2.51 pm

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) on securing the debate and on his contribution to it.

Every area of the UK feels a connection with and a debt of gratitude to its police services. They keep us safe day in, day out, in overt and sometimes covert ways. They are part of the glue that holds our society together. In my constituency I know my local police by first name, where their beats are and even some of their hobbies—I have to reveal that a few are fellow cyclists. I am sure that most, if not all hon. Members can echo such sentiments and experiences.

My latest briefing from the local police found that the level of high-impact crimes such as burglary has been cut dramatically. Officially, as of last spring, the previous three-year period had seen a 10% drop in crime in our area. Police are doing more, sometimes with less, but always, it seems, more efficiently and intelligently. This Government are all about good husbandry of resources—we understand that the money is everyone’s, not ever the Government’s.

We are undergoing a review of the police funding formula. As was the case with schools, we have had to wait a decade or more for a review. The social make-up of our country has changed markedly over that period. However, such reviews always throw up worst-case scenarios, and a lot of stories in the Birmingham media involve the possible direction of the review based on those worst-case scenarios. Understandably, therefore, I have received several letters from constituents concerned about future police funding in the west midlands, and I have held informal discussions with senior local police to gauge their views. The overwhelming response is that

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we do not want to see the fantastic work done by our police in bringing crime down to be damaged by any misallocation of resources.

We have particular challenges in the west midlands, which should carry extra weight in any funding allocation. We face acute challenges in combating radicalisation, child exploitation and female genital mutilation. On a straight population model, it is easy to see how Ministers might look at West Midlands police funding as a potential area for future efficiencies. However, I am encouraged to read in the Home Office consultation document that basing the funding model on per head of population has in effect been ruled out. In addition, I welcome the part of the document that acknowledges that funding based purely on police activity “may skew the results”.

We are not helped in our cause by the office of the police and crime commissioner, which has overseen the expenditure of some £30 million on its headquarters and holds more than £100 million in reserves according to some estimates. The PCC also employs seven people in a public relations capacity, compared with an average among all the other PCC areas of two. To be fair to the police and crime commissioner, however, he is planning to apportion a substantial slice of those hefty reserves on front-line policing and recruitment in the near future.

The West Midlands force has also been slow in weaning itself off central Government financing. It relies on central Government for some 87% of its financing, and over time the proportion drawn from the precept has not increased by the level that it should have. The socioeconomic challenges that we face, however, should give real pause for thought before any substantial cuts to central Government financing are undertaken; and I am confident that we will be listened to and that no such cuts will be made. Furthermore, West Midlands police should be allowed to show how the force will redress the funding balance between the precept and central Government.

Steve McCabe: I realise that this will be a central part of the debate, but will the hon. Gentleman care to tell us how much he thinks the precept should rise by as part of the weaning process?

Julian Knight: That is a matter for local decision makers—just as it is a matter for them that they have not increased the precept over previous years. The hon. Gentleman used the word “spurious” before, but frankly the only spurious argument put forward so far has been that used by Opposition Members—that the referendum costs would be so prohibitive that one could never actually happen. If the argument is that a precept increase would spark a level of council tax sufficient to require a referendum automatically, I suggest that it would be up to the local decision makers, councillors and politicians to put the strong case for why—which is, in effect, that the West Midlands force is playing catch-up.

Mr Mitchell: I have the greatest respect for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), but I asked whether the Opposition favoured national subvention or a greater contribution from local resources—merely to flush out Labour’s thinking on funding—so for him to put the same question to my hon. Friend and

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then look rather askance when he does not answer shows, if I may say so, a bit of brass neck. This is an important point: we are asking those who want to see an increase—we all want to see the West Midlands police properly funded—where they think it should come from and in what proportion. So far we have not had an answer from the Opposition, although I have no doubt at all that my neighbour, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), will give us precisely that answer when he speaks in the debate.

Julian Knight: I concur with my right hon. Friend’s thoughts in that respect. The realities are that when we want to discuss financing and to argue a case with Ministers, we have to show a route map towards future decisions. We have to show a way in which we are ultimately going to wean ourselves off the precept. Shouting about it, saying, “Woe is me!” and making party political points will do no good in achieving what we want, which is—this is the bottom line—the best possible funding deal for West Midlands police. I hope everyone in the Chamber would agree with that.

The west midlands should be allowed to show clearly how it will redress the balance between precept and central Government funding for the police. Let me use the example of the BBC, an institution that I have touched on once or twice in recent debates. That organisation’s model of funding is not fit for purpose, but it has been allowed an opportunity, in the charter renewal, to show how it will correct itself. I am asking for the same consideration to be given to West Midlands police. After all, the police are more important to our way of life than whether BBC4 or the BBC website exists. The long-term objective has to be that local decision makers must show a route map away from the existing levels of precept funding. That has to form part of the negotiations, so that we do not end up with any formula that dramatically cuts funding to the police. We need a gradual process of retrenchment by central Government, with more of the burden being put on the local area.

2.59 pm

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) on initiating this important debate.

In all the time I have served as a west midlands Member—a very long time indeed—the West Midlands police force has never received such a financial blow as it has over the last five years. The force has, at times, been the subject of controversy—perhaps the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) will remember only too well some of the more recent controversies—but the fact of the matter is that the force has been treated properly under successive Governments until, unfortunately, the last few years, and it is due to be hit again. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield referred to a future meeting of the Home Affairs Committee. On 21 July, the very day that the Home Secretary gave evidence to that Committee, the Chancellor called for a further 40% cut from what are known as unprotected Departments. I asked the Home Secretary during that session what effect that would have on the police, and in particular on the West Midlands force, and she gave, more or less as one would expect, a rather ambiguous reply.

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As has been pointed out, the West Midlands police force relies far more on a central Government grant allocation than do most other forces in the country. As the Minister will know, that point has been emphasised on so many occasions since 2010—by local authorities in the west midlands and by both the late and the new police and crime commissioners. Indeed, few Members, even Conservative ones, have not made the point that the manner in which finance has been organised over the years—the damping process that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield referred to—has been particularly adverse to the West Midlands police force.

In my earlier intervention I made reference to referendums. To increase the precept by just under 2%, a referendum would be necessary. When a referendum took place in Bedfordshire, the answer was no, and the cost was in the region of £600,000. Bearing in mind incomes in the west midlands, and the way in which so many people, certainly in public services, have had their wage increases frozen at 1%, it would not be right or proper to ask people in the region to pay more.

In comparison, Surrey, which undoubtedly is a far more prosperous area than the west midlands—I do not think there is any controversy about that—gets half its income from council tax. That is very different indeed from in the west midlands, yet Ministers and the Home Secretary have simply refused to recognise the difference between places such as Surrey, which rely far more on council tax, and those that rely more on the grant allocation.

In five years there has been a 17% reduction in the number of police officers in the west midlands. I do not think that the Minister is likely to challenge that figure—if he does, I will be interested to hear what he says. Moreover, there has been a 24% cut in the number of police community support officers. I would also be interested to hear the Minister’s comments about the fact that some 590 west midlands officers, each with more than 30 years’ service, have been forced to retire under regulation A19. Of those 590 officers, nearly 500 have put in claims regarding pension sums that amount to more than £71 million—a very substantial figure.

Let me add a little about my own constituency. Over the years there have been two police stations, in Bloxwich and Willenhall. In addition, there has been the main station on Green Lane—I will not go into the fact that it was opened by the then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, in 1966. What is happening now is that Willenhall station is to close and be sold off. The borough’s central police station, on Green Lane, is to close next year and the building will be sold off also. Bloxwich will, fortunately, remain—I hope we are not going to be told that it is also to close.

That is the situation locally. No wonder the police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, has said that

“the force will have to look and feel different”

in respect of crime in the future. How different? The chief constable, who is retiring, has said that by 2020 the police force will have to be reduced by almost 45% over 10 years.

In conclusion, law-abiding people in the west midlands must feel a good deal of anxiety, certainly among those who understand what has happened and is likely to happen—people who feel that if they are burgled or

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their cars are stolen, there will be difficulties contacting the police, getting the crimes investigated and all the rest. Such anxiety is perfectly justified. Criminals and potential criminals must feel a good deal of satisfaction about what is happening. I believe that the Government, and certainly the Home Secretary, have a duty to understand the concern that is being expressed by so many, including Members on both sides of the House, and to find a formula that is fair for the people of the west midlands. That is what we are asking for today. I hope it is not too much to ask that the Minister bear in mind our concerns and our desire to ensure that there are sufficient police officers and facilities to protect law-abiding people in the region.

3.8 pm

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): It is a pleasure to be called to participate in my first Westminster Hall debate under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby. I join my right hon. and hon. Friends in congratulating the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) on securing the debate on this extremely important topic. As the son of a west midlands police officer, who served for nearly 30 years in West Midlands police and before that in the Birmingham force, through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and mid-’90s, this issue is important to me personally. The future of West Midlands police is obviously dear to me, as well as vital to my constituents.

I appreciate that time is short, and I will try to keep my remarks brief and avoid repeating things that have already been said better by my right hon. and hon. Friends. As has been said, we have seen crime levels fall by 17% in the west midlands over the last few years. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield that the crime has changed, but I do not accept his assertion that crime levels have not fallen. The evidence is that, however crime is measured, the trend generally points in the same direction. If anything, the scale of the fall, on other measures, is greater than 17%.

Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is absolutely not the case with crimes such as domestic and sexual violence?

Mike Wood: Sorry, but whether we take our crime figures from the police or the victims of crime surveys, the general trend in the west midlands and nationally is down. Of course, some sections of crime—the hon. Lady is right to identify domestic violence as an issue—have had a large impact on recent crime figures. Domestic violence is, of course, an important issue, which West Midlands police has to address; and it is, in fact, working hard to do that.

The work being done to reduce crime across the west midlands has come at a time when the Government have had to take extremely difficult decisions, and they will continue to do so. That is despite the scare stories we have had since day one, when we were told that decisions that have now been taken would inevitably lead to apocalyptic outcomes, but that is not what we have seen. Of course, we all want the best funding settlement for West Midlands police, but we should be careful about accepting at face value some of the more apocalyptic predictions.

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As I said, West Midlands police has achieved significant reductions with reduced budgets. We are fortunate to have a police force that is innovating and that has shown that it is, where appropriate, prepared to work with the private sector to deliver the police service we need. Its success in that field has been recognised as outstanding by HMIC.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): My hon. Friend makes an important point about the innovative work of West Midlands police, and I can think of one area where that has been somewhat understated. West Midlands police identified a problem with people with mental health conditions being put in inappropriate locations. They are now working in an innovative partnership with the NHS, and there has been a huge reduction in the number of people being put in inappropriate locations under the Mental Health Act 1983.

Mike Wood: I absolutely agree, and I was fortunate enough to join my hon. Friend on a visit to see that initiative. We accompanied the team as it responded to a call, which it dealt with in a way that ensured that the person involved received appropriate medical care, rather than ending up in a police cell, which was clearly the worst place for them. Police forces around the country could learn a lot from the work being pioneered in the west midlands.

The West Midlands police force is clearly being ambitious in its plans, but we have to ensure that taxpayers in Dudley South and across the west midlands get a fair deal. That means making sure not only that the funding settlement is fair to the west midlands, but that the money is spent effectively. The heart of the Conservative approach is that we must fix the roof while the sun shines.

That does not mean that things are perfect or anywhere near perfect. The police funding system does not work as it should—it is complex, opaque and out of date. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield said, the damping system seriously disadvantages the west midlands, and it has done so for the past 10 years, since the last Labour Government introduced it. That needs to be addressed as part of the review. That is why it is right that the Government focus on replacing the existing funding formula with a simpler one, but we must make sure that forces such as the West Midlands get the deal they deserve and need. The new funding formula needs to reward forces that innovate and that succeed in bringing down crime. It also needs to recognise the level of underlying crime that remains in the west midlands, as well as the need to tackle it and the resources that are required to do so.

