“if judges are going to authenticate these issues, they have to learn about national security”.

We have heard about three reports that had influenced the Government’s thinking. Will the Home Secretary tell us who else they consulted when they were drafting the Bill? I am thinking particularly of communications companies and internet providers.

Mrs May: My hon. Friend has quoted Lord Carlile, who, as she said, is a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. It will, of course, be necessary for any judicial commissioners who undertake the warrantry to be aware of the context in which they make decisions in relation to national security in particular. There have been a great many meetings with internet service providers from both the United Kingdom and overseas. The Security Minister and I have held round tables with United States internet service providers, and I met some when I was in the United States in September. We have also held round tables with United Kingdom providers, civil liberties groups, and charities representing victims of these serious crimes.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I welcome the tone and nature of the statement, but may I ask the Home Secretary what in particular led her to decide that 12 months was the right maximum period for the police and security agencies to benefit from data retention?

Mrs May: It is the period that is currently in legislation that we reinforced in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. We looked at it again following the Digital Rights Ireland decision by the European Court of Justice. It had previously been possible to hold data for up to 24 months, but we felt that, given the need for a balance between not holding data for too long and holding data for a sufficient period to do the job required by the authorities, up to 12 months was the right and appropriate time frame.

James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con): I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement.. When we talk about nefarious online activity, we should bear in mind that cyber-bullying is a very worrying activity which often involves young, vulnerable people and, in the most serious cases, has led to suicides. In those most serious cases, could the new powers be used to put the perpetrators behind bars?

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Mrs May: My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of cyber-bullying, which affects the lives of too many young people—sometimes, as he said, with tragic consequences. The Bill will include a definition of serious crime, which is one of the areas in which it is possible for the agencies to apply for the most intrusive powers, such as interception warrantry. I would expect cyber-bullying, at the most serious end, to come within the definition, but I will check that point and write to my hon. Friend.

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): Does the Bill deal with the process of applying to go through browsing history—the directory to which the Home Secretary referred? If there are no such regulatory procedures in the Bill at the moment, might the Home Secretary think about a system whereby somebody at the rank of chief superintendent, for example, would give initial permission under RIPA criteria?

Mrs May: It will not be possible for law enforcement agencies to access browsing history; they will just be able to access the first device or social media site that the individual device accessed, for the limited purposes I have set out—IP resolution, to see whether somebody is looking at an illegal website or to find out the communications services accessed. The arrangements for authorisation are those in existence for communications data in telephony, which were looked at by the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Data Bill. It felt that that was the right process to lead to serious and proper consideration of access—albeit not the browsing history—and that the right measures were already being taken in that authorisation process.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I do not wish to embarrass any individual hon. Member, but may I just gently point out that a Member who was not here at the start of the statement or who has gone in and out of the Chamber during the course of it should not be standing and expecting to be called? We have a very long-established practice that a Member must be present at the start of a statement and remain present throughout the exchanges, and I think on the whole the House will think that is a very proper courtesy.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): I welcome the statement, which will help make the country safer and prevent local authorities from accessing communications data. The Home Secretary rightly condemned the extraordinary claim by the shadow Home Secretary in an otherwise positive response that the Prime Minister had said that the entire Muslim population condoned extremism. Will she confirm that in his speech on 7 October the Prime Minister specifically recognised the value of religious teaching across all religions, but said that the teaching of intolerance or separatism was not acceptable? Does the Home Secretary also agree that many of us know good examples of Islamic teaching in our constituencies and the message today is very clear: we should unite against extremism using all modern tools appropriately, and if there is nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the speech to which he refers, the Prime Minister welcomed and recognised the important role that faith teaching

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plays in our society. We all wish to see an end to intolerance, separatism and division among those who would seek to divide our communities. That is why our counter-extremism strategy is so important.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP): As the home affairs spokesman for my party, I commend the Secretary of State for the reassurances given in her statement and her statements over the weekend about what is in the Bill, and perhaps more importantly, about what is not in it. We are grateful for those indications. There was an exchange earlier about the composition of the Joint Committee. May I encourage the Home Secretary to consider making sure that its composition reflects this House and more importantly the regions of this United Kingdom—that Northern Ireland’s voice can be present in those discussions to ensure that the legislation is drafted in full cognisance of the effects and impacts in Northern Ireland?

Mrs May: As the hon. Gentleman may recognise, decisions about the composition of Committees are taken by the business managers in the House, but I can assure him that it is my intention, as I indicated to David Ford when I spoke to him yesterday, that my officials will continue to work with Northern Ireland officials. Ministers will be available to speak to Ministers in Northern Ireland about these matters to ensure that we take into account the considerations in relation to Northern Ireland as this Bill goes through its scrutiny and through this House.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments that local authorities will be banned from accessing these sort of data. Can she give a little more information about the extension of the life of a warrant for any period and about data-sharing among those who are able to access those warrants—or will each authority have to access their own separate warrant?

Mrs May: Any agency that wishes to intercept and use these intrusive powers would need to have a warrant to do so. The current position, which it is intended will be replicated in the Bill, is that a warrant applied for by the security and intelligence agencies is normally in place for six months, and a warrant applied for by law enforcement is normally in place for three months. There is a much shorter period of time when an emergency warrant is signed; it normally must be reconsidered within five days.

Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): I, too, welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. Does she agree that it is important that the public feel reassured by these proposals and that, therefore, while it is clear that the police and security services need the very important powers set out today, where they are most intrusive it is right that they are authorised by Secretaries of State, who are, after all, accountable to the public?

Mrs May: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. That is why the doublelock is important. Many people have called for the involvement of the independence of the judiciary, but I think it is important not to abandon the public accountability of Secretaries of State. It is the Secretary of State who can stand in this House and who is accountable for the actions of the agencies, and that is why it is important that they continue to sign.

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Mr Alan Mak (Havant) (Con): I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. She will know that the debate about the use of investigatory powers often focuses on prevention of terrorism. Does she agree that the proposed powers are also important in keeping the public safe from financial cyber-criminals and organised crime?

Mrs May: Yes. My hon. Friend is absolutely right and is right to mention financial cyber-crime. It is one of those new forms of crime; as crime becomes more online it is important that our law enforcement and agencies have the online powers to be able to deal with it.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Does she agree that the double lock will mean judicial oversight to ensure that the measures are legal and proportionate, and that the Secretary of State can ensure that the public interest test is satisfied by any warrant being issued?

Mrs May: Yes I do agree; it is important that we retain that double lock in these matters. It will give the public extra confidence in the process undertaken, ensuring that these very intrusive powers for the authorities are used only when it is necessary and proportionate.

