line police officers in Cambridgeshire to tell me about the impact on the front line, I know who I would trust.

The hon. Member for Shipley spoke about the impact of DNA and CCTV. People and communities up and down this country are not saying to me as shadow

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Policing Minister, to my hon. Friends or to Government Members, “We’ve got far too many CCTV cameras in our area.” I do not have people queuing up in my constituency to tell me that. They are not saying, “Actually, our civil liberties are being undermined tremendously”. They say that they want more CCTV, because they understand that it supports the police and helps them fight crime. It reassures people and enables crime to be tackled effectively.

Tom Brake rose

Vernon Coaker: I will not give way, because I have only a couple of minutes. I normally would, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

A point that has not yet hit home is that supported housing, domestic and sexual violence services and youth services—the community services that people depend upon—are all being cut. When specialist housing support, sexual violence officers and the specialist domestic violence services provided by local authorities or voluntary organisations are no longer in place, people will instead dial 999 and ask for a police officer, who by their nature will try to attend. That will be a real problem for the police, because demands on them will go up as there is contraction in other services.

The Home Secretary spoke in absolute terms about what police and crime commissioners would do, but said not a word about the defeat in the House of Lords. She spoke as though the vote there had never taken place. There was no reference to it at all, no slight heed paid to the fact that the Government’s plans might need to change.

Mrs May: May I suggest that in future the hon. Gentleman listens to my speeches? I made specific reference to the defeat in the House of Lords and what would happen in the House of Commons.

Vernon Coaker: I will have a look at what the Home Secretary said, but I think all of us know that she is just going to plough on regardless of what the House of Lords has done.

We have a Government who are playing fast and loose on crime, and who say that they know best but are out of touch on law and order. It is about time that they got a grip and made the right choices for the country, the police and communities. If they can U-turn on forests and the NHS, we need a U-turn on the police. It will be interesting to see whether the Home Secretary and the Government do that.

9.48 pm

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): We have had a typical debate on policing this evening, in which Government Members have spoken with knowledge about policing in their local areas and offered constructive suggestions on how policing could be improved and, as usual, Labour Members have simply sought to play politics, as they have in every debate that they have called.

I begin by mentioning what I believe all of us should agree about—the value of the police in our country, the contribution that they make and the need for us to support them. I note in particular the tribute that my

23 May 2011 : Column 742

hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) paid to PC Nigel Albuery, who was stabbed on duty last week serving the Metropolitan police. His service, and what he went through, reminds us of the importance of the job that the police do, which we must recognise is frequently difficult and dangerous. Police officers, of course, cannot strike. It is therefore important—I say this in response to hon. Members on both sides of the House—that we treat police officers properly and value their service. However, none of that means that the Government do not have to take the difficult decisions that it is necessary to confront at the moment.

I agreed strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) on criticism of the police, which was levelled, for instance, in relation to the disorder in London in past weeks. He made the point that the police are so often damned if they do and damned if they do not. This Government have sought not to join in with that criticism; instead, we have offered support for both the leadership of the police and the officers who did their job on the ground in difficult and trying circumstances. Many of those officers were injured, and we believe that criticism should be levelled at, and reserved for, the people who perpetrated that violence. It is simply wrong-headed to criticise the police for the action that they took.

I am afraid that Opposition Members continue not to accept the fact that we must deal with the deficit, which means that we must take tough decisions. It is quite clear that Opposition would be simply unwilling to take those decisions—meaning decisions on the public sector. Do the shadow Home Secretary and the shadow Policing and Criminal Justice Minister really think that it helps to criticise chief constables as they seek to take the inevitable and difficult decisions to protect front-line services and restructure their forces? That does not help those chief constables at all.

The Opposition pretend, both to the police and to the public, that their policy would be completely different from ours, but as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out, their policy is to cut, this year, £7 of every £8 that we would cut. As the shadow Home Secretary has been forced to admit, the Opposition would cut £1 billion a year from police budgets. She must be the only person in this country who thinks it possible to cut £1 billion from police budgets without any reduction in the work force. How on earth does she think such savings can be realised?

Of course, there will be savings from reducing the work force. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary was quite clear that cuts would be made across legal and investigation services, and in estates, criminal justice, custody, training, intelligence, business support and community policing. That is where HMIC said savings must be realised. Why do the Opposition believe it possible to reduce spending on the police by £1 billion a year—their policy—and yet pretend to police officers and staff that not a single job would be lost? Frankly, in taking that position, they are not being straight with police officers and their staff about what would happen.

