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The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) commended the work of local authorities. Local authorities come in for a lot of criticism and receive a lot of brickbats, but their clean-up operations and responses were magnificent. I welcome his recognition of that, which was important to get on the record. I also share his view about the need for proportionate sentencing. Yes, people need to face the consequences of their actions, but the sentences must be proportionate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) stressed the importance of avoiding stigmatising entire groups—another important point with which I agree. She said that we must emphasise the need for respect, both within the community and for agencies that work on our behalf, including the police. She said that we should avoid a knee-jerk response, and highlighted the fantastic attitude in her constituency from the community, the general public, council workers and the police, who all responded magnificently. I welcome her putting those comments on the record.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) highlighted the opportunistic nature of much of the criminality in which people indulged, and he referred to the need to look at early intervention. He pointed out that local authorities will be at the forefront in dealing with the consequences of the riots and in finding solutions to prevent them from happening again. He stressed the importance of a sustainable funding stream. Investing in prevention is more cost-effective and far better than dealing with problems after they have happened.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) spoke about the impact of the riots on his constituency and stressed his concerns about inadequate police numbers. He mentioned the difficulties the police had in responding to the problems and riotous behaviour until more police were deployed from outside London to bring some order to the streets. He was worried about the reductions in police numbers, and called on the Government to rethink their proposed cuts to the number of police.

The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) made a point about the use of language and said how important it is to avoid demonising single parents. I agree with him; that point was absolutely spot on. He reinforced the call from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham for more black and Asian recruits to the police force, which will help to ensure a more sustainable and measured response. The hon. Gentleman also spoke from his own personal experience about the difficulties of policing, particularly the practical difficulties of more robust policing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) also spoke about inadequate police numbers and the need to learn lessons about deployment. She noted how police were deployed in Croydon, which meant that it was difficult to deal with the outbreak of rioting in her own area, and she stressed the fear and anxiety felt by her community.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) spoke about the importance of being careful with the language that we use. We must be cognisant of police numbers and the tactics that were used. We all agree that it was important to send the strong message that people cannot get away with riotous behaviour. It is vital to regenerate those communities

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affected by the riots but, as hon. Members have pointed out, those areas that were not afflicted still have some of the underlying problems of the communities that were affected. We must be aware of that and ensure a measured response across the country.

It is important to look at how we can prevent a repetition of what happened in August and the appointment of Louise Casey to the troubled families unit is a welcome step in the right direction. I know of her work and have met her. She is a tremendous public servant and will do an excellent job in driving the agenda forward. We must also understand why such events happened, which will help to prevent a repetition.

As hon. Members have said, last month, we saw the best and worst facets of human behaviour. I believe that we must find a way of instilling a sense of civic pride in our communities and particularly our young people. It is difficult to understand how people can feel that it is acceptable under certain circumstances to smash up their own communities. If we can instil that sense of civic pride and hope, and give people a stake in their community, we will go a long way towards preventing a repetition of the awful scenes that we saw in August.

Heidi Alexander: My hon. Friend has picked up on an important point that I would have liked to mention in my earlier comments. It is about the presence of hope and the belief in a positive future, which stopped many people from taking part in the riots. That is one of the key things that we must get right. In some of our inner-city areas, young people, people in their 20s, believe that they have real opportunities.

Chris Williamson: I totally agree; my hon. Friend is spot on. It is essential that we achieve that objective, but the question is: how can it be done? There is a significant role for the youth service, and we must give young people hope through providing employment opportunities and adequate training. If we can do that, we will have a chance of instilling that sense of civic pride and hope that is the way forward.

All right hon. and hon. Members will have received a briefing note from the Children’s Society. It has made a few observations that are worth putting on the record. On youth services it states:

“We are concerned that the funding available for youth services has been cut substantially. The Early Intervention Grant, the main grant available for local authorities to provide services for children and young people, has been reduced in real terms by around 23% both this year, and for 2012/13…Market research conducted for The Children’s Society in April this year indicated that services for young people will be among the hardest hit with over a quarter of the local authorities responding stating that cuts to youth services were likely, as well as cuts to services for youth crime prevention and support for NEET young people. This is further compounded by the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the Future Jobs Fund. Youth unemployment has already hit record highs over the last year and over a third of 16 and 17-year-old school leavers are currently without a job.”

Those are real issues for the Government to look at, and in many ways they were reflected in the contributions from right hon. and hon. Members across the Chamber. I hope that the Government will think again about the way they are reducing funding for local authorities, particularly in key areas such as early intervention and

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youth services. Will the Minister give the Chamber the benefit of his thoughts on how we can ensure that local authorities commission early intervention services, which are under real threat? How will he prevent funding cuts from impairing local authorities’ ability to prevent a repetition of the riots and to respond effectively if there is—we all hope there will not be—another outbreak of riots next year? I ask that because police numbers and firefighter numbers are being reduced, and that will create real pressure if we are not careful. Bearing it in mind that local authorities are seeing reductions in their funding, I would be interested in hearing comments from the Minister on how we can ensure that those reductions will not impair the ability of those public services to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak of riotous behaviour in future.