The West Midlands force is the second largest in the country, and there is a need for funding that reflects that. However, too often it also seems that we do not get the full 100p for each pound of police funding, and we have seen questionable uses of that funding. Only last week we heard of a local police officer receiving almost £33,000 in overtime alone. I think there is perhaps rather more to that than appears in the newspapers, but that is clearly not an ideal or efficient way to allocate resources. The overtime bill for 39 forces in England and Wales rose by £6 million last year, and it has totalled more than £1 billion over the last three years.

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Julian Knight: My hon. Friend is making some important points. He is spotting many of the inefficiencies that already exist, including in relation to the office of the police and crime commissioner. Will he comment on the fact that the commissioner has reserves of up to £100 million and that £30 million has been spent on Lloyd house?

Mike Wood: My constituents have certainly come to me with concerns about how West Midlands police is using, or intends to use, those reserves to make sure that the best possible service is provided. Yes, people were surprised—

Jess Phillips: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mike Wood: If I could just finish a sentence, I will give way.

People are surprised at the use of £33 million to refurbish Lloyd house. I understand that there were some contractual obligations, but the situation is obviously not sustainable. Tying up so much of the force’s resources in a prime property in Birmingham city centre is not delivering the police service we need.

Jess Phillips: I agree, as I am sure everybody here does, that we must spend our resources wisely, so does the hon. Gentleman feel that the £4 million spent as part of a flawed policy on an exceptionally flawed by-election, which was badly managed by the Home Office, was a good use of spending?

Mike Wood: I campaigned in last year’s by-election. Obviously I was not happy with it being in August or with the result, but we have to move past both those factors.

The current police allocation formula is clearly outdated and in desperate need of reform. I will respond to the Home Office consultation as soon as I work out what some of the questions refer to.

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): Is it opaque?

Mike Wood: Some of the model does, as the hon. Lady suggests, lack clarity. The lack of detail about how the five factors involved are to be incorporated and the information they are based on makes it difficult to understand how a new formula would affect the west midlands. That is a serious problem, which I hope the Minister will reflect on. It certainly makes it difficult for me and other Members to understand how a change would affect our constituents.

More broadly, as well as needing a fair funding formula that delivers fair funding for the west midlands, we must accept that it is not sustainable in the long term for 87% of the funding to come from central Government grant. As the former finance spokesman on Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, I am the first to argue for council tax bills to be kept as low as possible. However, I hope the Minister will discuss with DCLG colleagues whether there might be some way to introduce an element of flexibility into the referendum criteria, as happened in previous years, recognising low-precepting authorities and perhaps setting a cash ceiling that would trigger a referendum, rather than a straight percentage increase. West Midlands fire service certainly took advantage

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of that three or four years ago. It would help to put West Midlands police on to a more sustainable footing if the balance between centrally and locally funded streams were addressed better.

It is clear that the police reform that is happening locally is working. West midlands police have been working to identify and respond to crime, and crime has fallen. I want to express my thanks to West Midlands police force, my local police officers and, of course, the West Midlands police leadership, from the chief constable down.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr David Crausby (in the Chair): Order. There are 15 minutes left and three Members standing. If they all keep their speeches below or around six minutes we will get everyone in, as long as someone else does not stand up and spoil my calculations.

3.21 pm

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby, and to follow the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood). It is interesting that he, a new Member, has already seen the difficulties of the policies brought forward by the previous Government. It is good that he has been creative in that way.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), for obtaining the debate. It is not a question of people ringing around forcing Members to attend. As can be seen, Members from throughout the west midlands are here, quite rightly, because the debate is about a key issue for our constituents. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) is here, and I hope that he will report back some of today’s comments at the Select Committee sitting that he will attend next week.

The debate is about fiscal fairness, and protecting our constituents and their public services. Lots of Members have already raised the financial issues, and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield, eloquently went into the issue of the damping formula, but I want to add my voice on the concerns about finance and the funding of the West Midlands police. I am not giving a political statistic, but information from the National Audit Office. The West Midlands police have had 23% cuts. By comparison, as many hon. Members have said, Surrey has faced cuts of only 12%. Those are all facts. There have been cuts of £126 million in the past five years. Under the current formula, £43 million should have been given to the West Midlands police, but has not been.

Members touched on the matter of the council tax precept. The creative thinking of the hon. Member for Dudley South is interesting, and I hope that the Minister will look at what he said carefully, but I repeat that the precept for the West Midlands police is the second lowest in the country. People have talked about a referendum; that was the previous Government’s policy, and was part of the Localism Act 2011. There has been a squeeze on the West Midlands police nationally, but also locally, and it has resulted in the loss of 1,471 police officers, which is a huge number. I have had conversations with the police, and there has been a

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recruitment freeze. In addition to the effects of retirements, it is difficult to get new people into the force to provide the service that my constituents need. The effect of that has been huge.

There have been several criticisms of the police and crime commissioner, who is not here to defend himself, so I hope he will get an opportunity to provide clarification, given some of the misinformation about what he has done about the budget.

I want to thank Chief Superintendent Dave Sturman, who has moved on to another job—yes, it may well be in Lloyd house—and who has been fantastic about responding to concerns that I have raised on behalf of constituents. He has raided houses where there were sex workers and drugs, and he brought to justice the perpetrator of an attack on an elderly gentleman who was on his way to a mosque. In 2011 there was proper consultation with the local authority and Walsall town centre was free from riots. That is what it is about—partnership with local people.

Terry Simmons, the secretary of the Walsall borough neighbourhood watch, whom I have spoken to, has said that there is concern about what is happening. The association has enjoyed a good relationship with the police, but one neighbourhood team has moved back to the town centre. One person spoke of being at the mercy of a local response team, and those will not always deal with the low-priority cases. Pleck, Alumwell and Birchills are distressed at the kind of things that the police, with the minimum of resources, are having to do—they cannot do their job. As to response teams, it is said that they are moving away from the public, given the closure of front offices and falling numbers of patrols. People cannot talk to police officers on the street. The police are retreating into their cars. That is the wrong strategy.

Now more than ever before, we are in a challenging time. We need people to be vigilant, and we need to build up relationships with local people. We need local intelligence to protect our communities. In Walsall there have been two marches—a drain on people’s resources—of people who do not consider that a diverse community should be together, and who try to divide it. Those are the kinds of things that we face in Walsall.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield, commented on the funding formula, which is currently opaque. How opaque can it get, when all the information is not provided? I ask the Minister to start the consultation again, because the process is flawed. A decision cannot be made without all the information. I ask for all the information to be published immediately—not on 29 September after the consultation period ends, as has been suggested. If the consultation period is extended, perhaps all the information can be provided. West Midlands police should not have to make a freedom of information request to get basic information that they need. It is simple. When someone buys a house they have all the information—the survey and the price—before making a decision on whether to proceed. We cannot have a situation in which public services are de-funded, things do not work and people get angry, and then the services are handed over to G4S—after which, as happened during the Olympics, the state has to take over again. My constituents want to know the police officers they speak to every day. They want them to know the community, and they want to allow the police the resources to do what they need to do to serve the community.

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3.28 pm

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby, and that is particularly true in this important debate secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). He outlined precisely the effect, and the unfairness, of the cuts that are to be made after the so-called consultation. I hope that the Minister will look at the considerable number of representations made about the adverse effect on the West Midlands police. As my hon. Friend said, if they must stick to the budgets outlined, they will not have sufficient finances to pay for their current staff. That will be a grave situation for all of us.

I will concentrate on my constituency, Birmingham, Perry Barr, where I took over as MP 14 years ago. We have faced significant issues with crimes against the person, gang-related crime, gun crime, knife crime and robbery. There have also been significant issues with regard to supporting people with mental health concerns, and particularly with some of the hostels for them, of which there are a considerable number in my constituency. We have had quite a lot to tackle over the past 15 years. I am proud to say that, by working with precision with the West Midlands police, and with proper funding, we have managed to reduce those crime rates hugely. When it comes to crime levels, we are now probably one of the best constituencies in the country. That is a credit to all the police officers, and all the people who work with the West Midlands police, including elected councillors and lay people who work in the neighbourhood forums. Delivering all that has been a combined effort. However, we have increasing issues to do with how we move forward and deal with our situation. We have lost a considerable number of police community support officers, and we could be about to lose all the ones we have left.

I want to mention a PCSO, Rob Capella, who has been in the force for almost 15 years—he joined the service as I became a Member of Parliament. He has done phenomenal work in the local area of Lozells and East Handsworth. He knows the families and people who live in those streets. People invite him in for a cup of tea and give him the information and intelligence that we need to work on reducing crime and finding out where the issues are and how we can deal with them. Losing a resource such as the one that Rob provides would be hugely detrimental.

In my constituency, we have held neighbourhood forums, which the police have put resources into; officers attend to listen to local people. They have been able to deliver a hugely important service. Residents have been listened to by the police, and the police have delivered services; for example, they have taken huge numbers of email addresses and phone numbers, and have been able to text and email people about the issues arising. That has been quite effective.

We are starting to see some of that work being undone, however, because of the cuts. Considering where we have come from, that is sad to see. A lot of people have put a lot of effort into local areas, and the community has been working together with the police; before I was elected in 2001, it was difficult to imagine that happening in areas such as Lozells, Aston and Handsworth. We have broken down barriers by working with the police, but now we find it extremely difficult for the police to

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engage with people in those places who want to protect those communities and be part of the solution, not the problem.

It is important that we can put that work together, but to do what we have to, resources are needed. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield, said, resources are crucial to providing that kind of support to our communities. I do not think any of us wants a return of the era we have come from.

To conclude quickly, I know that the Minister is taking part in a consultation. He is a very fair man, and I am sure that he will have listened to the concerns that all Members have raised today. This issue is important to all of us. As for the outcome of the consultation, I hope he is able to bear in mind the concerns we have all raised. That would go some way to addressing some of the issues.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr David Crausby (in the Chair): Order. I want to call the Front Benchers at 3.40 pm.

3.34 pm

Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab): This is my first go at contributing to a debate in Westminster Hall, Mr Crausby. I did not know where the Chamber was—luckily one of my colleagues from Coventry was coming here—but I do know an awful lot about policing in the west midlands. There is not a single MP here in whose constituency I have not worked with the police teams. In fact, I welcomed the hon. Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) into a women’s refuge in my area some years ago, and had a cup of tea with him and Francis Maude. I have also—I am sure that the Minister is not aware of this—acted for the past five years as an adviser to the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice on international human trafficking and police resources for domestic and sexual violence.

I know what I am talking about when it comes to police funding, and what should be central or local. There is definitely a need for both to play their part. There is a huge array of different funding models for preventing crime in the west midlands. My experience has largely been that those that are protected, part-funded—for want of a better word—and encouraged by central Government always work best.

I want to give some apocalyptic examples of exceptionally bad husbandry. The bad husbands that I will talk about are people who abuse their wives. I have worked on every Birmingham MARAC. Not everyone will know that acronym; it stands for multi-agency risk assessment conference. MARACs deal with people at imminent risk of death from domestic violence—the most high-risk victims, who have been put through unimaginable terrors. In Birmingham, we have had four MARACs. For 10 years, they were chaired by serving police officers; then it changed to police personnel chairing the meetings. The administration and co-ordination of all those meetings, at which all the cases were heard and we decided together what to do about them, was managed by police staff. Police people put together the minutes, gave everyone their actions and chased people who were to come back to the meeting once they had taken action; they would

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ask, “Probation, what have you done about the offender? Housing, have you got a house for this woman and her children?”