Johnny Mercer (Plymouth, Moor View) (Con): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, which again shows why she is held in such high regard by those who operate in these teams. Does she agree that one of our great privileges in this country is the relative safety and security that we enjoy in a desperately unstable world, and that sometimes these privileges require a price, which in my experience the vast majority in this country are willing to pay so long as they are safe?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend, who of course has put himself on the line to maintain our security and defend this country, makes a very important point. Most members of the public want to know that the authorities have the powers they need to keep them safe, but they also want to ensure that those powers are exercised properly, and that is where the safeguards that we have put in this Bill are so important.

Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con): I, too, welcome the statement. I have also been alarmed by the terming of the so-called snoopers charter and, unsurprisingly, have had correspondence from concerned constituents, but as a forward-looking Government, doing nothing is not an option. We should listen to the police chiefs and give them those essential tools. Does the Home Secretary agree?

Mrs May: Yes, that is important. The police have been very clear that they need these tools if they are going to be able to continue to do the job we want them to do in relation to serious and organised criminals and particularly in relation to paedophiles. On the first point my hon. Friend made, that is why I particularly welcome the comment made by the right hon. Member

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for Leigh (Andy Burnham): across this House we can send out a message today that this Bill is not about mass surveillance.

Suella Fernandes (Fareham) (Con): I congratulate the Home Secretary and her team on introducing into what has been an incomprehensible regime much-needed transparency and coherence, informed deeply by three independent reports and, importantly, enabling our intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies to have the powers they need to deal with the unprecedented scale and character of the threat this country faces. On warranting, does my right hon. Friend agree that the judiciary are well placed to deal with their new involvement? As a barrister, I made urgent applications on the phone late at night on an emergency basis to senior judges, so they are experienced in these matters. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the double lock strikes the right balance between public accountability and appropriate checks and balances?

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend, particularly for her reference to her own experience. Sometimes people have a vision of judges taking a very long time to do all this, but as she says, there are many occasions on which they have to react very quickly to requests, and they have to be available to do so. I expect that they will do that in these circumstances as well. I believe that this Bill will strike the right balance between public accountability and the independence of the judiciary, which will give the public that extra confidence.

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): The House has generally welcomed the Home Secretary’s balanced approach, as do I, but may I urge her to be much more aggressive in one regard? In her statement, she referred to equipment interference powers. May I encourage her to frame those powers in such a way that they could be used to disrupt or even destroy servers distributing child abuse images or other criminal material?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. We do everything we can to take action against those who distribute child abuse material, and a lot of work is being done with the industry in relation to taking down such material in order to protect children online.

Byron Davies (Gower) (Con): Lord Carlile, the former terrorism laws watchdog, has said that there has been a lot of demonisation of the police and security services over their intentions regarding this information. He also said:

“I think it’s absurd to suggest that the police and the security services have a kind of casual desire to intrude on the privacy of the innocent.”

Does my right hon. Friend support that view?

Mrs May: Absolutely. The heads of agencies have also made it clear that they have no intention of intruding on everybody’s lives. That is why the message that this is not about mass surveillance is so important. This is about targeting those who are seeking to do us harm and ensuring that any action that is taken is always necessary and proportionate.

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Points of Order

2.2 pm

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may recall that, last Thursday, there was considerable disquiet across the House about the seven-year delay in the publication of the Chilcot inquiry and the fact that the Government chose not to make a statement on that. You invited those on the Government Front Bench to consider that position, but I now understand that the Prime Minister has declined to make a statement. This involves matters that are clearly the Government’s responsibility, including claims that the Cabinet Secretary delayed the release of documents, and matters that relate to the national security timetable, which has been built into the release of Chilcot. Given the need to avoid such a disgraceful situation occurring again and in the light of the seven-year delay, can you confirm that it would have been in order for the Government to make such a statement without prejudicing the independence of the inquiry? Do you also agree that the decision not to do so—given the considerable offence caused to the 179 service families waiting for answers from the inquiry—is a matter for the Prime Minister alone?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I am happy to confirm that it would have been entirely orderly for a statement by a Government Minister to be made on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman is an extremely experienced parliamentarian, and he knows that that is an entitlement of a Minister but that it is not an obligation that the Chair can impose upon a Minister. In the absence of an offer of a Government statement, he will also be well aware that there is a range of options open to hon. and right hon. Members who seek to elicit from the Government a statement of their current thinking on the matter in question. He does not need me to provide him with the toolkit, but I am happy to confirm its existence.

Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP) rose

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP) rose—

Mr Speaker: I am keeping the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) warm. We will come to him in a moment. I call Ian Paisley.

Ian Paisley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Twenty-seven hours ago, the single largest announcement of job losses in Northern Ireland was made, involving the loss of the jobs of 860 people directly employed by Michelin in my constituency. There has not been so much as a squeak from those on the Government Front Bench: not a statement, not a press release—quite frankly, naff all. It bothers me that a convention appears to be arising in this House that Northern Ireland has once again become a place apart, and that Ministers think that because we have a devolved Administration they do not have a responsibility to get to the Dispatch Box as a matter of urgency to issue statements on important matters that affect us, including, in this case, those 860 people in Northern Ireland. Mr Speaker, can you assure us that no such convention will be allowed to arise under your stewardship of that important Chair, and that a Minister will be urged to come to the Dispatch Box tomorrow?

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Mr Speaker: I am very sensitive to the important point that the hon. Gentleman has made, and I very much hope that no such convention has arisen. Suffice it to say, without going into matters that should not be raised on the Floor of the House, there is sometimes competition for time in the House—a point to which I know that he will be sensitive, not least in relation to today, when we had an important statement from the Home Secretary, which I rightly anticipated would be heavily subscribed. However, there are other days and other opportunities of a variety of kinds, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will seek to take those opportunities. I can assure him, eyeball to eyeball and in front of all Members present in the House, that the Chair will be no obstacle to the pursuit by him and others of such opportunities.

Brendan O’Hara rose

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab) rose—

Mr Speaker: I will save the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute till last. I call Paul Flynn.

Paul Flynn: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, you ruled that you would seek consultation on the Prime Minister’s decision to take three long-serving, active and effective Conservative members off our delegation to the Council of Europe. Those members have now been removed—against their will, as I understand it—from the delegation. You said that you would consult on this and on their suggestion that Members of this House should consider the membership of the delegation. I have examined the proposed new membership of the delegation, and I am surprised to see that among the nominations is a Member of the other House who has twice appeared before its Standards Committee and been asked to make an apology to that House because of his links with lobbyists. Many of us would like to question the membership of the delegation on that basis. This could be a further reason why this should not simply be a matter for prime ministerial diktat. These people are representing Britain in Europe, and the membership of the delegation should be a matter that we can bring to this House so that MPs can debate it and vote on it.