That is very different to the position taken by the former shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson). When he was Home Secretary, he at least had the honesty to admit that Labour could not maintain numbers. He admitted that, but the current shadow Home Secretary

23 May 2011 : Column 743

will not admit it. The truth is that she has absolutely no idea how that £1 billion of savings would be achieved. Let me give her an example from the HMIC report. The inspector talks about the importance of making savings from collaboration. He says:

“Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire forces anticipate savings of”

£1.5 million

“from joint work on scientific support, major crime, firearms, a single dog unit and a single professional standards department.”

Yvette Cooper rose—

Nick Herbert: I am not going to give way. [Hon. Members: “Give way!”] No. I gave way to the right hon. Lady last time, and she abused that privilege. I am not going to give way to her again. How does the right hon. Lady think that Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire could make these savings other than by reducing the number of people?

Yvette Cooper rose—

Nick Herbert: Those forces talk about a single dog unit. Does the right hon. Lady think they are just cutting the number—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. Members must not try to drown out the Minister of State. He must be heard. If he wants to give way, he will, but if not, he must continue.

Nick Herbert: With only a few minutes to go, I will not give way.

The Labour party does not wish to admit to police officers and the public that it, too, would be cutting budgets, staff and police pay. In her speech, the right hon. Lady criticised a police force that was having to cut its overtime bill. What does she think a cut in overtime is if not a cut in police pay? Frankly, the Opposition’s position is one of nothing more than shameless opportunism. Government Members know exactly what we have to do.

Incredibly, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), the right hon. Lady said, “We have had this debate before”. Yes we have, and she has called it before, and several times she has come to the Dispatch Box and repeated her constant claim about police cuts, but in all her speeches what has she actually said about policing policy? What has she said on any of these issues?

Yvette Cooper rose

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Lady has had her opportunity already because she has called three debates, but what has she said about policing policy? She has said nothing about serious organised crime. She has said nothing about procurement and IT, on which we argue that savings can be found. We say that nearly £400 million of savings can be made through better procurement and IT. What is the Opposition’s policy on that? They are silent. They have nothing to say on that.

Yvette Cooper rose

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Lady has never mentioned it in her speeches. She opposes the two-year pay freeze that we are asking the whole public sector to apply, and which will save a considerable sum in policing. Why is

23 May 2011 : Column 744

she opposing the two-year pay freeze and then arguing that we have not identified how to make the savings? Of course we have.

Yvette Cooper: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your experience, is it parliamentary procedure and parliamentary protocol for a Member to make so many comments about the shadow Home Secretary and not allow them to intervene to respond?

Mr Speaker: It is the responsibility of the Member on his or her feet to decide whether, and if so when, to allow an intervention.

Nick Herbert: That time-wasting intervention has just shown exactly why it is not necessary or proper to give way to the right hon. Lady.

The Labour party, and particularly the shadow Home Secretary, have absolutely no credibility on policing policy, because they have nothing to say about it. What is her position on the Winsor reform proposal that police officers should be paid more for working antisocial hours? Is she in favour of or against that? She will not say. What is her policy on the Winsor proposal that police officers should be rewarded for the skills they show? She does not know, she has not said, and she will not say, because the Opposition have no credible policy on policing issues. What has she said about bureaucracy? Absolutely nothing at all. We know that Labour created it, and we are determined to sweep it away.

The Government are determined to fight crime, and we are determined to support the police. We are determined to give the police and others new powers to fight antisocial behaviour. We will create a new national crime agency to strengthen the fight against serious crime. We will cut targets and trust professionals by giving them the freedom to do their job. We will sweep away the bureaucracy that Labour imposed.

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36 ).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to .

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 206, Noes 304.

Division No. 285]

[9.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

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

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

Davies, Philip

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

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

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lloyd, Tony

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Mr Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruddock, rh Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr David Anderson and

Graham Jones


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

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

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

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

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

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

Halfon, Robert

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, 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

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

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

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Macleod, Mary

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

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, David

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Ottaway, Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Norman Lamb and

Bill Wiggin

Question accordingly negatived.