Until about 18 months ago, it was the police who held that together. Then the police did not do it any more. The three MARACs that now exist in Birmingham do not have an administrator or a co-ordinator. We go along to the meetings and talk about stuff, and action points are taken away, but stuff falls through the cracks. That stuff is what you—[Interruption.] Sorry, Mr Crausby, not you. That stuff is what the Home Office will receive when it has its domestic homicide reviews. It will say that the system is broken and that we cannot communicate with each other any more, because we had resources—once it was police officers, and then, one step down, police personnel—but now we do not have any.

This might sound apocalyptic, but that situation will mean that people die. It will mean that we fail in our duty to keep people safe. That is what police cuts mean. Yes, we all feel that crime is going down, and that good husbandry and efficiency in management has really helped, but I am seeing that it has not. Members will never see inside the MARAC room. No one from a newspaper will ever say, “Gosh, there’s no MARAC co-ordinator—MARAC co-ordinator scandal!”, but in the real world, where people are working on the frontline in every single one of your constituencies—sorry, Mr Crausby—that is what is happening. It is bad.

There is a difference between crime figures and safety. The public protection unit of West Midlands police is one of the greatest police units. West Midlands police have done an awful lot to clear the decks and try to recognise that child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, sexual violence and rape have to be dealt with. The force has put huge effort, care and love into that, but the report from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary still says that the response is not good enough for the people in my constituency and across the west midlands. That is not the fault of the police. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) said, if we were where we were 20 years ago, things would look very different; on domestic and sexual violence, on gang violence and on working with our communities, we have come really far, and there is a reason for that: we were able to do the work.

I have seen how a really good multi-agency, multi-partnership community response has gone because of cuts to policing. I can do no more than urge the Minister to hear me when I say that the papers will be coming across the Home Office’s desk, but unfortunately they will be about the deceased.

3.40 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) on his public service in securing this debate.

Last weekend I was in Erdington high street with Louis, a much loved police community support officer who works with the town centre partnership, making the high street a safe place to go. Popular with the local community, he is a grandfather figure to the local children in the high street. Last month I was with Cindy Tierney, out on the beat in Perry Common. She has

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been doing the job for 11 and a half years. “I love the job,” she says, and she is much loved—I saw that at first hand. She polices one of the poorest wards in Britain and undertakes exemplary work with local young people. Now both are at risk of losing their jobs as a consequence of budget cuts that will see PCSOs become an endangered species in the west midlands.

West Midlands police is rightly regarded as one of the best forces in Britain. It is ably led by Chris Sims, and has been ably represented, first by Bob Jones and then by David Jamieson. Centres of excellence are contained there, including award-winning neighbourhood police schemes, such as in my constituency, in Stockland Green. The West Midlands police service has done everything and more that the Government have asked of it. The Police Minister often says that the police should make the best use of resources. West Midlands police has done precisely that and been rated as outstanding by HMIC for doing so. That includes undertaking a groundbreaking partnership with Accenture on the modelling of the police service looking to 2020.

However, West Midlands police is reeling from 23% cuts over the last five years—the biggest cuts to any police service nationwide and in Europe—with £126 million gone from their budget. The west midlands is increasingly feeling the consequences, and I have seen that at first hand all over the west midlands—the progressive hollowing-out of neighbourhood policing, with more and more neighbourhood police officers getting taken back on to response; 27 police stations closing; and a generation of progress in cutting crime now being reversed. The latest figures on police recorded crime is for a 1% increase for the period of March 2014 to March 2015—and by the way, West Midlands police has been praised by HMIC as being the best force in the country for the accuracy of its crime statistics.

Now the West Midlands police service is facing catastrophic cuts, with potentially very serious consequences. Why? Because of the cumulative impact of what has happened thus far, with 1,500 police officers gone, and now, because the comprehensive spending review is looming, with the police not protected and with at least another £100 million and 2,500 more police officers to go. What has made things worse is the grotesque unfairness of the approach adopted by the Government. As hon. Members have said, had the west midlands been treated fairly over the last five years, we would have seen £43 million more in funding. Unfortunately, the west midlands has been treated grotesquely unfairly.

To add insult to injury, a funding formula review is about to make a bad situation worse. A fresh review was necessary and was promised for a year. It was published on the last day on which Parliament sat. The situation is now descending into farce because vital information has been withheld. The review talks about a number of principles, saying that some forces would be significantly affected, yet the Government have withheld which forces and by how much. There must have been an study on the likely impact of the new formula on all forces—on West Midlands police in particular—and there has to be, under law, an equality impact study. Neither has been disclosed.

On 30 July, I wrote to the Police Minister asking for that information to be disclosed, but there was no answer. The West Midlands police service has asked for it to be disclosed, but there was no answer. Therefore, it

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had to put in a freedom of information request, but there was no answer; or, now at least: “We may answer. If we do, we’ll do so on 29 September”—14 days after the consultation period closes. You couldn’t make it up.

Now at last we have some clarity, as a consequence of the leaked document. Work has been carried out by the Police and Crime Commissioners Treasurers’ Society, suggesting that the West Midlands police could lose another 25.1% because of the new formula, which does not include the departmental spending cuts to come. It reveals that, under the proposed formula, there will be a shift from urban to rural. The second hardest hit will be the west midlands, with a cut of 25.1%, the third hardest hit will be Merseyside, at 25.5%, and the fourth hardest hit will be Greater Manchester, at 23.3%. That will mean that the West Midlands police service will be near cut in half and will be smaller than when it was founded in 1974.

The Government have perpetrated a myth that somehow massive cuts can be inflicted on the police service and crime can be cut. Well, not only is recorded crime rising after a generation of progress, but crime is changing. Demand is rising. We have seen a massive increase in fraud, online crime and cybercrime—nearly 4 million last year alone—while the biggest concentration of cases of female genital mutilation outside London is in the west midlands. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) said in her excellent contribution, this is not only about the impact on the victims of domestic violence; it is about protecting those who have been subject to child sex exploitation and abuse. What the West Midlands police service has done is rise to the challenge to tackle these obscenities, increasing the numbers in the public protection unit from 300 to 800. However, it is still struggling to cope with rapidly growing demand.

There is also counter-terrorism. At a time like this, it is utterly irresponsible to inflict such cuts that hollow out neighbourhood policing. The former head of counter-terrorism, Peter Clarke, and the current head of counter-terrorism, Mark Rowley, have both said that the patient building of good community relationships through neighbourhood policing is absolutely vital to the apprehension of terrorists and potential terrorists. Seeing neighbourhood policing being increasingly hollowed out will put the people of the west midlands at risk.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield asked some powerful questions. Fundamentally, it comes down to two points. First, will the Police Minister agree to publish in full all the studies that must have been carried out on the impact on our police service, so that this debate can be properly informed? Secondly, will he agree to extend the deadline on the consultative process? Otherwise, the consultative process is utterly meaningless, concealing a serious hidden agenda.

In conclusion, what the Government and the Police Minister must do today is come clean about exactly what they are proposing. Thus far, both the Government and the Police Minister have been in denial, asserting that, as was said earlier this week, numbers of police officers somehow do not matter—but yes, they do. They have been claiming that the front line will be protected, when it has not been—12,000 have gone from the front line over the last five years and the number is rapidly

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rising. Sometimes we are accused by the Police Minister, when we are telling the truth about what is happening—as hon. Members have in the powerful contributions that have been made in this debate—of somehow attacking the police. Nonsense. I bow to no one in my admiration for the West Midlands police service and for the good men and women that I see doing an outstanding job, day in, day out. We are not attacking the police; we are standing up for our police service, because that is exactly what our constituents want us to do. We are standing up against a Government that are doing terrible damage to our police service.

The first duty of any Government is the safety and security of their citizens. Cuts on this proposed scale will make it very difficult for the police to do their job, and it will make many communities in the west midlands less safe places to live and work. The Government cannot fail in that fundamental duty to the people of the west midlands, and we urge them to think again.

3.49 pm

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): It is, as always, a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby. I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) on securing the debate. If I was still a Back Bencher—we all start in that position—I would probably have put my name down for a debate here today on this subject as well. As colleagues who are here from both sides of the House know, that is what this place is for, and I have never hidden any of my views on this subject. I stand up again today, as I do every time I stand up as the Police Minister, which it is an honour and a privilege to do, to pay tribute to the police officers not only in the west midlands, but across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland—this great kingdom of ours. They do a simply fantastic job.

The forces around the country have adapted brilliantly to changes in the crime that they deal with daily and to austerity. Opposition Members will not like this point, but we inherited a really difficult financial position, and we went into an austerity process. The country made a decision at the general election. Many of the things that I heard in the speech by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), were also put out by him across the country during the general election campaign, but the public believe in what we are trying to do, which is to run a stable ship with the money available and not continue to get ourselves in a difficult financial situation.

I have met representatives of many forces, from chiefs right down to junior constables who have just joined the force. The other day I was at Hendon, where training of new recruits was going on. The one thing that has always been clear to me is that 99.9% of police officers are in the job for the right reason. That is true whether they are at the bottom or the top. I do not think that the press pay enough of a tribute to them; too often, they focus on the bad apples who spoil it for everyone else. It is right that they should be rooted out, and they are.

I pay tribute to the comments made on both sides of the Chamber. In the time allowed, I probably will not be able to answer all the points that were raised, but, as always, I will write to colleagues—and I did write to the

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shadow Police Minister in response to his letter to me. If he has not got that response, I do not know where it has gone, but I have responded.

Let us begin right at the start. Every time I went to see different forces, the one thing that the chief and the PCC either said in unison or quietly said individually to me was that the existing formula was fundamentally flawed. We were basically saying to forces, “This is how much money you should have, based on what you’re delivering, and this is what we’re going to take away from you through damping, top-slicing, etc.” All of them said that it was fundamentally flawed, so the principle of what we were looking at was how we could find a fairer system for all 43 forces that I represent.

I fully understand that there have been real, substantial and difficult financial decisions to be made by PCCs and chief constables about where and how they deliver their policing. I pay tribute to the work that has been done. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) said that I might not know what she has done. Trust me: the civil service is quite good and did tell me exactly what she has done in the past. I thank her for the work that she has done for the Department and in her community. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

It is important that we ensure that the people on the front line and not the people—without being rude—in this room decide how policing is delivered in their communities. With that in mind, I have, interestingly enough, a new member of staff joining my private office from the Metropolitan police. They will be seconded from the Metropolitan police for one year, so that I can hear about what is happening on the front line, rather than perhaps just going by other experiences in the room. Actually, that person has volunteered to do it; they have not been seconded.

It is crucial that we ensure that a modern police force can deal with modern, difficult crimes. Some of those crimes are not new to us. FGM has been around since we became—this interesting word—a multicultural society. A lot of people have brought here traditions that we find completely abhorrent. Fortunately, we now have the legislation on the statute book to try to do something about that and people are coming forward.

When I was a young man on the council estate where I was brought up in north London, domestic violence was, I am ashamed to say, almost accepted. Thank God it is not today. People do have the confidence to go to the police and report it—sometimes through a third agency—and those prosecutions are going up.

Some of the figures for crime were alluded to by the shadow Minister. Has it gone up in the west midlands by 1% this year? Yes, it has. People should have a quick look, though, at what the figures tell us about where the reporting of offences is—I am referring to rape, sexual violence, male rape and domestic violence. Those are the areas where we should all be proud that people now have the confidence to come forward. Because of some of the historical sexual abuse cases, there are, rightly, more and more people coming forward. They are telling us things that we perhaps would never have dreamt had taken place in this country.