Mr Speaker: I did indeed say yesterday, in response to a point of order on this matter, that I would reflect upon it. I have reflected upon it and I continue to do so. I also said to the House that it was my responsibility to be assured of the propriety of the process involved, but that it was not for the Chair to assess the merits or demerits of the individual prospective candidates for membership of the delegation. There may well be an opportunity for this matter to be considered by the House relatively shortly. I do not know that that will be the case, but it could be. In the meantime, I am happy to inform the hon. Gentleman that I have not sent the list of new proposed members of the delegation to the secretariat and that, pending possible consideration of the matter by the House, it seems prudent at this stage for me not to do so. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman and to the House.

Brendan O’Hara: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week, I tabled eight detailed and specific questions relating to the proposed extension of the limit of restoration

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of electrical shore supply to nuclear submarines at Her Majesty’s naval base Clyde from 20 minutes to a maximum of three hours. I have been approached by my constituents and asked to raise this matter on their behalf. However, rather than answering my eight specific questions individually, the Ministry of Defence grouped them together and gave me one answer, in which it hid behind national security issues even though my questions related to health and safety. I firmly believe that nuclear safety at Faslane is not just a matter for the MOD and for Babcock, and that it is a matter of serious concern for my constituents. Their concerns should not be dismissed in this way. I would be obliged, Mr Speaker, if you could advise me of what, if any, recourse I have in these circumstances.

Mr Speaker: Let me first say to the hon. Gentleman that I feel his pain. He has tabled a series of serious questions, and he is dissatisfied by what he regards as a grouped and minimalist response. I remember as a Back Bencher once tabling several dozen questions to a particular Department and being more than a little aggrieved to receive a grouped and extremely minimalist response.

I am genuinely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice yesterday of his point of order. He has set out his concerns very clearly, and no doubt those concerns have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench, who will relay them to the Ministry of Defence. I must make it clear that the content of answers to questions is a matter for Ministers, rather than for the Chair. It is quite frequently the case, under Governments of different colours, that Members do not find the answers entirely satisfactory. While it is reasonable that the Government are unwilling to put into the public domain information that would damage national security or the effectiveness of the armed forces, there has long been a debate about whether the balance between security and transparency is appropriately struck.

The hon. Gentleman asked what recourse he can seek. If he wishes, he may refer the matter to the Procedure Committee, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), as that Committee monitors the answering of questions on behalf of the House. Alternatively, he may use his ingenuity to pursue the matter through other avenues. The Table Office is always ready to advise hon. Members on the options open to them. I feel sure that the hon. Gentleman will be making the short journey to the Table Office ere long.

Bill Presented

Marriage and Civil Partnership Registration (Mothers’ Names) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Christina Rees, Huw Irranca-Davies, Dr Rupa Huq, Frank Field, Clive Lewis, Paula Sherriff, Cat Smith, Gerald Jones, Carolyn Harris, Jenny Chapman, Nick Smith and David T. C. Davies presented a Bill to make provision about the recording of the names of the mother of each party to a marriage or civil partnership for registration purposes; to make provision for requiring such information to be displayed on marriage certificates and civil partnership certificates; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 December, and to be printed (Bill 90).

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House of Commons (Administration)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

2.11 pm

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to consolidate and amend provisions about the House of Commons Members’ Fund; and to make provision about the House of Commons resources estimates.

This is not a Government Bill or a Government hand-out Bill; it is a minor House of Commons management Bill. The Bill is not new: there were at least two similar private Members’ Bills in the last Parliament, which fell owing to lack of time.

I suspect few Members will be aware of the fund, apart from through the note of a small monthly deduction to be seen on their monthly Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority pay slip. The fund was established before the second world war, when there was no parliamentary pension to help former Members who had fallen into financial difficulties. It has been used to top up pensions for widows of Members who left the House when widows received a lower entitlement, and for a few isolated cases of hardship of former Members.

As the House will recognise from that description, as time has passed the demand has dropped. In the last financial year, payments worked out at £137,000, but the fund has grown to a considerable £7 million. At present, the fund is drawn from compulsory contributions from Members, earnings from its investments and an annual contribution from the Treasury of £215,000. That compares with Members’ contributions of £15,000 per year.

The Bill will remove the requirement under existing primary legislation for Members to make monthly contributions of £2. In effect, the trustees will be empowered to cease deducting contributions. Given the figures I have just stated, they intend to do so immediately, since the fund has, to put it simply, a considerable surplus. However, the Bill enables the trustees to recommend resumption of contributions, if needed, up to a maximum of 0.2% of pay. The trustees can, if they agree, return any surplus funds to the Treasury. The trustees have requested this particular discretion.

The Bill will extend the class of beneficiaries to assist all dependants of former Members who experience severe hardships. It will also remove the requirement for trustees to be current MPs. I am sure the House would agree that it seems sensible for the trustees to ask, for example, the Association of Former Members of Parliament to nominate one trustee. In addition, that will enable the trustees to get over the problem that arises when, at a general election, a number of Members who are trustees lose their seats. The Bill will allow such former MPs to remain as trustees temporarily, until they are formally replaced.

For efficiency reasons, the Bill will amalgamate various Acts governing the fund to create a comprehensive set of governing legislation. That will remove unnecessary or outdated costs, procedures and restrictions, and provide a streamlined service with reduced costs.

Finally, clause 10 will amend the description of the House of Commons administration estimates set out in the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978.

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This amendment will enable the House to merge the administration and Members estimates into one at some future date, if that is deemed desirable. That decision would be taken by the House of Commons Commission, subject to discussions with the Treasury. There is cross-party and trustee support for this small tiding-up Bill.

Question put and agreed to.


That Sir Paul Beresford, Mr Nicholas Brown, Mr Peter Lilley, Mr Clive Betts and David Mowat present the Bill.

Sir Paul Beresford accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 December, and to be printed (Bill 91).

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): We now come to the Opposition day motion—I am purposely speaking rather slowly, but I cannot go much more slowly than this—in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The House is obviously anticipating an important debate. What procedures are in place if a Minister or shadow Minister does not turn up?

Madam Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent and most immediate point, but I have to say—very slowly—[Interruption.] I am very pleased to be able to answer the hon. Gentleman that whereas I was looking for a solution to this point, the appearance of a certain Member through the door means that I no longer have to consider such a solution. I call Mr Andy Burnham.

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Opposition Day

[9th Allotted Day]


2.18 pm

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House notes with concern the loss of 17,000 police officers in the last five years; further notes the most recent Police Recorded Crime statistics, which show sharp rises in some of the more serious crimes including knife crime and sexual assault and that, alongside evidence that some crime is rising, there is evidence that crime is changing and moving away from traditional forms such as burglary and car theft and is being increasingly replaced by cybercrime; is concerned by reports that the police budget could face between 25 and 40 per cent spending reductions in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review; notes warnings from senior police figures that this could result in over 20,000 further reductions in frontline staff, the effective end of neighbourhood policing and much of the public being exposed to much greater risk; accepts that further efficiencies can be made in the police budget for England and Wales but believes that budget reductions over 10 per cent would be dangerous; further notes the ongoing concern surrounding the Scottish Government’s oversight of Police Scotland and the findings of the recent staff survey which found only 30 per cent of staff thought they had the resources necessary to do their job properly; and calls on the Government to secure a funding settlement for the police that maintains frontline services and does not compromise public safety.