5.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. This has been a very interesting and important debate, and I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) on securing it and on the very thoughtful, measured and constructive tone he adopted, as did the other hon. Members who spoke. I recognise that not every hon. Member has had the chance to say all that they would wish to, but I will do my best to do justice to the comments that have been made. If I run out of time and do not manage to do so, I will write to hon. Members to deal with any outstanding matters.

As hon. Members said, we are some two months on from the riots and it has rightly been observed that they were on an unprecedented scale. Some 4,700 people had been arrested by the end of September. That compares with 82 arrests after the 1981 riots in Brixton. All of us will have seen shocking scenes, the details of which were relayed by hon. Members today. The whole country has rightly expressed its abhorrence of what happened, and hon. Members are right to do so today.

Some 1,800 businesses were affected during the four or five days of the riots, and 174 residential properties were affected, resulting in 167 households being displaced. Some 16,000 police officers were deployed on the streets of London alone from 9 August. That demonstrates the ability to surge the numbers—an increase of 10,000 officers from the day before.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave a commitment in his statement to the House of Commons that the Government would

“help you repair the damage, get your businesses back up and running and support your communities.”—[Official Report, 11 August 2011; Vol. 531, c. 1053.]

I shall tell hon. Members how we are seeking to do that. By working with our partners, we want to help communities and businesses to get back to normal, restore footfall, restore pride in high streets as shopping and leisure areas, and help those most seriously affected.

The day after the Prime Minister’s statement, Ministers from the Home Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Ministry of Justice and I updated hon. Members on the Government’s multi-million pound support package to overcome the immediate recovery issues that those affected were facing. That was

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followed up with a “one month on” update sent to all English MPs, which was placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Ministers visited hard-hit areas. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government spoke by telephone to the mayor of Hackney. I have had one subsequent meeting with him, and our chief executive has met theirs and they will continue to meet. I was in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford), seeing the businesses affected there. I went to see the 38 affected in my own constituency, in the town centre of Bromley, and like many other hon. Members, I viewed the CCTV footage. An inter-ministerial recovery group, chaired by the Secretary of State, has been set up to support business and community recovery on the ground.

Jonathan Evans: The Minister knows that I mentioned that I chaired the all-party group meeting with leading figures from the insurance industry two days ago. They were concerned that the insurance industry should be involved in the regeneration efforts. That was successfully achieved in Cockermouth, where communities ended up with something better than they started with. That would go some way towards meeting the objective to which the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) referred.

Robert Neill: Yes, the involvement of the business community, including the insurance sector, has been discussed. We are in contact with them, and I am sure that we will be able to take that forward. For example, the quality of shutters that are put up by way of replacement can be an enhancement. That is one thing that has already been very much on the agenda.

Hon. Members have talked about how the riots occurred. I hope that they will forgive me if I do not go into too much detail about that but concentrate on the response. Whatever the circumstances surrounding the death of Mark Duggan, to which the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) referred, and whatever the circumstances that led to that, I think we all agree that what happened later had little to do with it and was fuelled overwhelmingly by greed, deliberate thuggery and opportunistic or sometimes—I have to say, having seen the videos from my area—planned criminality. There is no excuse for that. Sadly, lives were destroyed, along with homes and livelihoods. We have heard about instances of businesses that had been going for years being put out of business. The loss of life—five lives in all—can be fairly connected with that.

It is good to be able to say that a response is already taking place. The fancy dress shop in Battersea that was ruined in the riots is now trading next door to its original building. Duncan Mundell, the proprietor, is opening an additional outlet in the Debenhams store opposite. He is building up his Hallowe’en trade.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con) rose—

Robert Neill: I see my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison) here. I will certainly give way to her, because she has been instrumental in galvanising her community to try to achieve an holistic response.

Jane Ellison: My hon. Friend the Minister is too kind. I am very pleased that he has mentioned the Party

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Superstore, as I certainly wanted to draw attention to it. It is co-operating with Debenhams, which is a nice example of a small retailer and a big retailer working together. May I use this intervention to make one point and a plea? Wandsworth council has very successfully set up a one-stop shop for local businesses to go to for all the form filling, hand holding and so on. That has worked a treat, particularly for small businesses. It has enabled them to negotiate the minefield of forms and legislation, and is a model for how we should make our response.

My plea concerns the riot funds that the Department for Communities and Local Government controls. We need the deadline to be extended beyond Christmas, so that we can use the run-up to Christmas to let imaginative ideas for using some of that funding to regenerate high streets take root.

Robert Neill: My hon. Friend is right about the first point; I shall come to the second point in a moment, if I may.

A tribute has already been paid to the emergency services. For reasons of time, I have not repeated it in detail. The strength of it is none the less undiminished. Remarkable bravery and professionalism were shown. In terms of specific Government activities, the DCLG and Business Link have set up web pages providing advice and information. Wandsworth and many other councils have taken the steps that have been referred to.