Crime as a whole is falling. I accept that it has also been falling in other parts of the world, but the police have done a simply fantastic job, with more limited resources, of ensuring that crime is coming down.

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Jack Dromey: Will the Minister give way—

Mike Penning: I am very limited for time, so I will not give way.

Jack Dromey: So that we can get an answer to the question about the impact—

Mike Penning: I am going to speak; I am not going to give way.

The key is what is being delivered; that is crucial. I know that the Labour party opposed PCCs, even though it fought a very interesting by-election campaign when Bob Jones sadly died. It was very sad that he went. I respected him enormously; he was a very good PCC and community leader. And he has been replaced by a similarly very good community leader.

Several hon. Members talked about referendums. The provision is there. I understand the argument about the precept. It has been raised with me several times by the local police and the PCC. If there is a need or want to increase the precept, let the people decide. Interestingly, we will have PCC elections in May next year. Perhaps someone will put it in their manifesto that if they put 10% on the precept, they could raise £7 million and put more than 124 officers—if they want to use the money for that purpose—back on the beat. [Interruption.] I will touch on the problem that has been alluded to.

Although I praise what is happening in the west midlands, it is crucial that we ensure that good work that is going on elsewhere in the country is also done in the west midlands. We do not necessarily need huge numbers of buildings with just police inside them. I had the pleasure of going to Winchester. I am an ex-fireman; I went to the fire station there and in the fire station was the police station. I went down the bottom of the drill yard, where the firemen were practising the excellent work that they do, and the armed response unit was also at the bottom of the yard. They were completely unified. It is very important that that is the case. In my own constituency, the police station will soon move into the new civic centre—that is where it needs to be. The interesting thing from my point of view is that when the front desk was closed, I asked my local force how many times people were coming to the front desk on the average day and the answer was three. Is that really the best use of our resources? Can that service not be delivered in a different way?

The aim of the consultation document that we put out was to try to find a fairer way of doing this. Instead of coming from the top and saying, “This is how much you deserve, but we’re going to take this away,” let us start from the bottom and build up from there in terms of what we deliver and what the needs are. That is part of the consultation that is going on.

Jack Dromey: Will the police Minister give way to answer this question?

Mike Penning: I am not going to give way.

What is really wrong is when people scaremonger. There is no calculation, whether there is a leaked document or not. No one really knows until we come to a conclusion about whether the “bottom” principle is actually right, and the reason—[Interruption.] The shadow Minister holds up a document, saying, “This is fact.” It is not

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fact, because we do not know yet. Once the consultation is over and we agree on the principle of feeding up from the bottom, we can see what the needs of West Midlands police are—what they are bringing to the market. This relates to counter-terrorism. We will know more about exactly how things will be delivered. Will it be through the ROCUs—regional organised crime units? Will it be through the National Crime Agency? What will actually need to be delivered by West Midlands police? Will it deliver in collaboration with the forces around it? It is a very large force; it has a lot of capacity. Could some of that capacity be used elsewhere? What it brings to the party will decide the fundamental principle of how much money is coming.

That is why we have not released a set of assumptions. We cannot release a set of assumptions until after the consultation is over. That was the advice I took, and that is the advice I continue to work from today. But it is a consultation. One principle is crucial, and those who have been in the House for a while with me will know that when I did the coastguard consultation, which was very controversial, I said this categorically. It is a consultation. I will look very carefully not only at what has been said here today, but at all the other representations. I encourage colleagues to be part of the consultation. They should not assume that what they have said today is everything that needs to be said. They should be part of the consultation. And what we will come out with, I believe, is a fundamentally better formula for the whole of England and Wales—the 43 authorities. Trust me, Mr Crausby: plenty of chief constables and PCCs from other parts of the country are desperate for a change, because they feel that they have been fundamentally underfunded for many years. We therefore need a fairer policy. As soon as we can get the consultation finished and—

Mr David Crausby (in the Chair): Order.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).

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Orphaned Open-cast Mines

[Philip Davies in the Chair]

4 pm

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House has considered Orphaned Opencast Mines.

I am grateful for your chairmanship today, Mr Davies. This will be quite a complicated discussion, because I am aware that several colleagues from other areas of the United Kingdom want to take part in the debate. I have said that I will take one intervention from each of them so that they can be engaged, but I feel that it is important that we move forward in tackling this issue.

This is my fourth debate on the subject, in which there is cross-party interest. I am so sorry that I did not look for a 90-minute debate or another Backbench Business debate, because the level of interest would have made that feasible. The Minister is the third Minister I have discussed the problem with. Let us hope that this is the last debate needed and that she is the one who will finally address the problem of open-cast sites, so that communities up and down the country can at last feel that their problems are being addressed and that help is at hand.

Equally, let us hope that the companies that have abandoned sites and not completed their commitments to restoration understand that they cannot ravish the countryside in the name of profit and greed and then simply walk away, leaving their responsibilities for others to take on and finance.

Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs Moon: I will. This is your one intervention.

Nick Thomas-Symonds: It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. I agree entirely with her point about land restoration and companies not running away from their responsibilities. Does she agree that we must also ensure that the application process is a broad one, which takes into account public opinion and anticipates future problems?

Mrs Moon: I assume that my hon. Friend is talking about the need to take into account public opinion in the restoration process. That is absolutely critical. My community of Cynffig Hill are very clear that they want the void on the Parc Slip site to be filled in, because they think it is highly dangerous, and any restoration must include that.

The Coal Industry Act 1994, which received Royal Assent under the Major Government, privatised the remains of British Coal and gave the then Department of Trade and Industry powers to ensure full continuity from the coal corporation to private companies. The Department committed to checking carefully the financial status of successor companies as part of the bid process. Too many communities have found those to be empty promises, and the result has been environmental devastation, pollution and failure.

In the case of Parc Slip, the company that eventually became Celtic Energy bought the site with the inclusion of a 10-year restoration bond-free period. For 10 years,

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no money was put aside for restoration, the company having paid up front to the Major Government a sum that was, it argues, to include the cost of that 10-year restoration. The Government took the sale money and coal levy payments for 13 years; Celtic took the coal; and the communities of Margam, Cefn Cribwr, Cynffig Hill and Pyle have been left with the consequences.

Parc Slip is mostly in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) and for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), but most of the residents affected by the site are in Cynffig Hill. Most of them live about 300 metres south of the void. The site is more than a mile and a half long, and half a mile across. It includes the void, which contains foul water that rises and falls with the seasons. At one point this winter, there was huge fear that the void would overspill and water would cascade down into the community in Cynffig Hill.

After further planning applications, an escrow account was belatedly established, which contains £1.5 million. However, the full restoration costs of the site are estimated at £57 million. Roads, footpaths and farming land have been lost, and promises to restore them and sell back the farmland have been reneged on. I do not intend to repeat the horrific story of Celtic selling off its restoration liabilities to Oak Regeneration, which is based in the British Virgin Islands, and the subsequent dispersal of £73 million elsewhere in the company—millions of pounds that could have paid for the restoration went to pay those involved in establishing paper offshore companies.

The Serious Fraud Office and the judiciary have also failed my community. In February 2014, fraud charges against six individuals, including members of Celtic Energy, were dropped. They had been charged with conspiracy to defraud Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend and Powys Councils, as well as the Coal Authority; and with

“deliberately prejudicing their ability effectively to enforce obligations to restore cast mining sites to open countryside and/or agricultural use”.

That relates to the Oak conspiracy.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom said that there had been no economic injury to the local authorities or the Coal Authority. He said that although the transactions may have been dishonest, they were not illegal, and that Celtic was obliged to restore the land to countryside and agricultural use once mining was complete. I cannot begin to tell the Minister—or you, Mr Davies—how that decision is viewed in Cynffig Hill, or indeed in Cefn Cribwr or Margam. It is felt that everyone has turned their back on their responsibilities to this site, and the community is left to live with the most horrific situation.

According to the results of the court case, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend Councils were not adversely affected, but the reality is that they have been gravely adversely affected, because they have no funds at all to restore the land. Bridgend Council has had a £50 million budget cut. Both planning departments failed to protect the local community over a number of planning applications and conditions applied. One thing is clear, however. Whatever restoration comes out of any discussions between the planning departments and Celtic—however minor the results that £5.5 million can achieve—the void must be made safe.

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Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate, and I thank you, Mr Davies, for your chairmanship. Does my hon. Friend agree that the situation has now become a serious health and safety issue? Whatever the questions around who owns what—is it Celtic? Is it Oak Regeneration? It seems as though we will be constantly bamboozled by those two companies as they sneak away from their responsibilities—it is for the Government to take responsibility for the health and safety of my hon. Friend’s residents and of others in the surrounding areas. The situation is a ticking time bomb. Something needs to be done, beyond economic and small-scale political considerations, because we are talking about the health and safety of human life. We need to see the matter in that context, and urgent action is required by the Government immediately.

Mrs Moon: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I am talking today about the open-cast coal site in Parc Slip, but I am sure that across England, and particularly in Scotland, there are sites that are equally dangerous and hazardous to local communities.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend and neighbour on astutely and carefully laying out the case as it is. Most people have run from any liability or responsibility, and it is not right that this now falls on local taxpayers or the Welsh Government. There needs to be a solution. I constructively suggest that she, the people involved and the Minister consider a proposal such as the one suggested by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and others for some sort of levy to address those sites where no bond can be found, where no money has been put aside and that are sitting there presenting a real danger to the local public, as well as being environmental disasters.

Mrs Moon: Yet again, my hon. Friend, my constituency neighbour, has been sneaking into my office and reading my speech. I accused him of that the last time I secured a debate on this subject, and he has done it again. He cannot be trusted.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): I congratulate the hon. Lady on her hard work on this issue, on which she has secured many debates in Parliament. Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) and the hon. Lady’s point about health and safety, is it not true that the operators are blasé? The restoration plan for the massive development at East Pit mine, on the border between my constituency in Carmarthenshire and Neath Port Talbot, revolves around building a lake in the hole in the ground following the completion of mining activities. That is clearly not good enough, is it?

Mrs Moon: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is not acceptable. The water, certainly at Parc Slip, is foul. It is rain-fed, and there is no way of cleansing it. There is a huge risk of children seeing the water as somewhere to go, have fun and swim. Depending on the level of the water, they are at grave risk of injuring themselves as they try to gain access, which is a real problem.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): I echo the hon. Lady’s comments. Although I am a new Member, I know about her hard work over the past

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couple of years. On health and safety, does she agree that the only way of addressing the situation, including the environmental concerns, is through some form of restoration? The only way that can be achieved is through some sort of UK Government measure. Local authorities do not have the money. The restoration of my local authority’s sites is estimated to cost up to £200 million, and the authority faces a £35 million budget cut over a five-year period. The devolved Administrations are suffering budget cuts. The UK Government have received the main tax income over the years, and a UK Government-driven scheme could target the appropriate sites across the UK.

Philip Davies (in the Chair): Order. Interventions need to be much briefer.

Alan Brown: I apologise. There needs to be a tax measure or direct funding. A tax measure makes sense.

Mrs Moon: As I have already said: Westminster Governments have taken money from the sale of the sites; Westminster Governments have taken the coal levy, and Westminster Governments have failed to ensure through legislation that companies are restoring the sites. In the case of Parc Slip, the 10-year bond-free period was an unmitigated disaster. The Welsh Assembly Government have lost £1.5 billion in funding. They have had no financial gain from Celtic’s bond or the coal energy, and they do not have the powers to place limits on companies or to raise funds in Wales to do any of this work.

When these companies that have abandoned their responsibilities make subsequent planning applications, or take the form of another company, I hope that the Welsh Assembly Government or the Scottish Government will be able to say, “No. If you want to work and do business in our communities, you have to meet your responsibilities. Your reputation is your bond. Never mind any deal that you did elsewhere.”