I rise to speak to the motion in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. At the start, I should thank the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford), who is about to leave the Chamber. Old alliances forged over the cause of water fluoridation do, in the end, stand one in good stead. I am grateful to him.

We have just been discussing the powers that the police and security services need to keep us safe in the 21st century. I would be the first to argue that the House has a duty to provide those powers, alongside strong safeguards, but that is of course only half the story. Alongside the powers, we need the people to put them into practice. That bit was missing from the Home Secretary’s statement. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Britain led the world in policing, because our policing by consent model was based on investment in good people with a strong sense of public vocation. In the 21st century, crime is changing—it is moving online and becoming more complex—but what will never change is the simple principle that the foundation stone of good policing is that presence in every community and the building of those strong relationships at local level.

It therefore feels right to pay tribute at the start of this debate to police officers and police civilian staff. What unites this House is a deep sense of gratitude to the men and women who work every day to keep our constituents safe and put themselves in harm’s way to do it.

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that among the police whom the public are most supportive of are our safer neighbourhood teams They have been so severely undermined by spending cuts in the past few years. In Westminster, we saw a 30% fall in police between 2011 and this spring, and many constituents are saying to me that they no longer

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see any evidence of safer neighbourhood teams on the beat. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a cause of great sadness?

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend anticipates me, because that is going to be at the heart of what I say today. I am sure that she, like me, feels great pride in what the last Labour Government did to invest in neighbourhood and community policing. Those changes have been noticed by the public and have built confidence locally in policing, and that is now at risk.

Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab): Let me make a point that I made during last week’s business questions. In Enfield, 152 uniformed officers have been lost from our streets since 2010, yet there has been a 22% increase in violent crime in the past year alone. There has been an increase in all categories of violent crime, and I think there is a connection between those two things. I wonder what my right hon. Friend thinks, because the reply I received from the Leader of the House was less than satisfactory.

Andy Burnham: My right hon. Friend rightly says that there is evidence that violent crime—knife crime and sexual assault–is on the increase and that the Metropolitan police have seen some reductions in numbers, particularly in her community. The big worry is that if the Government proceed with the spending plans they set out at the Budget, thousands of police officers could be taken off the streets of this country, particularly in London, where the change would be most keenly felt. That should concern Members on both sides of the House.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con) rose

Andy Burnham: I will make a little more progress and give way later on.

Last week, the shadow Policing Minister and I joined the Home Secretary and the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice at the police bravery awards. As I am sure we would all agree, it was a humbling evening. It was particularly poignant this year, with PC David Phillips in the minds of many. We think of David’s family today, and we hope that they take some comfort from the huge public response and outpouring of feeling that we have seen.

As I said when I started this job, when the Home Secretary gets it right, she will have my support—I have just offered that to her on the investigatory powers Bill—but where she and the Government get it wrong, I am not going to hold back from saying so, particularly where public and community safety is at risk. That brings me to my central point: this Government are about to cause serious damage to our police service and if they do not change course, they are about to put public safety at risk.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that all one needs to know about the Government’s policy is that four Conservative police and crime commissioners and the Mayor of London are preparing a judicial review, in the Met’s case because, in addition to a 43% cut in its budget—achieved and proposed—the Government are proposing another £184 million-worth of cuts as a result of the resourcing budget changes?

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Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend tempts me on to important ground: we are considering today not only the overall size of the cake for the police—how much money the police budget gets from the spending review—but how that cake is then divvied up. This week, PCCs of all political colours, have come together to say that the rushed changes to the police funding formula could seriously destabilise our police services. I would be interested to know what response the Government will make to the letter they have received.

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): I spoke to my local PCC yesterday and he confirmed to me that

“we are in a strong position to face future financial challenges”

while maintaining front-line services. Does the right hon. Gentleman therefore agree that many factors influence performance, of which finance is just one?

Andy Burnham: That may well be the case—I do not know, as I have not seen the details. May I gently point out to the hon. and learned Lady, however, that that is not the position everywhere? I refer her to the comments that the chief constable of Lancashire made yesterday before the Home Affairs Committee. He said that if these cuts go through,

“people in Lancashire will not be as safe as they are now”.

The chief constable of Cumbria has said that that force may not be viable, and we face the closure of police stations across the country. Complacency will not serve Conservative Members well in this debate.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): South Wales police force has had a reduction of 600 police officers in the past three years. I have had the privilege of working closely with community teams in my constituency in crucial areas such as counter-terrorism and dealing with extremism. Mark Rowley has made it very clear that uniformed officers on the beat also play a crucial role in that work. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such work is put at risk when cuts are made in police forces across the country?

Andy Burnham: That is the point: we are already hearing that police services in England and Wales are overstretched and struggling to cover all their functions. That is because in the past five years 12,000 full-time officers have been lost—the total was about 17,000 police staff overall. Three weeks from now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be standing at that Dispatch Box announcing his spending review. If he follows through on what he said at the Budget, the country will soon have a very different police force, providing a much-reduced service than the one that has just been described. As it stands, the Home Office, like other unprotected Departments, is in line for a cut over the next five years of between 25% and 40%. If we assume that the Government are working to keep it to the lower end of that spectrum, it still represents a massive hit on resources. It will mean 22,000 fewer police officers than we have today. That is a massive number and the Government need to provide justification for cuts on that scale.

Dr Murrison: If things are as dire as the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting, why is it that crime across the country is falling? In addition, why is a 10% cut in police funding, which he said was doable at his party conference, apparently now “dangerous”, as his motion puts it?

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Andy Burnham: I will come on to deal with that, explaining clearly what we think could be done and what takes us into the realms of dangerous cuts. The hon. Gentleman glibly says that crime is coming down, but he just heard what my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) had to say a moment ago. We know that crime has moved online and that the crime figures have not yet been updated to include those cybercrime figures—5 million crimes. I do not believe it will serve the Government well if they continue to exhibit complacency on these matters. There is good evidence to show that crime is not falling, but is in fact rising.

Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con): As a member of the Home Affairs Committee, I had the opportunity to question the chief constables that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. Is it not true that efficiency has to be part of the settlement and that some forces spend over £75 more per capita than others? That surely is where savings can be made.