23 May 2011 : Column 745

23 May 2011 : Column 746

23 May 2011 : Column 747

23 May 2011 : Column 748

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

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

Electronic Communications

That the draft Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Monetary Penalty Notices and Consents for Interception) Regulations 2011, which were laid before this House on 4 April, be approved.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.

Communities and Local Government

Ordered ,

That Mike Freer be discharged from the Communities and Local Government Committee and Heather Wheeler be added to the Committee.—(Mr Clifton-Brown , on behalf of the Committee of Selection .)

Human Rights (Joint Committee)


That Dr Julian Huppert be discharged from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Mike Crockart be added to the Committee.—(Mr Clifton-Brown , on behalf of the Committee of Selection .)

23 May 2011 : Column 749

FTSE 100 Companies (Governance)

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

10.16 pm

Eric Joyce (Falkirk) (Lab): I want to speak about corporate governance in the City of London’s largest companies, the FTSE 100 companies. We all have an interest in them, because all our pensions are invested in them. In particular, I want to speak about what I consider to be a serious failure of corporate governance on the part of one company and the non-executive directors who sit on its board. When preparing my speech, I spoke to a number of FTSE 100 executives and non-executives who were both professional and frank, except those at the single entity which I fear may be the bad apple that infects the rest of the barrel.

The City of London is a world leader. Billions of pounds pass through it every week and every month. An average of 600,000 transactions a day have taken place over the last five days, with a turnover ranging from £4.5 billion to £7.4 billion. The United Kingdom Exchequer derives an enormous revenue from the City. It is a huge source of employment and prestige for the UK, and it affects all our constituents in the most profound ways.

The City of London is successful because it attracts many of the world’s best at all levels, be they traders, managers or back-room staff. I think it best, on the whole, to let the wheels of commerce turn and, as a nation, to extract the benefits through corporate taxation, wherever it is levelled and whatever the levy. However, as we have seen recently with the banking crisis, things can go awry. For that reason, the system requires integrity so that people can trust it. Of course no system is perfect and flaws will always exist, but most agree that that essential integrity is best assured by, on one hand, regulatory bodies alongside the professional bodies that regulate the various professions involved in the City, and on the other hand the governance and structures of the individual companies themselves.

My aim this evening is not to raise the technicalities and structures of City regulation, but to ask the Minister more broadly whether he is concerned about the governance oversight of firms that are controlled by specific individuals from abroad and have no operations in the UK. I do not suggest that it is impossible for such companies to operate with complete dignity, and many do, but I do suggest that when there is good cause to suspect that the standards of governance of a listed company are below those that the public have a right to expect, that should become a matter of deep public concern which should be reflected in the Government’s stance on such failure.

I have a bad apple in mind. At the core of my concern—because it illustrates perfectly the case that I am making—is the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation. I have raised the subject of the company and what I consider to be its ill-advised dealings in the House before, but things have moved on and I think that it is worth raising it again. The commercial entity that is now the ENRC arose from the denationalisation of a Kazakhstan Government asset, or series of assets. It is now dominated by three Kazakhstani billionaires. The Kazakhstan Government retain a substantial share, as does Kazakhmys, another Kazak mining company which is also a member of the FTSE 100.

23 May 2011 : Column 750

The ENRC was listed in London in 2007 and, given the importance of the mining sector in terms of general values on the exchange, it is a key member of the FTSE 100. It has extensive operations in Kazakhstan, of course, and its regional neighbours Russia and China. Significantly, it has now extended its operations into Brazil, Mali and, last year, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Before the ENRC’s entry into the DRC, the company had been the subject of as much speculation as any other FTSE 100 company—many companies are the subject of speculation, which is up to them and their public affairs people to deal with, and most of them do that perfectly professionally. The ENRC had not generated much general public interest, but that changed when it procured a number of assets in the DRC which had been expropriated by the Government from what I think the markets agree is a perfectly reputable company.

That company operated in the DRC and was the largest taxpayer in that country. It had invested about £700 million in a couple of mines, but one in particular. I have mentioned this topic before in this place, so I do not need to keep repeating the details. What assets it invested in is well known. It invested £700 million and employed many thousands of people, and it was a huge taxpayer in the DRC, but, for no good reason, the DRC expropriated its assets. A close friend of the President of the DRC bought the assets at a knock-down price—about $20 million, which is a bit of a joke. The markets were very sceptical about the legitimacy of bidding for them. The key assets were the licences to operate a couple of mines, but one in particular at a place called Kolwezi. The only company that was really interested in procuring that was the ENRC, and that was its entrée into the DRC.