That leaves Her Majesty’s Government. Following my first two debates I met the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock), who was then the Minister for Business and Enterprise and the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change.I know him to be an honourable man, and in a meeting literally days before Parliament was dissolved he told me that, over the general election period, civil servants would be putting together a plan to cover all the orphaned coal sites across the UK. He acknowledged that there was a major problem and said that it would be addressed by whatever Government, of whatever form, was formed following the election.

Sadly, the right hon. Gentleman moved, but we had a new Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry). I met her, and she promised to take an active interest. Sadly, the issue was then moved to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and it has taken me five months to secure this debate. The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change has also generously agreed to meet me, and hopefully other Members present, after this debate so that together we

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can work out a solution for all our communities, which is how we need to move forward—through a joint approach.

There has been one change since March in relation to Celtic. Consent for a further extension to East Pit, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees), was gained under the guise of the “lakes development.” The development significantly reduces Celtic’s restoration obligations from £115 million to £23 million. The section 106 agreement for the new consent would not otherwise have been agreed—I am sure she will correct me if any of this is incorrect. The freeholds of East Pit, Selar and Nant Helen have been returned to Celtic. It is therefore possible for Oak Regeneration, in the right circumstances, to move responsibility for restoration back to Celtic. Oak Regeneration has not restored the rights to Parc Slip to Celtic, and I hope we will work together to ensure that that happens.

Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on all her hard work. Although I represent Neath, I was born and brought up in Cynffig Hill, which is close to my heart.

Celtic has made a planning application to restore East Pit, but people do not want it to be restored in the way Celtic has proposed. They do not want a lake or a hotel up there. There is also a balance of jobs. By again setting work out there, jobs are saved. I hope we will have a similar situation with Parc Slip in the future, and I will help in any way I can.

Mrs Moon: I thank my hon. Friend.

We now come to the Government’s plan. Where is the plan that we were promised would be in place after the election? How do we move forward? How are Celtic and other companies to be held to account? What role does Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs play in examining the movement of money that would have been used for restoration? What powers does the Minister have to see the return of the freehold of Parc Slip to the ownership of Celtic? Has the Minister considered the establishment of a restoration investment fund financed through a proportion of carbon price support revenue from coal generation? That approach would support restoration jobs and maximise benefits for the community and the environment.

There are also suggestions for a carbon price support exemption for coal extraction at sites with legacy restoration problems. That proposal is opposed by the RSPB, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore and others mentioned, as it poses additional risks. I hope the Minister is willing to work with us all to find a solution. All these communities have given money and coal and have sacrificed their environment to the wellbeing of the UK. It is now time for us to acknowledge what they have done and take up our responsibilities here in Westminster.

4.19 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) on her efforts in getting the debate on this very important subject. She will be aware that I have also met Welsh

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Minsters to discuss the topic. I am delighted to be meeting her and some of her constituency colleagues later today.

I fully appreciate the concerns of hon. Members and their local communities about the lack of restoration work at the former open-cast sites. I can understand that they are looking to local and national Government to address the remediation of the sites so that they can become local assets. My office has looked carefully at what was said by the previous Energy Minister, and I can confirm that he agreed that the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills would look at potential solutions, including tax exemptions. To clarify the situation, the Exchequer Secretary sent a letter today confirming that a tax exemption would not be possible for future coaling in those open-cast mines.

As the hon. Lady explained, of particular concern in Wales are the sites that transferred at privatisation in 1994 to the Welsh successor company to British Coal. The new company acquired a number of operational sites and also British Coal’s land ownership and planning consents at a number of “prospective” sites. Having developed and worked those sites for several years, the company transferred the freehold ownership of the remaining sites to another company, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. As I understand it, that company has taken the view that they cannot afford to restore some of the sites unless they are awarded planning consent to undertake further surface coaling. That of course places the local authority and the Welsh Government in a very difficult position. On the one hand, there is local resistance to yet more coaling in the area and on the other hand, any attempt to enforce restoration risks precipitating the insolvency of the company involved. Such an insolvency could allow the liquidators to “disclaim” the land assets, rendering them effectively ownerless; the land would be left unrestored unless there were costly public sector intervention.

As set out by the Prime Minister and in the Wales Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech, the UK Government are committed to delivering extensive new powers to Wales, building on the Government of Wales Act 2006, though which the National Assembly for Wales took on responsibility for town and country planning. As the hon. Lady knows, part of those responsibilities is the need to meet the liabilities, both future and historical.

Obviously the issues do not affect communities only in Wales; in Scotland and England there are other examples, and we can all learn from each other’s experiences. One such experience is that of Northumberland County Council, which in July this year approved an extension to the existing Potland Burn open-cast site, so that UKCSMR Ltd—the not-for-profit company established to deal with a number of UK Coal’s mines—could mine an additional 164,000 tonnes of coal and 50,000 tonnes of brickshale, to help meet the financial commitment of restoring the site.

I listened carefully to the hon. Lady. I truly admire her strong support for her constituents. Although I appreciate that hon. Members and their local communities will be disappointed, I find it difficult to see that it would be right for the Government to intervene in Wales while there continues to be a solvent site owner and while discussions with local planning authorities are ongoing. I am looking forward meeting the hon. Lady, along with the hon. Members for Ogmore (Huw

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Irranca-Davies) and for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), after the debate to discuss the matter further. That will follow on from the meeting I had with the Welsh Government Minister for Natural Resources recently, at which I offered the support of my officials to look at other private-sector led possibilities to address the funding required.

Mrs Moon: The Minister still has not addressed the fact that a 10-year bond-free period was given to Celtic, with an advance payment made to the Major Government, which would otherwise have been put into an escrow account that would have paid towards the restoration. Some of the money for restoration rightly rests with Westminster because the Government had the money for restoration in advance.

Andrea Leadsom: I would have to take up that specific point separately with the hon. Lady. It is not something that I particularly addressed. Obviously, she is telling me that, and it may indeed be the case, but I would want to look into that carefully with the Department.

My officials will shortly visit Wales to see one of the sites for themselves and have discussions with interested parties. I am sure that the hon. Lady will want to be involved with that.

Jonathan Edwards: Many of the problems our communities experience are a result of the privatisation of coal by the Coal Industry Act 1994 and the fact that the restoration protocols were not watertight. The UK Government have been receiving the revenue for the Treasury from the mining activities, so I find it very difficult to understand why the Minister thinks responsibility falls on the Welsh Government.

Andrea Leadsom: Governments do not allocate specific revenue lines to specific activities. I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s point.

Importantly, my Department’s non-departmental public body, the Coal Authority, now provides to local authorities its expert advice on calculating the level of bonds required for future surface mine operations, to ensure that restoration costs are covered should the mining company in future no longer be in a position to carry out the work. The Welsh Government have recognised that work. The Minister for Natural Resources announced in April 2015 that the authority would continue that work and provide further advice on active surface mine sites in Wales. The authority is also working with the coal industry, national Governments and local authorities to provide the specialist skills needed to manage sustainably the risks presented by the decline of the industry. The Government have done as much as possible to support the coal industry throughout its recent challenges. They have provided financial support to help UK Coal and Hatfield colliery, for example, with their efforts to avoid insolvency and achieve a more orderly closure of their deep mines, and with the impact on those directly affected.

With the closure of Thoresby and Hatfield earlier this year, and impending closure of Kellingley later this year, surface-mined coal is now our major remaining source of indigenous supply. Production of surface-mined coal has been relatively static over the past four to five years, when it overtook deep mine production as the

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majority source. The future of the industry is closely linked to that of the power sector. Coal generation has been a critical element of our electricity generation mix for a long time. As hon. Members know, there will be no long-term role for unabated coal as we move to a low-carbon energy environment, and the Prime Minister has publicly pledged to end its use for power generation. As we move to decarbonise the power sector substantially, the role of unabated coal will diminish. Coal supplied 29% of our electricity in 2014, which is down from 40% in 2012. We expect that trend to continue.

Alan Brown: I presume that the Minister is aware that in the current climate most coal burned in the UK is imported from Russia and Colombia. There is therefore still a market for UK domestic coal. Moving towards carbon-free energy provision in the future is not necessarily an argument against further coaling in the UK at the moment.

Andrea Leadsom: I thank the hon. Gentleman; I completely accept his comments and I will address his point.

Any longer-term role for coal will be dependent on the successful deployment of cost-competitive carbon capture and storage. The Government have put in place one of the most comprehensive programmes on CCS in the world; we have committed £1 billion to our CCS competition, plus operational support under contracts for difference. There could still be demand for coal in the UK power generation sector in future, but, unfortunately, continued demand for coal for power generation has not necessarily translated into opportunities for domestic production, as the hon. Gentleman points out. The industry as a whole is in decline, with indigenous production at less than 12 million tonnes in 2014—around 95% lower than the levels some 60 years ago.

That point brings me back to the heart of the matter we are debating today: balancing the challenges facing the industry going forward and addressing the significant legacy it has left behind. There is an important role for those involved in the industry in achieving that balance. I assure the hon. Lady that the Government will continue to provide support and advice wherever we can.

Question put and agreed to.

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Dementia Care Services

4.29 pm

Edward Argar (Charnwood) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered dementia care services.

It is a pleasure to lead this debate—the first in my name since my election—under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. It is also a pleasure to debate with a Minister whose commitment to this cause is well known, on a subject of such importance. Indeed, its importance grows daily.

I am particularly pleased to see my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani) next to me. I hope that she plans to speak in this debate, because her work in her constituency on this subject, and the depth of her knowledge, is well known and will be of great benefit to the House.

Dementia is incredibly cruel; it can take a person away from you even while they are still with you. It is estimated that there are around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK; that 21 million people have a family member or close friend with dementia; and that a third of people over 65 will develop it. The majority of those 850,000 people are over 65, but an estimated 17,000 people below that age have dementia. In my constituency of Charnwood, it is estimated that just over 1,000 people have dementia. All of this—put aside the human consequences for a moment—is estimated to cost around £23 billion per annum, with a huge proportion of that being met by families, either through care that they engage or through the free hours of care that the 670,000 voluntary carers provide. The challenge before us is huge.

Significant progress on dementia has been made in this country in recent years. However, while we as a society have made significant strides in improving our longevity and our ability to fix and patch up our physical selves through the medical profession, our understanding of and care for the mind have fallen behind somewhat. Dementia poses a massive financial challenge to our country, as people live longer—a good thing, but a partial consequence is an increase in the number of dementia cases.

The last Labour Government should be rightly proud of their work in bringing forward the first national dementia strategy, and I pay tribute to them, through the shadow Minister, for that far-sighted step. It is a baton that the current Government, and particularly this Prime Minister, have seized with vigour; there has been the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia 2012, the G8 dementia summit, and the Prime Minister’s 2020 challenge. All this is hugely positive, and dementia is an issue on which there is considerable consensus in all parts of the House, and among all the parties represented within it. However, we must not think for one moment that we have done enough, nor lose the momentum built up thus far.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this matter to the House for consideration. A great many of us across my constituency of Strangford and the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland know people who suffer from dementia. Just last week, I had the opportunity to go to what is referred to as a memory

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café, which is organised by the Alzheimer’s Association, which is a wonderful organisation. I met some wonderful people, as well as their carers and families. Does he recognise the good work that the Alzheimer’s Association does? Does he feel that now is the time to not only raise awareness of Alzheimer’s but commend the Alzheimer’s Association for its work?