Andy Burnham: The hon. Gentleman makes a very valid point, and I will come back to it later. I am not standing here today saying, “No cuts. Things have to stay exactly as they are. There is no room for efficiency in the police service.” Of course there is room for efficiency. My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) commissioned a report from the former Met commissioner Sir John Stevens in the last Parliament. He identified scope for savings of the kind that the hon. Gentleman just described. I am not saying that there is no room for cuts. The core of my argument is this: yes, make those efficiencies, but there comes a point beyond which the Government will be beginning to unpick the fabric of our police service and to put local communities at risk, and I am not prepared to see that.

Kate Hollern (Blackburn) (Lab): Lancashire has one of the best performing police authorities in the country, but owing to a flawed formula, about which a cross-party representation was made to the Minister, Lancashire is set to lose £25 million. People talk about crime reduction, but does anyone recognise that early intervention by the police in Lancashire working with communities and residents—

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): There is no such thing as prevention any more.

Kate Hollern: Absolutely. It is an absolute nonsense that Lancashire should be penalised because of a flawed formula.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I have a word of advice for the hon. Lady. Interventions must be short, because there are a great many people wishing to speak this afternoon. For future reference, during an intervention it is not acceptable to take another intervention from someone from a sedentary position however amusing it might be to the House. I am sure that the hon. Lady will now conclude her intervention and hand back to the shadow Secretary of State.

Andy Burnham: I am glad that my hon. Friend made that intervention, because it was a really important one and those on the Government Front Bench needed to

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hear it. They all shook their heads when she gave that figure of £25 million. Lancashire is not making that up. People are not speaking out for the sake of it. Doubtless the Government will want to accuse them of scaremongering, but this is nothing of the sort. Senior police are speaking out about what is happening. They can see that the proposed budget cuts, combined with the new funding formula, could seriously destabilise community and neighbourhood policing.

Several hon. Members rose

Andy Burnham: I will give way in a moment.

That brings me to my first question for the Home Secretary today. I have just described how we saw cuts to frontline services in the previous Parliament. I have also said that we are looking at cuts of possibly up to 25%. What evidence can she point the House to today that says that the Government can safely shrink the police by a quarter from its current overstretched position and not put public safety at risk? In fact, what evidence is there that she can safely cut the police by 20%, 15% or even 10%? We would love to see it, but I do not think that we will. I do not think that that evidence even exists. This is what is happening: we are being asked to accept major changes to the police without the evidence to justify it.

Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): I commend my right hon. Friend on his excellent speech. He will be aware that the commissioner of the Metropolitan police has warned that he is concerned about the safety of London if the scale of planned cuts and changes to the police funding formula go ahead. In an interview, he said:

“We think we can expect to lose somewhere between 5,000 to 8,000 police officers.”

He said that responding to a “marauding terrorist attack” or 2011 riot scenario would be harder. How much weight does he think that the Home Secretary and Chancellor should pay to the most senior police officer in the country?

Andy Burnham: The Home Secretary should give those comments her full attention. The figure that my right hon. Friend has just quoted is backed up by independent research that I have commissioned. It suggests that if the cuts go ahead—cuts of around 25%—London could see 5,000 or 6,000 police officers lost from the frontline. I know that he will do what he can to oppose those cuts and the funding formula in the coming months. I look forward to seeing others on the Government Benches doing the same, and standing up for the people of London as I know that he will.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): May I take my right hon. Friend from London and bring him closer to home? He might be from Leigh, but he knows Merseyside like the back of his hand. Does he agree that the level of cuts that are about to be imposed on Merseyside do more than just take away a service? They risk undermining the foundation of trust between us and our police.

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend puts it very well. Let us look at what Merseyside has said about what the proposed cuts would do. It has said that they would mean scaling down teams dealing with sexual assault

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and hate crime. Those are very serious implications. Where is the evidence to justify cutting the police on that scale? I have not seen it. I hope we hear it today, because this House cannot give permission to the Government to proceed with these cuts until they have made the case for what they are trying to do.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend as surprised as me to hear that there are Members who do not understand that, in certain parts of the country, crime is rising, not falling. Crime in Greater Manchester rose by 14% in the 12 months up to June 2015 compared with the previous 12 months. Recorded violent crime rose by 39% over the same period. Members must take account of the fact that some parts of the country are different. We have guns and gang violence in Salford, and it is a very serious issue.

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend puts her case very well. Crime may indeed be changing, and moving away from volume crime, such as car crime and burglary, but that is not to say that crime is falling. As I have said before, online crime is not adequately reflected in the crime figures. She rightly says that there are worrying increases in the most serious crimes in a number of areas, including in our part of the world, in Greater Manchester.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab) rose

Andy Burnham: I will make a little progress if I may, and take some further interventions later.

I was just saying that I do not see the evidence to shrink our police force back to the levels of the 1970s, leaving us with fewer police officers per head of population than other comparable countries. That brings me to my second question, which is not for the Home Secretary, but for the whole House. If there is no authoritative evidence that cuts on this scale will not put our constituents at risk, how on earth can we allow them through? We have called this debate today for the following reasons: to challenge the Government on what we feel is a reckless gamble with public safety; to give voice to the deep disquiet felt by thousands of police officers across all 43 forces in England and Wales about the future of policing and community safety; to initiate a proper debate about the future of policing and the needs of our communities, in advance of the spending review; and to alert the public to the enormity of what is at stake by launching a national campaign today to protect our police. Just as with tax credits, I cannot remember the public being told about these plans to decimate neighbourhood policing before they went to vote.

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): What a lot of people outside this place will try to square is the right hon. Gentleman’s speech to the Labour party conference in which he said that he would cut these budgets by 5% to 10%. Rather than a thoughtful critique of what the Government are actually doing, what we have today is a cut out and paste standard attack on the Conservative Government for acting in a fiscally responsible way, which he suggested that they should do just a few weeks ago.

Andy Burnham: If the hon. Gentleman is going to intervene in the debate, he should at least listen to it. A moment ago, I said that we put forward plans for

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efficiencies before the election, so it would not be a sustainable position for me to say, “No cuts at all”, and I am not saying that today. What our motion says is that cutting the police by more than 10% would put public safety at risk. If he thinks that it is fiscally prudent to do that and damage public safety, then I beg to differ with him. I would love to see how he can justify cuts of more than 10% in his community.

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a 23% reduction in the force establishment in Merseyside since 2010? By 2019, that will have gone up to 41% of the workforce. Does he think that those on the Government Benches have any idea about the impact that that will have on the community, safe policing and the safety of police officers?

Andy Burnham: I do not think that they do. Cuts on the scale proposed would mean the effective end of neighbourhood policing as we have seen it in recent years, particularly in rural areas and areas of lower risk. We would see thousands of bobbies taken off the beat. It would take us back to the bad old days of reactive and remote policing, with officers retreating to cars and to the station. They will not be out on the streets or visible in their communities.