Many people had concerns, but not, it seems, the executives at the ENRC. I do not think that it is necessarily for the executives to answer every question that people and politicians might have, but I do think that non-executive directors should have sensible oversight and give people confidence that the operations of their company are legitimate. Many questions were raised about where an overnight profit of £160 million went. There were patterns; other deals had been operated in the same way by the same guy, Dan Gertler. He is an Israeli, and apparently a legitimate business man, who flies across to the Congo to do his business. Many people asked where that £160 million of profit on that one deal had gone. We can be as transparent as we want in respect of international aid, but our Government give £140 million or £150 million to the Congo in a single deal, and that can be wiped out—it can go anywhere, and we simply do not know. That does rather throw into question the effectiveness of development aid, and scepticism has recently been expressed in certain quarters about such money simply being displaced by “dodgy deals” so it does not go where it is intended to go. There are certainly concerns about this particular deal; I and many others who are interested in the region—and in the City—were deeply concerned.

It is a testament to the integrity of the governance of other FTSE 100 companies that many showed deep concern. Several withdrew their investments, and several reputable investment funds took out their money. One major merchant bank made a public statement that it was very concerned and reluctant to deal with this FTSE 100 company again. The non-executive directors, who I would have expected to be keen to make sure

23 May 2011 : Column 751

everything was entirely legitimate, were completely unconcerned. Their public statements were completely blasé; they had no concerns whatever. That was remarkable because most people who knew about the market, the company and the deal were very concerned about the circumstances, which was why they had not touched the asset and the ENRC got it at a knock-down price.

I am reluctant to bang on about personalities, and I am especially cautious about that given what is happening in other current news stories. However, I shall mention one person who is publicly known to be the senior independent non-executive director of the ENRC: Sir Richard Sykes. I will mention a couple of technicalities about the purpose of governors and non-executive directors in a few moments, but I think it is pertinent to mention him now because he is a good example of a very successful chief executive officer.

Sir Richard Sykes was CEO of GlaxoSmithKline for many years, and he was enormously successful and highly regarded. Subsequently he had a bit of a hiccup as principal of Imperial college, London, concerning what some considered to be a slightly ropey back-door deal to try to acquire the land of Wye agricultural college in Kent, which eventually fell through. That may have tainted him a little and perhaps that is why he has taken up this particular non-executive position. It was widely reported in the financial press that he was being paid about three times the normal rate—about £250,000—to be a non-executive director at the ENRC. He expressed little concern, as he thought that the deal was entirely legitimate. Indeed, he thought that if the case went to international arbitration and some fault was found, the Government of the DRC would have to pay the money. The case is in international arbitration; the company that previously owned the asset that I am referring to as Kolwezi has taken the case up. To that degree, it is difficult for us to comment on what might happen in future, but what is clear is that the senior independent non-executive director of the ENRC thinks it is perfectly legitimate and fair that the DRC, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, should pick up a bill of £700 million, £800 million or perhaps more—the case is being spoken about in terms of billions. This seems to be something of a failure of corporate governance.

That made me reflect on the purpose of corporate governance. I am not an expert in this area—many hon. Members have much more expertise on what the defined legal roles of directors, executive directors and non-executive directors are—but I have done a little reading and I thought that I would just reflect on what corporate governance is supposed to achieve. It is commonly defined—this is a little dry, but it is perfectly right to mention it—as the system by which companies are directed and controlled. The board of directors is entrusted with that function, and each member is appointed to uphold all appropriate governance standards.

The role of non-executive directors—this is my primary concern—within a company’s governance structure is less clearly defined and, apparently, varies among companies. Non-executive directors are often seen as the guardians of the corporate good and act as buffers between the executive director and the company’s outside shareholders. They act as chairman, monitoring executive actions and questioning executive decisions. It seems to me that they have a dual role. They clearly have a primary responsibility to the shareholder, but more

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broadly they have a responsibility to the broad City of London and the whole corporate governance structures of the UK to ensure that people are confident that if our pensions are being invested in FTSE 100 companies, as they are, the non-executives are doing the job that they are supposed to be doing. That job is to have in mind not only the profitability of the company, but the reputation of the company and the brand, and to keep a good eye on what hard-pressed executives are doing to maximise their profits. Those guys are being pushed very hard and are being handsomely rewarded but if, from time to time, someone chooses to cut a corner, it is the job of the corporate governance of the non-executive directors to pick it up.