Edward Argar: In addition to the hon. Gentleman’s many talents, which are well known in this House, he appears to be a mind-reader, as I was about to come on to that subject, having visited a similar memory café on Monday. He is absolutely right to highlight and pay tribute to the work of such places. On Monday, I went to the Syston community centre, where our local Alzheimer’s Society group was holding its regular Poppies memory café session for about 30 carers and people with dementia. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman did on his visit to his local memory café, I met some amazing people and it was a fantastic session. My memories of that session, and the lessons I learned from it, remain with me; I continue to reflect on them. However, across the UK, including in my region—the east Midlands and Leicestershire—the access to and coverage of such vital services remains patchy; that was a message I got loud and clear from the people I spoke to. As I suggested, that session left me in no doubt about the vital role of dedicated and passionate carers, including the amazing people whom the hon. Gentleman and I met, in helping people with dementia.

Graham Evans (Weaver Vale) (Con): I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for securing this debate, and he has made some powerful points. I would like to share with him some things that we are doing in Cheshire, and indeed in Weaver Vale. Dementia awareness is so important. My staff have received dementia awareness training, so that we can identify people with dementia. Also, our local town centres are dementia-friendly, which is significant. It enables people to come out as families and they are made most welcome in town centres, such as that of Northwich. Does my hon. Friend agree that town centres across the country should be dementia-friendly?

Edward Argar: Yet again, it appears that another hon. Member has the facility of reading minds and anticipating speeches, because I was about to say that there remains too little understanding of dementia in our communities, despite the progress made, and dementia-friendly communities and workplaces can play a hugely important role in supporting both those who have dementia and those who care for them.

I encourage the Minister to push all Government Departments to become dementia-friendly workplaces, and to keep talking about dementia and raising awareness of it. I also encourage her to keep the NHS talking about it. I know that other hon. Members—not least the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth, who is chair of the all-party group on dementia and possibly the only dementia champion in this House—will continue to raise these issues, as the shadow Minister has done over many years.

A recent survey showed that 25% of 18 to 25-year-olds are keen to learn and understand more about dementia, as opposed to only 15% of those aged 55-plus; that was a 2012 YouGov survey, so it is relatively recent. While it

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is encouraging that young people are keen to understand and learn more about dementia, those figures are still far too low.

Jim Shannon: One thing that I became aware of after visiting the memory café last week and speaking to some of the people there—by the way, the Big Lottery Fund was one of the funders of that café, so it is doing good work—is that the age of those being diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s is starting to fall. There are some people in the 40-to-50 bracket who have dementia, which worries me. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that there is anything we can do to raise awareness of that issue?

Edward Argar: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. Just last Saturday, I was at a gala in Anstey, which is a village in my constituency, and a man came up to talk to me about this issue. He said that a lot of emphasis is put on those in their 60s or 70s who develop dementia, but he told me about a lady who had developed it very early in life, which creates a whole new set of challenges around children, paying mortgages and the support that should be in place but is not always there. I will come on to the support that is or is not in place shortly.

The second part of the picture is about diagnosis and care. Diagnosis rates have improved. In 2011-12, only 45% of people with dementia received a formal diagnosis, but Department of Health figures suggest that the figure is now up to 59%, which is real progress. I know that 66% was the target set for the end of this year, but can I encourage the Minister to go that little bit further and press for a 75% target for diagnoses by 2017? That is ambitious but achievable, and if we do not set ambitious targets we will not achieve them.

However, diagnosis is only the start. Too many people tell of being diagnosed and then receiving no information or support, or only very limited information or support. In a recent Age UK survey, 89% of those surveyed said that they did not feel they had enough information about dementia. We need to improve GPs’ understanding of dementia care; many GPs are fantastic, but that is not universal. We need to ensure that after a diagnosis, people and their families receive information on “What now?”, as well as support. What steps do the Government propose to take to create minimum mandatory standards to ensure that everyone with a diagnosis receives swift signposting and advice from dementia advisers and a proper support package for them and their carers, possibly through the NHS outcomes framework?

We all know—all the research shows this—that once someone is diagnosed with dementia, if they are to continue to lead a full life, it is best for them to be able to live independently at home with their family, but if they are to do that, we must ensure that carers are cared for and supported, and that support plans are in place—as much for the carers as for any individuals with dementia. A recent pilot in Norfolk on the use of Admiral nurses—they are the dementia equivalent of Macmillan nurses, and although they are sadly rather less well known, they do a fantastic job—saved more than £400,000 and provided a strong local support service for carers and people with dementia. What consideration have the Minister and the Department given to how that might be made more widely available? What support can be given to local authorities in that respect?

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We are all aware of the funding pressures faced by local authorities—not least my own, Leicestershire. It gets one of the lowest per-head funding settlements in the country, and I hope that that can be reviewed and revisited in this Parliament, with rural councils being given a fairer share. While I would not presume to burden the Minister with responsibility for dealing with the local government finance settlement as well, what progress has been made nationally on developing integrated dementia care pathways, which can go some way to alleviating financial pressures?

While care and support to stay independent at home are key, there are times when people with dementia have cause to be admitted to hospital, and here the picture is by no means universally good. According to a recent survey, 41% of hospitals do not include dementia awareness training in staff inductions, and only 36% have a care pathway in place. Many people with dementia still have real problems when they are admitted to acute care. More research into the quality of personalised care for those with dementia, particularly in hospitals, would be immensely valuable. It is estimated that a quarter of hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia, although they might not necessarily have been admitted for dementia. On average, such people have a 20% longer hospital stay than others.

While some hospitals have made progress in having dementia-friendly wards, it simply is not enough. We should have hospitals that are dementia-friendly in their entirety. We often hear of instances of people with dementia not having that noted on their hospital records, meaning that no allowance has been made for it. We also hear of carers and partners not being allowed to stay with relatives with dementia in hospital, which often leads to acute anxiety and distress among those patients at being in an unfamiliar environment without any familiar faces around them. I hope that Simon Stevens and the NHS can look at that.

The national dementia strategy and the Prime Minister’s challenges on dementia for 2015 and 2020 set out an array of targets and objectives. The key to success, however, will be proper implementation to deliver clear and focused outcomes that are measured, monitored and reported. Will the Minister update the House on the implementation plan to achieve the objectives that we all welcome, and to ensure that dementia care gets its share of the very welcome additional funding that the Government have pledged to the NHS as a whole? Specifically, as we look at how to improve care and support, 37 NHS vanguard sites are piloting new care models, but only three make specific mention of dementia. Will she consider adding to that number? The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is updating the 2006 clinical guidelines on dementia. That work is due to be completed in September 2017. Will she make representations to NICE on updating the dementia quality standard as part of that? It is an important tool in driving up NHS standards in this area.

The third and final part of tackling dementia is research. We have seen some encouraging early signs over the summer that finding a way of slowing down the progress of dementia might be that little bit closer. There is still a long road ahead for that research, but it is a reminder of the importance of a continued focus.

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Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): As a Dementia-Friendly Hampshire ambassador—I am not quite a champion, but an ambassador—I welcome the debate and remind my hon. Friend of the Government’s commitment just before the election to creating a dementia research institute somewhere in the UK within the next five years. Does he agree that it would be helpful if the Minister updated us on the funding envelope for that, and the implementation plan for it over the next four and a half years, given that time is running out for its creation? I have to declare a slight interest, as the idea was fermented at City Hall. I may have had a hand in it, and therefore have a stronger motive to see it come to fruition.

Edward Argar: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I am beginning to think that I must be careful about what I think, because yet again a Member has touched on a paragraph I was about to begin. He is absolutely right. The Government’s dementia research funding now stands at £66 million. That is double what it was in 2010, but we need to be clear that we must not stop there. I was pleased that earlier this year the Government reaffirmed their commitment to doubling the dementia research spend by 2025. That is vital, and I know that Members on both sides of the House, in the spirit of constructive support, will help to hold the Government to that. Will the Minister commit to collating information on that spend centrally, and to publishing it annually, so that we can track progress? Coming to my hon. Friend’s point, I would be grateful if the Minister updated the House on the plans for a dementia research institute to drive forward research in a truly world-leading way. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he did in City Hall, and as a Deputy Mayor, in pushing that agenda forward.

Finally and most importantly—I declare an interest as a member of the Alzheimer’s Society—I pay tribute to such organisations as the Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Age UK and myriad others for the work they and their members do to ensure that we in this House and society never forget this cause, and that we continue to support the tens of thousands of people with dementia—and the voluntary carers, who are the real heroes and heroines. We have a duty to recognise what they do, and to do everything we can as a country to support them. I look forward to the Minister’s comments on what we can do to support carers.

I will close by quoting from a moving and powerful article by Alice Thomson about her father’s dementia. It was published in The Times this summer. She said:

“Old age shouldn’t be seen as a humiliation but more as the other bookend to your childhood; a time when you can rely on the help and patience of others to reach the end but can also still be a central part of family and community life”.

I echo those words and ask the Minister, the Government, all of us and society as a whole to continue to rise to the challenge and to make that a reality for all those who have dementia in this country.

Philip Davies (in the Chair): It may be helpful if I point out that for hour-long debates, we need 20 minutes for the Front Benchers: five minutes each for the two Opposition Front Benchers and 10 minutes for the Minister. If the Minister leaves any time at the end, Mr Argar may get a few seconds to wind up. I will be

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going to the Front Benchers no later than 5.10 pm. As I understand it, three Members are seeking to catch my eye to make a speech. I will not impose a time limit, but if they think of taking seven minutes each, that would give everyone a fair crack of the whip.

4.48 pm

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Davies. I congratulate the hon. Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) on securing this important debate and on his commitment to making life better for dementia sufferers and their relatives. I will not take up much time, and my observations are probably from a more personal point of view.

I completely support the Government’s objective to be a world leader in fighting dementia, but it is a challenging objective at a time of cuts in social care and given the difficulties in recruiting people to work in jobs that have traditionally been poorly skilled and badly paid. Social care is fundamentally task-orientated. It best supports people with physical disabilities and frailty, but it is not necessarily the best way to help people who have dementia.

In an area in which I have some personal experience, I know that the quality of the relationship between the carer and the dementia sufferer is vital in enabling the dementia sufferer to feel reassured and cope with anxiety, which is a common consequence of the illness. One of the symptoms of dementia is a complete loss of short-term memory, which results in the inability to do simple tasks. For example, a dementia sufferer may see a cup, a tea bag and a kettle, but not the connection among them. Making the cup of tea is, of course, an important task to ensure that the person does not become dehydrated. However, once the tea is made, the elderly person may be reluctant to drink it and may need continuous prompting. If the carer is new and does not know the person, and can spend only 15 minutes with them, the cup of tea may never get drunk.

A person’s relationship with their carer and the amount of time they can spend together is vital. It is sometimes forgotten how important relationships, emotional support and encouragement are to people with dementia, and how vital it is not to add to their confusion with multiple carers. Particularly when a person has no near relatives, the carer has to get to know them to understand when something is wrong with them, because a person with dementia cannot tell the carer themselves that their dentures are too tight.

Dementia sufferers need good quality care, and carers must have good antennae to be able to spot, for example, the signs of a urinary tract infection by changes in the person’s behaviour or level of confusion. We therefore need to move from a task-centred social care system in which multiple carers make short visits to a system that involves skilled care in which continuity of care and carers’ skills are a high priority. Simply integrating the health and social care system does not necessarily do that, as my experience in Scotland shows.

Of course, we cannot produce a vast army of skilled carers now or in the near future, particularly given population changes, so we need to look at how we can better use existing resources, including relatives, who at the moment seem to spend most of their time negotiating the system. The constant rounds of phone calls to

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doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers leave relatives exhausted and with less time to spend with family members on social activities. There needs to be more support for relatives, who are important for ensuring the continual wellbeing of their family members.