Dawn Butler (Brent Central) (Lab): The safer neighbourhood teams were started in Stonebridge in my constituency of Brent. They helped to build trust in the police and to lower crimes. We have had a 62% cut in our neighbourhood teams. Again, that is a false economy by the Government. There will be more crimes and fewer police to deal with them.

Andy Burnham: False economy is absolutely the point, is it not? The Government do not seem to equate the reduction in crime we had in the last decade, which began under our Government, with the investment in those community safety teams. That brings me to the role of police community support officers, one of the innovations of the Labour Government of which I, for one, am very proud indeed. Under the Government’s plans, they will become an endangered species. We know that they do not enjoy the same employment protection as warranted officers, so no doubt they are worried that they will be the first to go.

One of the gains brought about by PCSOs was that they substituted for warranted officers on lower level duties, such as managing the Remembrance Sunday parades we will see in our constituencies this weekend. Around the country, some of those parades are beginning to be scaled back and even cancelled because there is not sufficient police cover. Is it not a sure sign to the Conservatives that if the police can no longer cover events of such importance to our local communities their cuts have already gone too far?

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): The Aintree ratepayers association and neighbourhood watch is a non-party political organisation and wrote to me to say:

“It is, in our view, ‘criminal’ that such significant deep-rooted budget reductions are being considered, it demonstrates what value the Government places upon community safety and cohesion and totally sends out the ‘wrong message’ to those who do not want to abide by the mores of civilised society.”

I could not have put it better myself.

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Andy Burnham: Civilised society; that is what matters here. If people want a glimpse of what the future might look like, they should have a look at Tiptree in Essex, where residents already have to club together to fund their own private security guards. Is that the kind of society we want, with private security guards roaming the streets in areas where the police have withdrawn? The Government deny it, but that is what is happening on the ground.

This is not just about the loss of capability in community and neighbourhood policing. Forces are talking about disbanding mounted sections and dog sections. The cuts could have serious implications for the police estate, with police station closures all over the country and the police becoming a blue light only service, responding to emergencies and not dealing with crime at a local level.

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP): Today’s motion refers to Scotland, where we have 1,027 more serving police officers on the street than we had in 2007. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree, however, that it is iniquitous and unfair that Police Scotland should be the only force in the United Kingdom to be required to pay VAT on its operations, taking £23 million out of operational expenditure?

Andy Burnham: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that should be considered, but I am afraid that I am not going to let him or the Scottish National party off the hook. The survey referred to in our motion says that only 30% of officers in Scotland feel that they have sufficient resources to do the job. I accept that that might partly be the responsibility of the Westminster Government, but I am not sure that the changes to the police in Scotland and the move to Police Scotland have resulted in the improvements that we were told would happen.

As I said only a moment ago, the police have spoken about becoming a blue light only service in places. In their briefing for this debate, Lancashire police state:

“We will attend fewer crimes.”

That prompts the question of which crimes. Where is the national public guidance on the crimes that can now safely be de-prioritised? Again, there is none, because the Government would rather pass the cuts and pass the buck down to a local level, leaving the public facing a confusing postcode lottery in policing.

If anyone believes that referring to a postcode lottery is an exaggeration, may I refer the House to the pilot scheme in Leicestershire, where the police attended burglaries only at houses with even numbers, a scheme that the Government claimed worked and that could now be expanded? At what point have we as a society or this Parliament accepted the principle that the police will no longer attend someone’s home if they have been burgled? At what point have we accepted the principle that some victims of crime can be abandoned in this random fashion? We have not, and I do not believe that this House should concede that principle. Policing practice should not be changed in such a way until the Government have provided sound justification for the change.

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that cuts to the neighbourhood policing budget will undermine the follow-up work after serious

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crime, such as the gun crime that happened recently in Wood Green, in all our inner-city areas? Does he agree that for criminals this proposal is Christmas day 365 days a year?

Andy Burnham: I can do no better than refer my hon. Friend to the words of Peter Clarke, former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met’s specialist operations directorate, whom the House will know. Talking about what is in the offing, he said:

“We risk breaking the ‘golden thread’ that runs through the police effort all the way from local communities to the farthest part of the world where, in an era of global terrorism, defence of the UK begins”.

That is the point: that pyramid of policing that begins at a very local level and feeds intelligence into the system is not an either/or idea. We cannot just say that we will have officers dealing with online crime and withdraw people from the streets. We have to maintain a police presence in every community, which is a point that the Government seem not to understand.

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con) rose

Andy Burnham: However, I believe that the former Policing Minister does understand that.

Nick Herbert: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, and he has been very generous. As I understand it, he is saying that cuts of up to 10% could safely be made now because, as he accepts in the motion, further efficiencies could be made in the police budget. Therefore, by definition, he has accepted that the efficiencies that have been made so far have not damaged policing. He shakes his head, but it is fairly obvious that if further cuts of up to 10% could be made safely he accepts that the reductions that have been made to date have not damaged policing. Is it therefore not extraordinary that Labour Members opposed those reductions in spending and said that policing would be damaged? Why should we believe them now?

Andy Burnham: I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman intervened, because I am not saying anything of the kind. I am not saying that the cuts that the Government have managed to date have been without consequence. I have just described how functions as important as managing Remembrance Sunday parades have been cancelled. I have also pointed out that crime is rising and I, for one, do not say that there is no link between police numbers and rising crime. We looked at a plan to protect the frontline by merging police forces. I note that the Government have turned their face against that. It is all about how they do it. The frontline can be protected if the Government are prepared to manage the cuts in a way that takes resource out of the back office. They are not prepared to do that, either, so consequently we are seeing unacceptable cuts in police forces up and down the country.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I am very interested in the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making about the frontline. Perhaps he would like to add in to his speech the fact that the proportion of officers on the frontline has increased over the past five years.

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Andy Burnham: “Proportion”—people will hear how the Home Secretary is trying to spin it. Let us deal in people, shall we, rather than proportions. Between 12,000 and 13,000 officers lost, police community support officers lost, and all at a time when crime is beginning to go up. She wants to take away 22,000 more. I say in all sincerity to the Home Secretary that with crime on the rise this is no time to cut the police.

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab): May I bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend another example of Tory promises? Croydon was hit very hard by the riots in 2011 and the Prime Minister came down days afterwards and promised to keep the area safe. Since then, the Government have allowed every single police station in Croydon North to close down and as of today we still have fewer police on the streets than in 2010, when these people came into government. Is that not yet more Tory broken promises?

Andy Burnham: Everybody will remember very well the terrible fire and the consequences of the riots on the streets of Croydon. People would expect promises like that to be kept, would they not? But with this Prime Minister and this Government, they are rapidly learning that such things are said in the moment to look good but are not followed through. Sadly, that is the hallmark of this Government.