As far as I can see, we trust non-executive directors to a large degree, despite the fact that many people fire lots of, perhaps unfair, criticism at them, saying that they are placemen and so on. Broadly speaking, there is a quite a lot of confidence in corporate governance, as is seen in the case of Glencore, which had an initial public offer—partial flotation—last week. There has been enormous discussion about the make-up of its board, and whether or not the board can do its job properly because many of the non-execs are so powerful and wealthy. That is for time to tell, as was said in an excellent column by Miss Sunderland in the Daily Mail a few weeks ago. I have no great concerns about any other immediate companies at the moment, because I do not really know enough about them, but I do know enough about the ENRC to see that non-executive directors do not appear to have done their job. Other significant figures in the City of London have been very clear and open about that.

It is also worth mentioning that when politicians approach these companies, whether or not they like it—they are pretty neutral—they usually have a pretty professional operation. I found the ENRC to be completely invisible and unapproachable. It has one public relations guy and a spaniel sitting in an office somewhere in London. Its ownership is abroad, as are its operations. As I say, it is owned by people who are largely unaccountable. That is not to say that there has to be wide public ownership of a company for the board to have accountability from the chief executive officers, because there are many cases where families control public companies but the governance is still fine.

In this case, it looks as though there is about to be a fight between the Kazakhstani Government and a few billionaires who were beneficiaries when the Kazakhstani Government largely privatised the company, or took it out of nationalisation, who want to take control. The non-executive directors, who I believe have been completely ineffectual, have found lately that their reputation has been badly affected, so they are now trying to argue that there should be greater corporate oversight at the ENRC. The response from the billionaires who sit behind the ENRC has been to try to get enough shares to take overall control, to sack all the non-exec directors in about two weeks’ time at the annual general meeting and effectively to leave the company without any meaningful corporate governance. The company has also been unable to recruit a new CEO after the former CEO left at very short notice a couple of months ago in opaque circumstances.

In conclusion, do the Government have a plan for what happens when a corporate entity, which affects everyone’s pensions, is sitting in the City of London,

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potentially infecting the barrel? I am not saying all the other companies are naive fools, but we have a corporate entity in London that has foreign ownership, no effective meaningful shareholder control, operations that are entirely abroad and billionaires who are bragging about how they will take over the company and sack all the non-execs. How will the Government ensure some degree of confidence in the markets that a company like the ENRC will not do the same thing it did with Kolwezi and damage the good reputation of the City of London?

10.31 pm

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): I congratulate the hon. Member for Falkirk (Eric Joyce) on securing this debate. The title on the Order Paper is “Standards of governance amongst FTSE 100 companies”, which is a very important subject, and it is clear from his remarks that he has a particular company and set of circumstances in mind. It will be hard for me to comment on that, but I realise that he is using the case to make some wider points about the City of London. He also rightly referred to the role of professional bodies before turning to the specific case of the ENRC.

The coalition Government believe that the UK’s corporate governance framework plays an important role in enabling investors to hold the boards of companies to account for their performance, facilitating efficient allocation of resources in the economy and creating the accountability and transparency that encourage responsible business behaviour in line with internationally agreed standards. As such, it is vital to achieving our goal of sustainable economic growth.

There are various ways in which we deliver the strong corporate governance framework we have in the UK. One is our listing rules, which might help the hon. Gentleman and me to confront the question he asked towards the end of his speech. The listing rules that must be fulfilled before a company can be quoted on the London stock exchange are a matter for the Financial Services Authority as the UK listing authority. The UK regime is one of the strongest in the world and UK listed companies are expected to comply with high standards of corporate governance through compliance with the Financial Reporting Council’s corporate governance code. The short answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that the listing rules are crucial.

We are not complacent. We recognise that we need to ensure that our overall corporate governance regime is fit for the future and we need to make sure that the governance of our top companies continues to improve. The governance landscape is constantly changing, both domestically and internationally. We need to adapt to that to stay in line with our competitors and we are trying to do that with corporate governance reform, the stewardship code, narrative reporting and guidance on directors’ remuneration and bankers’ pay. That is all part of the Government’s commitment to a wider corporate social responsibility agenda, encouraging businesses to minimise the negative social and environmental impact of their activity and maximise the positive impact they can make while benefiting commercially in the process.