We also need to be more imaginative about using technology to help people with dementia to free up the time for relatives and carers to build those important, high-quality relationships. We still tend to think of aids in practical terms, such as hand rails, bath mats or clocks with large faces, but I am interested in how we can use new technology to promote emotional wellbeing. For example, carers could help people to communicate with their relatives via Skype or smartphones, or set up digital photo frames that can be programmed to show photographs, which can help spark memories and support conversations. Relatives can link cameras to their smartphones and computers to check whether the person is all right at home, and they can use technology such as personal alarms and health monitoring devices. For example, bed pressure sensors can help reassure from a distance that the person has got out of bed, and a front door sensor can ensure that they have not left the house.

Hopefully, a cure will be found for this devastating illness, but until then we need to use the resources that are currently available better. In particular, we should develop technology, which, if it can free social carers from monitoring and supervision, would be very helpful in freeing up resources. We also need to use the resources of relatives, neighbours and the community. I hope that in the future we will be able to look at what the whole system can provide.

4.54 pm

Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) (Con): Thank you, Mr Davies, for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) on securing it. He raised many issues that I was going to speak on, so I will keep my speech short. I must declare that I am the chair of the all-party group on ageing and older people, and I previously worked for Age UK. Dementia is an issue particularly close to my heart, and I am delighted that we have the chance to discuss it today.

On 12 September, All Saints church in Crowborough in my constituency is hosting a day conference entitled “Living with Dementia”. Hilary Mackelden, a constituent of mine, once feared that she had dementia, and wrote about the condition in my local paper, the Kent and Sussex Courier:

“There can be no more terrifying illness. How do you cope in a world you don’t recognise, with people who say they love you but who you think are strangers?...How should that world respond to and support you?”

In our ageing society, ever greater pressure is being put on healthcare services and charities, so our response to dementia is a vital humanitarian and social care issue. In my region of east Sussex, one in four of the population is aged 65 and over. It is predicted that one in three people aged 65 and over will develop dementia, which means that as many as one resident in every 12 could suffer from the condition. What is more, it is estimated that there will be an 11.3% increase in the number of people aged 85 and over in east Sussex by 2019. That means not only that more people will develop the condition as they grow older, but that those

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who develop it at an early age will require care and support for a longer period as their life expectancy increases, which will inevitably put huge pressure on care providers.

In Wealden, under the leadership of Councillor Bill Bentley, we are already tackling our responsibility for managing the multiple healthcare and social care needs of our elderly. There are concerns that budget restraints will affect the delivery of community-led programmes for dementia sufferers and respite for their carers.

Dementia-friendly communities do much to promote the rights, welfare, independence and livelihoods of people with dementia, and they help to eliminate the stigma that surrounds it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister championed them as part of the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia. I am proud to represent Rotherfield, a dementia-friendly village. We do not yet have a dementia-friendly town, but I will go home with that ambition. The church of Rotherfield St Martin is a charity that works to ensure that elderly people are supported to live their lives the way they want to. It is run by Jo and Sasha Evans, who should be commended for their work. I was delighted that Rotherfield St Martin was nominated for a “Small Charity, Big Achiever” award at the Third Sector Awards last month. I wish them every success when the winner is announced in a couple of weeks.

We should not underestimate the work of local councils, which support people with dementia by helping to create dementia-friendly communities. The upcoming spending review is an important part of the Government’s entirely necessary effort to eliminate the deficit, but I hope it will not compromise local councils’ ability to support dementia-friendly communities. What action is the Minister’s Department taking to ensure that future funding settlements take account of our ageing population? What pressure does she anticipate that local authorities—particularly those in the south-east—will face in the coming years? Projections tell us that we are likely to have to reduce significantly support for people with dementia and their carers. I urge the Minister to ensure that does not happen.

By 2021, there will be more than 1 million people living with dementia in the UK. One in three people over 65 will die with dementia, and dementia costs the UK £23 billion a year, not to mention the incalculable costs to individuals and families, who give so much time, energy and love to offer care. NHS England has been set a target of diagnosing 66%, and my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood mentioned reaching a target of 75%. Has that target been met, and will we continue to be ambitious by setting even higher targets?

At the heart of the issue is the fact that dementia takes so much away from people: their ability to recognise loved ones, remember special occasions and communicate as they once could. It would be cruelly ironic were we to allow some of the support that dementia sufferers and their carers depend on to be taken away. We owe it to dementia sufferers and their carers to fight for the support they count on and the funding it requires. I hope this debate will throw that obligation into sharp relief.

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4.59 pm

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): I declare an interest as a proud supporter of the Dementia Friends movement, which has done so much in my constituency. I praise in particular Mrs Christine Parker, whose work in bringing the Dementia Friends message to so many in Tonbridge has echoed across other areas. I draw inspiration from her for my remarks, which I hope I can make on her behalf as well.

The rising demand on the NHS in my community is not unlike that in others. One in three people in my constituency is over 65, so the pressure on dementia services is naturally high. Indeed, 1,600 people in my community have dementia, and in the west Kent NHS region, 322 are under 65 and therefore count as young dementia sufferers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) so eloquently put it, when we think about dementia and old people, we usually think about people for whom it is an end-of-life event, but for too many in our society it is not—it is part of life. It is something with which individuals, families and communities—indeed, our whole society—will have to live as they experience this terrible disease.

It is important that we work together, because this is not something that central Government can solve alone; nor, indeed, can the devolved Administrations or local government. It requires a fully joined up approach. The work by a lot of third-sector organisations to bring together the community at all levels has been essential. I particularly praise the organisations working in my part of Kent: Age UK, Crossroads, the Alzheimer’s Society and many care homes.

Jim Shannon: In his speech, the hon. Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) mentioned the need for more research and development. There have been massive steps forward in the development of medication that can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia in some cases. Although that is a wonderful step forward, the cure is not yet here. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that, along with all the good work that the Government are doing, there should be more partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that we can take more giant steps forward?

Tom Tugendhat: I can confirm that the hon. Gentleman is not reading my mind—I had not thought of those points. He makes a very important point about tying together with the pharmaceutical industry. I would also urge tying together with universities throughout the country, because many of them across the nation have done incredible work on this issue. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to look hard at what more can be done to partner up.

Many of the issues have already been covered today so eloquently by Members, so I will just highlight one area that I feel is somewhat tragically overlooked. As we increasingly see younger people suffering from this terrible disease, we must recognise that their needs are different. We are talking about not only old people who may also suffer from other weaknesses and might not be going out as much as they once were, but younger people who rightly expect to enjoy some form of independence in their life. Indeed, through medical treatment, older

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people are, thank God, much stronger and fitter than they once were and rightly continue to enjoy active lives for longer and longer.

As a society, we should do more to encourage dementia-friendly transport. In my constituency, we have been working towards dementia-friendly communities, whether towns or villages, and we have had some success in different areas. In fact, some places have developed a dementia-friendly high street and various other spaces. Nevertheless, I feel we have not yet got dementia-friendly transport right. Whether we are talking about taxis, buses or trains, the ability to be able to put someone with dementia on a form of transport and know that the people on board will be aware that there might be an issue, allowing people with dementia to maintain some level of independence, is essential if we are ever to achieve the result we wish for: people with dementia living happily and comfortably as part of our society.

Finally, when I learned about dementia, what struck me most was the importance of emotion, which we too often forget when we medicalise and use too much science. When we deal with people in our communities who have dementia, it is important to remember that even if they struggle to understand who we are, the community they are in or the actions they are taking, the one thing that will stay will them, which we must really value, is the emotional response. We must remember that that will live with them for a lot longer than any confusion, and we must make sure that we play our part as individuals—not just as a society—in ensuring that that emotion is positive.

5.5 pm

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): I commend the hon. Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) for securing this debate on what is probably one of the biggest challenges we will face over the coming decades. There is no easy answer, north or south of the border or on either side of the House. I think we all fear it. Previous generations have feared other illnesses and avoided them. They talked about consumption instead of TB, or about “the big C” instead of cancer. Most of our generation are less afraid of cancer than of Alzheimer’s. We are afraid of disappearing, or of being married to someone who simply is not who they used to be. That is a fear we all live with.

The Scottish National party welcomed the then Government’s introduction of a national dementia strategy in 2009. The Scottish strategy came in 2010. We set out clinical standards the following year and updated our strategy in 2013. We reached the 64% diagnosis target in 2013, when England was diagnosing 48% of those with dementia. I commend the fact that that has now risen to 59%, although there is obviously more work to do. Northern Ireland was diagnosing 63% of sufferers. What happens to someone when they are diagnosed? Think of the fear that we all have, and then imagine the bombshell that diagnosis is.

There is no easy answer, but we have done a few things in Scotland that we feel have worked. All our health boards now have a linked member of staff, like the cancer nurse specialists we have for breast cancer, which was my specialty. Since 2012, we have had the older persons’ acute care plan, which looks at secondary care and modern hospitals. I welcome the talk about

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dementia-friendly towns and villages—I will go home and throw down that challenge to my area, because that is not something I have come across.

In the past 18 months, our hospital has been completely redesigned, with colour zones and images of what everything is, instead of just words. Toilets, beds, kitchens—how to find one’s way around is all visual. We also have champions in every single ward. All that has really changed things. We have reduced length of stay from 22 days to eight days; we have reduced falls by half, and we have reduced returns to A&E from 26% to 8%. These relatively cheap, simple changes actually save a lot of money.

We obviously need more research and development, because at the end of the day families want a treatment to make early diagnosis worth while. Otherwise, what is the point? We have to be able to intervene. We can slow things down, but we want a drug that will stop dementia and reverse it. At some point further down the line, we will face the challenge of drug companies coming to us with an expensive drug that will do that. It will be important for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and other agencies to weigh up the sheer scale of dementia that we face and the money that could be saved by using even quite an expensive drug.

Kit Malthouse: One of the interesting developments over the past couple of years, which was looked at by Dennis Gillings, the international dementia envoy appointed by the G8, has been the question of whether the financial equation around the development of a drug could be changed by negotiating an international exception for its patent life, extending it by, for instance, five or 10 years. That might propel investment into research to find a cure and also make it cheaper when it does emerge, because the time for commercially exploiting it would be extended. Would the hon. Lady support such a proposal?

Dr Whitford: I absolutely would. In my previous life as a breast cancer surgeon, when I was also doing breast cancer immunology research, I watched what became Herceptin go from its development on the bench-top into common use. That took 21 years. This is something we often do not recognise when we moan about big pharmaceutical companies: they are investing in something that may turn out to be a mirage. The more that we can look at supported or shared R and D, the cheaper the drug will be when it finally comes to market. I would commend something like that.

The current problem is that most patients face living with dementia, and we must think about how we help them and their families to do that. We should be challenging ourselves to make dementia-friendly our surroundings and all the agencies that sufferers may interact with, whether through visual aids, through other people recognising them or, as the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) said, through technology. The eHealth programme in Scotland is working on that, including devices in patients’ homes that it can interact with and establish whether the person is okay. Much of the care that people receive is the 15 minutes that the hon. Lady mentioned. How can we improve that? How can we ensure that the faces are not different every day? Some patients and families report 100 carers in a year. We should look at how we organise the care and remember who the real carers are: the family.

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It is predicted that one in three of us will be carers for someone with dementia. We have a vested interest in ensuring that we look after them. The carer’s allowance is currently £60 a week, which does not even match jobseeker’s allowance, for a job that could be 164 hours a week, so we need to think of how we support carers and the work that they do. In Scotland, things are slightly different as we have free personal care, so the family does not pay for the carer who comes into the home. If that person has to go into a care home or nursing home, they do not pay for the personal care. The system has been expanded and deepened and actually allows us to keep more people at home for longer.