The Government are sending the police on a dangerous journey without a route map. Where is the White Paper that sets out the case for these drastic changes to the police and the vision for the police service of the future? Where is the expert analysis of the changing nature of crime and society and therefore of the resource needs of the police? In the absence of all that, the only justification put forward by the Government, as we have heard today, is that despite reductions crime has continued to fall. I have dealt with that, Madam Deputy Speaker. I believe that in the last decade the reduction we saw was linked to the investment in neighbourhood policing and we are now beginning to see signs that crime is on the rise again.

The truth is that this whole process is not being driven by our future needs as a society, or by the changing nature of crime; it is a crude, Treasury-driven process that owes more to an ideological drive to shrink the state than to the good governance of the police and our public services. What we will soon be left with is the police service of the Treasury’s dreams but the public’s worst nightmares.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Does the shadow Home Secretary recognise the concern expressed by Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs Council, when she recently appeared before the Home Affairs Committee? She adopted the words of the chief constable of Merseyside police, who said that there is a political obsession with police visibility, irrespective of actual neighbourhood demand. Is not the shadow Home Secretary guilty, along with the shadow Ministers quoted in The Times today, of that political obsession, and of seeking to weaponise police numbers?

Andy Burnham: I think that the hon. Gentleman will regret those remarks. Listen to what senior police officers are saying. Is he accusing them of scaremongering? Is he saying that Peter Clarke, whom I quoted a moment

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ago, is wrong? Has he talked to his own constituents recently and heard their views about visible neighbourhood policing? I suggest that he speaks to them, because this is not about what politicians want. His constituents want to see a strong uniformed presence on their streets, keeping them safe.

As I have said, it is not just about the overall size of the cuts, because the Home Office, in characteristic fashion, is taking a bad situation and making it worse. The changes to the police funding formula—[Interruption.] The Policing Minister should not dismiss this, because the letter he received this week was a pretty difficult and sobering one for him. It talked about a process that is

“unfair, unjustified and deeply flawed”.

That is how his own Conservative colleagues describe it. It is highly critical of Ministers’ handling of the whole process, which they say was

“entirely avoidable and wholly unacceptable”.

They are now looking at a judicial review. Those are strong words, and is not the fact that it is Conservative voices saying them a clear indication that the Government are no longer carrying their own side, and that they are losing the confidence of the police as a whole?

Where do we go from here? A good start would be to put implementation of the formula on hold. Let me get to the heart of what we are calling for today. As our motion makes clear, we have not turned our face away from the idea of savings in the police budget, because there are changes to back-office structures and procurement that could protect the frontline. If one speaks to senior police officers, one realises that most accept that further savings of up to 5% are difficult but doable. Cutting between 5% and 10% gets more dangerous, and the cuts would be harder to make, but neighbourhood policing would have a chance in that scenario. My message to the Government is that if they cut the police by 10% or more, they will put the public at risk.

I hope that I can take it as read that the Home Secretary is fighting for the best deal she can get from the Treasury. Will she share with the House this afternoon what figures she thinks are acceptable without compromising public safety? If she can set out those figures, can she tell us where she thinks those savings can be made from within the police without compromising public safety? That is important, because her vision for the police needs to fit with the Government’s other plans for public services; they cannot be seen in isolation from the rest of the spending review.

Policing is the last safety net, and it will be forced to deal with the consequences of failure in other services. For instance, if the Government fail to tackle the crisis in mental health services in the spending review, that will only add to the pressure on the police and on police cells. If they force councils to close youth clubs, leisure centres and playing fields, the chances are that antisocial behaviour will be on the rise again. If they fail to invest in social care, they will leave our hospitals in crisis, ambulances trapped in queues outside and police cars having to fill the gaps. If they fail to sort out the mess in probation, caused by underfunding and part-privatisation, there will be a direct impact on re-offending and, ultimately, public safety.

Ultimately, that is the problem. What we are facing in this spending review is a drive to shrink back the state and then privatise it. In the response to this debate, we expect to hear plenty of talk about the deficit. Yes, the

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deficit is important, but there is not just one way to close it, and it is not more important than the safety of the public and of the country.

This is a milestone moment for the police service in Britain. The decisions that the Government make on funding over the next few months will determine the mission and the manner of policing and community safety in this country for a generation. That was the warning given by the Conservative police and crime commissioners in their letter to the Government this week. This is an issue that they now have to explain and answer. It is simply not safe to cut the police in the drastic way they plan, and they have failed to set out a case that it is.

Our motion makes a reasonable demand: put simply, it is to secure a funding settlement for the police that maintains front-line services and does not compromise public safety. Is there any Conservative Member who cannot vote for such a demand, or are they saying that they are ready to sacrifice public safety in the name of deficit reduction? It is not acceptable, and it will not be acceptable to their constituents, as it is not to ours.

Opposition Members understand the value of public service and public services. We have shown in the past that we can fight for our NHS, so we give notice to the Government today that we are ready to do the same for our police and for the safety of our communities. I call on Members on both sides of the House to think about what cuts on this scale will mean for their constituencies, put public safety before party politics and support the motion before the House tonight.

2.55 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I commend the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) for securing his first Opposition day debate since becoming shadow Home Secretary. I agree with his comments about the bravery of our police officers and the excellent job they do for us day in, day out. We were tragically reminded by the funeral of PC David Phillips earlier this week of the dangers that our police officers face when they put on that uniform and go out on shift, because they never know what they will face or what difficulties they will encounter. Sadly, in PC David Phillips’s case, a family was left bereaved. Our thoughts are with his family and with his colleagues in the Merseyside police.

However, I cannot commend the motion that the right hon. Gentleman has put before the House today. Not only is it simply wrong on almost every point of fact, but it shows that Her Majesty’s Opposition have comprehensively failed to learn the lessons of the past five years. I will happily turn to each of their points in turn, but before doing so I want to say this: when I became Home Secretary in 2010 and set out the need for reform of policing, the response from the Opposition Benches was to deny the need for change. The Labour party was united with chief constables and the Police Federation in saying that funding reductions would lead to a “perfect storm” of rising crime, falling public confidence and a depleted and damaged frontline. Five years on, and not a single one of those irresponsible claims has come true.

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Crime, according to the independent crime survey for England and Wales—one of the most authoritative indicators of crime in any country in the world—is down by more than a quarter. Public confidence in the police has remained strong. Far from the frontline being damaged, police officers are now more likely to be deployed in front-line roles, like patrol or neighbourhood officers, than at any time in modern policing history. This is the uncomfortable truth for the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour party: communities in England and Wales are safer now than they have ever been. Their homes are less likely to be burgled, their cars are less likely to be stolen, and their friends and families are less likely to be confronted with violence on Britain’s streets.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): We had a meeting earlier this week at which we heard police officers say that 1% of fraud was being investigated. We heard concerns that cases of human trafficking were not being investigated. We know for a fact that the number of hate crimes against disabled people has increased by 25%. How can the Home Secretary be so complacent?