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Our action to support and encourage responsible business focuses on helping businesses to understand how they can deliver on corporate social responsibility, including by facilitating the exchange of good practice and supporting a range of international frameworks such as the OECD guidelines for multinationals and the UN global compact, which might be relevant to the case that the hon. Gentleman has raised. The Government are pressing for the EU to adopt rules providing for greater transparency in the information provided by multinational companies in extractive industries about, for example, their tax payments in host countries, based on the United States’ Dodd-Frank principles. This will allow citizens to have the information to hold their Governments to account for the revenues they receive from resource wealth, including some of the tax payments the hon. Gentleman mentioned. However, I am not able to make any comment on or judgment about that specific account.

The US Dodd-Frank Act also requires companies reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission to report their use of conflict minerals originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or neighbouring countries. We are interested to see how the US Government will implement their new legislation and we will closely monitor its implementation. In the meantime, we have been supporting the work of the OECD and the UN group of experts to develop due-diligence guidelines for the minerals supply chain in eastern DRC and to encourage adherence by companies looking to trade in cassiterite, wolframite, coltan and gold originating from the DRC. We are strong supporters, including financially through PROMINES, of DRC efforts fully to implement the extractive industry transparency initiative.

As we are talking about that country and businesses located in it, let me touch briefly on the hon. Gentleman’s comments, but I hope he will understand that it is very difficult for me to comment on an individual case and that it would not be right for me to do so from the Dispatch Box. He asked about non-executive directors: let me make it clear that under UK law all directors need to comply with the same general duties, including the duty to promote the success of the company both in the long term and the short term and the duty to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence.

I did not know that the hon. Gentleman had intended to refer to the company he mentioned or to Sir Richard Sykes, and I am not able to comment on those specific points. What I can say is that I have had dealings with Sir Richard Sykes over the years in relation to his position with the NHS and Imperial college, and we all know his record as the chief executive at GlaxoSmithKline. He is a well-respected business man who has also made a considerable contribution to the NHS and our higher education system. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise the seriousness of some of the things he said about the company. I am not able to comment on that case but I think we should all, on both sides of the House, recognise the significant contribution that Sir Richard Sykes has made to the commercial life of our country and to public service, in which I am sure he has always behaved with great integrity.

Outside the specific case that the hon. Gentleman has raised, there are wider issues. We have launched a new agenda called “Every Business Commits”, in partnership with business in the community, to help all UK businesses

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understand how they can act responsibly. It gives them clear examples of how they can make a difference in priority areas such as supporting communities, improving quality of life, improving skills and creating jobs, protecting the environment and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. “Every Business Commits” aims to shape business’s contribution to the Government’s broader agenda to empower communities and encourage social action. We believe it will provide the platform for business to play an important role alongside Government in helping to resolve some of society’s most important challenges.

So my response to the hon. Gentleman is that the Government believe that the UK already has a robust corporate governance framework. We are not complacent and recognise that it always needs to be reviewed and updated, and we realise that there will always be individual cases that test those guidelines and that framework. I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand that it is hard for me to go further into the specific case that he raised. Nevertheless, our principles on which we will approach this and all cases are clear—that it is in the long-term interests of British companies to support the work we are doing to bolster corporate governance, and we encourage every company to meet the standards of the best.

We have specific powers, including the powers relating to the listing rules, which are for the Financial Services Authority. As we work through the issues of the correct

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structure of corporate governance in the UK, our conclusions will be based on the principles that motivate our desire to have a world-class corporate governance framework. However, we are not in the business of weighing companies and investors down with more regulation and higher costs. We believe in improving accountability and transparency. Those are important principles which we expect all companies, large or small, multinational or solely domestic, to live up to. We believe that following those principles is essential for securing long-term, sustainable economic growth for Britain.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising these important issues. Although it is not possible for me to comment in any detail on the specific case, I hope he will accept that the coalition Government take very seriously indeed the overall framework of corporate governance, the powers that Governments and other regulatory bodies have, and our commitment specifically to tackling the problems with regard to the DRC and making sure that we have the highest standards of compliance when it comes to some of the extractive industries there.

Question put and agreed to.

10.42 pm

House adjourned.