One problem is that care jobs attract lower earners. How can we motivate people and attract high-quality candidates if they are being paid the lowest possible amount?

Ann Coffey: On free personal care, the budget in Scotland is capped. Free personal care is probably welcome, but the problem is that sufferers do not necessarily get the required level of care because demand is managed by stopping the supply. That is the problem with a capped budget. Free personal care is not really a panacea for families seeking the care that their relatives need.

Philip Davies (in the Chair): Order. Before I call Dr Whitford, may I ask that she bring her remarks to a close?

Dr Whitford: Okay. Free personal care is obviously not a panacea, but some families have someone coming in four times a day to offer support and people of different levels are coming in. The request for such care is made through the general practitioner, so a health assessment is made. As I said when I first stood up, Scotland does not have a magic answer, but we are coming at the issue from a different angle. Some of what is being done in Scotland can be shared and clearly the same goes for some of the things being done elsewhere.

Remembering who these people are and helping them to remember is important. The volunteer projects involving music and football to help people find themselves are really important. We must remember that they are still in there. They are still a person, and they require our sympathy and to be able to keep their dignity.

5.13 pm

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate the hon. Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) on securing this debate, on his excellent speech and on how he approached the debate, engaging and seeking consensus. I look forward to working with him over this Parliament as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on dementia.

I speak today not only the behalf of the Opposition, but as someone with personal experience of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. My mum was 64 when she was diagnosed and I provided her care. I have spoken about it in the past, but it has certainly informed my view and led me to want to champion the Alzheimer’s Society and working together on this issue.

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I will keep my comments brief because much has already been said about the challenge that our society faces. As has been said, 850,000 people are currently living with dementia in the UK, and the number is set to reach 1 million by the end of this Parliament. It is a distressing disease because of the impact not only on the person living with the condition, but on the carers, as it affects relationships with loved ones. I was lucky that my mum was in good health for much of the time, but the first time she could not recognise me really did have an impact.

As has been mentioned, the previous Labour Government made much progress on dementia. They launched the first ever national dementia strategy, which began the process of establishing memory clinics, providing better training for staff and improving the quality of dementia care for people in hospitals. They appointed the first national clinical director for dementia and commissioned a quality standard for dementia from the then National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The current Government have built on that work, and I am delighted to support the Prime Minister’s challenge. There has also been welcome progress on the number of people with dementia receiving a diagnosis. However, I want to mention three areas where we need to push for more progress.

First is awareness. People are often frightened of dementia because they think nothing can be done, but it is important to remember that, although there is currently no cure, people living with dementia can live well with the right level of support. Like so many who spoke in today’s debate, I have been a big supporter of the Dementia Friends programme. Politicians have a responsibility to lead by example in this area, and I was pleased to see that the Minister recently underwent her training.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): A year ago!

Debbie Abrahams: Fantastic. As the first MP to become a Dementia Friends champion, I ran a Dementia Friends session in Parliament to launch the “dementia-friendly parliament” last year.

We have also heard about the importance of involving young people. A lot of work has been done in my constituency, where, for example, the youth council has received training to be Dementia Friends. Making Oldham a dementia-friendly community is a priority of mine and, after starting with just a few hundred, we now have 2,000 Dementia Friends. I am proud that Oldham is one of more than 100 communities across the country that is working towards becoming dementia friendly, but we need to go further. Our ambition should be to ensure that everyone living with dementia feels included in their community and feels that they have control over their lives.

Secondly, we need improvements in the quality of care and support for people with dementia and their carers, which, as we heard today, is just not good enough in some parts of the country. Too often, people with dementia receive no care and their families get no support. Over the last Parliament, cuts of £3.5 billion were made to adult social care services, which have had a real impact on people with dementia and their families. Some 87% of social services departments can provide care only for people with critical or substantial need.

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For example, I called on a woman in her late 70s in the middle of the afternoon during one of my regular door knocks. She opened the door, looking dishevelled and confused, and had an empty bubble pack of medication in her hands. Her first words to me were, “I don’t know what I have to do.” I was able to call the pharmacy and to get support for her, but what if I had not been there? She obviously needed support and was not getting it.

Councils are doing their best to save money through changing the way that care is provided and working more closely with the NHS, but the scale of the cuts is forcing many to cut the support that would have helped to keep people out of hospital. As a consequence, more and more people with dementia are ending up in hospital, with some estimates suggesting that one in four hospital beds are occupied by someone with dementia. The NHS has also seen delayed discharges from hospital hit a record high in recent months, costing some £526 million since 2010. Once people are in hospital the support is simply not in place in the community to enable them to return home.

In 2009 the then Health Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), called for national care services to be developed and to be provided on the same basis as for health. He has repeated that call. We will not be able to improve the quality of dementia services until we find a solution to the funding crisis facing social care.

At a meeting with the Saddleworth carers group in my constituency, I listened to predominantly elderly carers describing the hundreds of hours of often back-breaking work that they were providing for their loved ones. They did that because no support or respite was available. How are they meant to cope? Given that the Government have delayed the implementation of the care cap until 2020, or possibly later, and have gone back on their promise to raise the £118,000 assets threshold before someone has to pay for their own care, will the Minister tell us what assessment has been done to estimate the number of families with a family member with dementia who will be affected by that between now and 2020? In addition, is the Minister committed to the Alzheimer’s Society proposal to drive up the quality of residential care for people with dementia? If so, how is that being monitored, for example in the use of anti-psychotics?

My final point is about research. Research for a cure for dementia provides hope for people in the future. In addition, however, we must focus research into the cause and prevention of the different forms of dementia, and into how we can best care for people who are living with dementia today. The Government’s commitment to double dementia research by 2025 is welcome, but we are starting from a low baseline. Other countries have shown much greater ambition.

Last month Alzheimer’s Disease International called for a significant upscale in research support, given the 35% increase in the global cost of dementia since 2010. It estimated that by 2018 the cost will have increased to $1 trillion, equivalent in size to the 18th largest economy in the world. Will the Minister report on the progress made, as has been asked by other Members?

Philip Davies (in the Chair): Order. I have to ask the shadow Minister to bring her remarks to a close.

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Debbie Abrahams: We need to give hope to people who are experiencing dementia and to their families.

5.22 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): We have had some excellent contributions this afternoon. I will be unable to answer the questions of the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), because unfortunately she took several minutes of my time, but I will do my best to respond to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), who brilliantly introduced the debate. He follows a distinguished predecessor in the health field and Charnwood has clearly found another health champion. It was a terrific speech and there were excellent contributions from other Members.

Dementia continues to be an absolute priority of the Government. Several hon. Members have spoken about the devastating impact of the disease, which has touched many families in our country, mine included, and I suspect those of many others in the Chamber and of those listening outside. I will not outline the scale of the challenge, because others have done so eloquently, but it is huge and it is local, national and global. This is the first debate since the launch of the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia 2020, which builds on the success of the challenge that ran between 2012 and 2015, as others have said. We are well aware that it is only a building block and that we need to carry on and to go further. I welcome the chance to refresh our commitment to going the extra mile, for which Members have called.

We have good news on diagnosis and have made significant progress. More people than ever before are receiving a diagnosis. Without it, they would not receive the support that they need. More than 400,000 people now have the opportunity to gain access to the care and support that they require. Almost 45,000 more people have received a diagnosis of dementia than would have done had earlier trends simply continued, so that is 45,000 more people getting access to support for living well with dementia. The diagnosis rate was increased by 20 percentage points from the baseline in 2010-11 and is now around 60%. We expect to meet our target this year. I will reflect on the challenge to me to achieve ever higher diagnosis rates.

On research, we are committed to tackling dementia through our research efforts at home and abroad. I was delighted to see how many people are volunteering to participate in dementia research. We have had really good news on that recently. Through Members and to those beyond the Chamber, I thank all those people for taking part in such vital programmes.

We are already doubling research spending on dementia. That money supports world-leading major research programmes and significant investment in infrastructure. Globally, the UK is leading the way and working with partners around the world to tackle dementia, boosting investment and accelerating research through the $100 million dementia discovery fund. We obviously have a spending review coming up, but we look forward to continuing that leadership and looking at how it can be provided—potentially through an international institute on dementia research, about which we will be talking to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

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after the spending review. I hear the call, however, and welcome the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse).

Many Members spoke about the need to raise awareness. The job has begun, but it is by no means complete—it is an ongoing challenge to build awareness of dementia throughout our society through individuals and communities. In the Chamber this afternoon we have heard some fantastic examples of people with local groups and communities who are becoming more dementia-friendly. The first Prime Minister’s challenge set a target of 20 communities; I am delighted to say that we are exceeding this with 115 communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani) spoke about one of hers. As she highlighted, there is a great range, from cities to villages and from urban to rural. I congratulate all those who are involved in that public-spirited initiative, but we need to go further. I ask any Member who wants information about how to do that and champion it in their area to please contact me, and we will put them in touch with the Alzheimer’s Society, if they are not already. We have always had good support on that.

It was great to hear tribute paid to the emergence of dementia-friendly cafés and initiatives such as Singing for the Brain, both of which I have seen in my local area. It is great to be able to praise the people leading those initiatives. My hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) might be interested to know that one of the groups set up as part of the dementia-friendly communities strand of the Prime Minister’s dementia challenge is looking specifically at transport. He made a good point on that. It was also good to hear about the work of the local dementia café in Syston, run by the Alzheimer’s Society. I, too, echo the tributes made to the volunteers, who do such work in all our constituencies. We also provided support to the July 2015 launch of a new standard developed by the British Standards Institute, which encourages more communities to recognise what they can do to be dementia-friendly.

The first Prime Minister’s challenge included a programme to create 1 million dementia friends by March 2015. I am delighted to say that we achieved that target in February, but we want to build on that, and Members of Parliament have a great role to play in leading such work, as has been said. We are pleased that the Alzheimer’s Society has committed to reaching a total of 4 million dementia friends in coming years.

We have invested £50 million to support capital projects in health and care settings, designed to improve the environment of care for people with dementia; nearly

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£4 million of that was invested in the east midlands during the previous Parliament. Some great work led by Loughborough University on how we can give guidance on dementia-friendly environments is helping us to assess care environments. Some of that work has been led by patients, and there has been an encouraging start, with nearly three quarters of healthcare sites becoming dementia-friendly, including acute wards and hospices. Again, though, we want to build on that and see all such settings becoming dementia-friendly.

More than 500,000 of our dedicated NHS staff have received dementia awareness training so that patients with dementia can be better cared for. Much has been said about the vital role of social care and the people who work in it, and we recognise that key role—the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) brought that point eloquently to life. More than 100,000 social care staff have been trained in better supporting people with dementia. Since April 2015, newly appointed healthcare assistants and social care support workers, including those supporting people with dementia and their carers, have undergone dementia training as part of their care certificate. That is encouraging, but, again, we want to build on it.

Post-diagnosis support is an area to which I give enormous consideration. It is going to be one of the big, important challenges in rising to the Prime Minister’s challenge in the next few years. My hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood is right to push us, because these are the practical ways in which we can make a real difference to people’s lives. We are committed to working on that and making sure that we provide advice and information. He mentioned Admiral nurses—again, a great example of what can be done.

There is a great deal to say about investment in future integration. On the vanguards, more are addressing the issue than perhaps my hon. Friend thought, given his concerns; perhaps we can discuss that after the debate. I liked his idea of pushing more Departments on the Dementia Friends programme and I am happy to take that up with the Cabinet Secretary to see whether we can do more there. The revised NICE standard is expected during 2017.

The Government’s commitment to the challenge is undimmed. I welcome the fact that so many new Members have been at this debate to speak about the issue. Seeing their passion to make further progress is inspiring in itself, and we will make that progress.