To look on the positive side, and perhaps to put things in perspective, for every person arrested, 15 people followed the “Riot Clean Up” Twitter feed. There is a good side to this, which we should not forget. We have ensured that the faith communities have been closely involved throughout. Reference has been made to appropriate and condign sentencing. That will continue. It is a matter for the courts, but the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice are also looking at the means of increasing the rate of recovery of fines for those who are not sentenced to custody; I think most people think that right and proper.

The Riot (Damages) Act 1886 is of course an important route for compensation. That has been referred to. We extended the claims deadline from 14 to 42 days. There is a helpline and website linked to a claims bureau at the Home Office to give further advice. Thus far, there have been 775 calls and more than 1,000 claims, in addition to claims made by insurers direct to police authorities.

On the same day as the Prime Minister’s statement, the Government announced a £10 million recovery scheme to help local authorities with their immediate costs. That operates on a similar basis to the Bellwin scheme, but does not have the qualifying threshold of 0.2% of revenue budget. That makes it easier for local authorities to receive support. Above the threshold, the Bellwin scheme has been activated.

We have offered advice and support to all the local authorities affected; they have dedicated contact officials at the Department. Some 35 local authorities have registered for the £20 million high street support scheme, which was set up specifically to support small and medium-sized enterprises affected.

We have listened to local partners and extended the payment deadline to 3 January, and extended the deadline for local authorities to submit claims to 31 January. That seems appropriate, so that local authorities can try

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to get going in the run-up to Christmas. It is also worth paying tribute to the business community. A £3 million charitable “High Street Fund” has been set up by Sir William Castell and the Wellcome Foundation, with a £500,000 donation from the Mayor of London, to offer immediate recovery grants. Business in the Community and the British Retail Consortium have also played an active part.

Inland Revenue has handled some 1,286 calls and agreed to some 162 time-to-pay agreements for customers whose cash flow is affected, worth about £3.4 million. We have also set aside £1 million for a homelessness support scheme to deal with the immediate re-housing costs of those who were directly made homeless. Every household that approached their local authority for assistance has either been re-housed or provided with advice and assistance. In Haringey, we have provided £35,000 for two caseworkers to support families in the River Heights estate. I, along with the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk), held a recovery advice surgery for MPs from affected constituencies, which a number of hon. Members present attended.

We have set up the Riot Communities and Victims Panel, chaired by Darra Singh. I will check whether it has been to Hackney, but it is carrying out a number of visits around the country. I am sure that its objective is to meet as many authorities as possible. The panel will publish an interim report in November and present a final report to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in March 2012.

It is worth highlighting the community response, such as the “Love” campaigns in Manchester and Salford, “Liverpool Clean Up”, and the work done by Haringey’s community assistance centre, Tottenham Green leisure centre, and the volunteers in Vauxhall. In the medium term, we are providing £20 million through the London enterprise fund for the regeneration of Tottenham and Croydon, which will be administered alongside the Mayor of London’s £50 million recovery fund.

Mr Lammy: Does the Minister recognise that £10 million for Tottenham will simply not be sufficient for the needs of the poorest constituency in London?

Robert Neill: That is specific targeting that goes to Tottenham and Croydon, in recognition of their circumstances, which no others receive. In addition, the Mayor has announced taskforces for Tottenham and Croydon. The one for Tottenham is headed by Sir Stuart Lipton, and that for Croydon by Julian Metcalfe, the entrepreneur behind Pret A Manger. It is not the end of the story.

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I welcome the support from the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) for Louise Casey and her work in the problem families unit in my Department. The unit is working to deliver early interventions to 120,000 problem families. We are consulting on the question of evicting antisocial families. I know that different views have been expressed in the debate, but we think that that is a legitimate tool that should be in the box, and authorities of all political complexions have viewed it as an appropriate option. Ultimately, such matters are decided by the courts.

Finally, the Home Secretary is leading a cross-Government review with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the problem of gang violence, which is a huge issue that we certainly need to tackle. Powerful points were made in the debate, and I am sure that they will inform the work of that review. I hope that I have given hon. Members an indication of the serious steps that the Government have been taking to deal with the issue.

5.44 pm

Gavin Barwell: With the leave of the House, I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. I think that when my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) and the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), coming from their different perspectives, can agree on the need to diversify our police force, we are reminded that, sometimes, less separates us than we sometimes acknowledge in debates in the main Chamber.

I apologise to hon. Members who have sat patiently through the debate, but who have not had the chance to speak. I hope that the Government will reflect on the need for further debates on the issues. I want to thank the Government and the Minister in particular for his response, and for the work that he and the Mayor of London have done. A lot still remains to be done.

I want to end with a simple thought. If my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth will forgive me—everyone else who has spoken in the debate represents a London constituency—I will say that our city is a great city—in my opinion, the greatest in the world—but it still has profound problems. What happened in early August is a reminder of them. I want to end by saying thank you to the public servants who went above and beyond the call of duty to support Londoners over those few days, and to the residents of our city for the response that they have shown—that we will not allow what happened to set our city back, and that we will rebuild, and rebuild stronger. I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate.

Question put and agreed to.

5.44 pm

Sitting adjourned.