Mrs May: We are concerned about the investigation of fraud, which is exactly why we set up the economic crime command in the National Crime Agency, to improve the police’s ability to deal with fraud. With regard to human trafficking, it is the Conservative party that introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015, ably taken through the House by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley). It gives the police extra powers to deal with exactly that point. Police reform is working and crime is falling.

Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab): What message does the Home Secretary think she is sending to my constituents when only 16% of knife crimes in 2013-14 have been resolved? Is she suggesting that my local police force is incompetent or that tragedies such as the murder of Mohamed Duru-Ray, who was a 16-year-old stabbed to death, should go unsolved?

Mrs May: We want the police to investigate crimes and a tragic death of that sort. I am very sorry to hear of the case that the hon. Gentleman raises. I shall go on to refer to violent crime later in my speech.

Mrs Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Hampshire constabulary, which has 96% of police out on the beat rather than stuck in back offices, because of efficiencies and reorganisation which have led to an 11% reduction in crime?

Mrs May: I absolutely do congratulate Hampshire police. I have visited Hampshire police. It is one of the police forces that has been at the forefront of using technology to help it investigate crime—through the body-worn video cameras, for example, and the tough tablets that they have taken out with them. They are also working very closely with the fire service and doing everything to ensure that they have been making savings and improving the service to the public.

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Graham Stuart: On the new funding formula for the police, there is concern among many that it favours the urban over the rural. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and other colleagues from across the House who represent rural constituencies to discuss the formula and ensure that we get something that is fair to all?

Mrs May: I am happy to do so. I know that my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister has been conducting a number of meetings with colleagues to hear their views on the proposed police funding formula. I am happy to set up the sort of meeting that my hon. Friend suggests. The consultation on the police funding formula is still open and no decisions have been taken in relation to it.

Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab): The funding formula as it stands is out for consultation, but the proposals would lead to a 5.1% cut for Sussex police and a 5.2% increase for Surrey police next door—urban to rural. Would the Home Secretary say that that is fair, and that a city such as Brighton and Hove, which has very specific challenges, could cope with another 5.1% cut, on top of all the others?

Mrs May: The point I made is very simple. The police funding formula has been out for consultation for a while. We are listening to the representations and then decisions will be taken. He refers to the specific needs of certain parts of the Sussex police force area, Brighton and Hove being one of those. I take this opportunity to commend the work that Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has been doing in relation to certain communities in Sussex and the very real attention that she has given to the sort of issues that the hon. Gentleman refers to.

Joan Ryan: Enfield communities value their police community support officers, particularly given the rise in violent crime and the need for uniformed officers on the streets to reassure people. The right hon. Lady will know that having had a £600 million cut in budget, the Met police are now expecting another £800 million cut in the spending review and are considering making the decision in December to axe all PCSOs. Does the Home Secretary place any value on police community support officers?

Mrs May: Earlier the right hon. Lady intervened on her right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh and referred to the issues around knife crime. May I take this opportunity to commend her predecessor in her constituency, Nick de Bois, who did a great deal in relation to knife crime and ensured that further legislation was passed in this House in that regard? On the issue of police community support officers, of course we value them, but the decision is an operational one for chief constables as to how they balance their budgets and ensure the differentiation. The sort of comments that we are hearing now about PCSOs have been heard before. For example, in 2010 the chief constable of Lancashire, Chief Constable Finnigan, said that with huge regret he had told all 427 PCSOs in the force that they might lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts. Did they? No, they did not.

Police reform is working, and crime is falling. This Government have achieved something that no other Government have achieved: we have proved that it is possible to improve services, and maintain public trust

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and confidence, while saving money for the taxpayer. We must not forget why those savings are necessary. The right hon. Member for Leigh mentioned the deficit and yes, we did inherit a structural deficit, high taxes, record debt and unreformed public services. I hope I do not have to remind the right hon. Gentleman, who was Chief Secretary to the Treasury when the 2007 spending review was decided—a document that continued this country’s course down that fateful path of profligacy.

Andy Burnham: If I may correct the Home Secretary, I conducted the 2007 spending review as Chief Secretary and a decision was taken to grow public spending at a lower rate than overall growth in the economy—a decision that the current Prime Minister and the current Chancellor described at the time as tough. The right hon. Lady needs to correct the record.

I want to ask the Home Secretary a direct question, and she cannot leave the debate today before she answers it. If she is saying that everything is fine, she now needs to tell the House at what level she thinks it is safe to cut the police before public safety is compromised. What is the percentage cut that she is prepared to make without compromising the safety of our constituents?

Mrs May: It sounded as though the right hon. Gentleman was about to get his handcuffs out and stop me. [Interruption.] Perhaps I won’t go there.

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that the discussions around the spending review are currently taking place. The spending review will be reported to this House by the Chancellor on 25 November. We are still consulting on the police funding formula, and in due course, after the spending review has been announced, the funding formula will be announced.

Since 2010, we have cut the budget deficit by more than half, we have lowered the tax burden for people up and down the country, and we have set about reforming public services to better serve citizens and communities. It is therefore with some dismay that I see the Opposition making exactly the same mistakes they made in 2010—misusing statistics, worrying decent members of the public, and wilfully ignoring the experience of the past five years. The similarities are uncanny.

The weekend before last, the right hon. Member for Leigh told the Sunday Express that

“the Home Secretary is gambling with public safety”,

just as five years ago his predecessor told The Daily Telegraph that police savings were “an irresponsible gamble with crime and public safety”. Indeed, in 2011 the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) even called an Opposition day debate on police funding, with a motion that bore more than a striking resemblance to the one we are discussing today.

Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op): I admire the Home Secretary’s approach to the good use of statistics. I am surprised to hear her say that crime has fallen, when in Redcar and Cleveland in the past year we have seen an increase in crime of 21%. That includes a 77% increase in violence against the person. This does not accord with what she says about crime falling. Under the Labour Government crime fell by 43%. I am very proud of our record so it is disappointing to see that.

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Mrs May: I think I am right in saying that the figures the hon. Lady quotes for crime falling under the Labour Government have exactly the basis as the figures that I have quoted for crime falling over the past five years—the independent crime survey of England and Wales. There is an issue about police recorded crime which I will refer to later in my speech.

The tactics and the language of the Opposition have not changed, but I thought the shadow Home Secretary’s mind had. As a number of my colleagues have pointed out, and as was very ably pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), the shadow Home Secretary told the Labour party conference:

“Of course, savings can be found.”

Savings are mentioned in the motion today. The Opposition say that further savings can be found. They therefore assume that the savings that have been made so far have not damaged policing. This was a point that the right hon. Member for Leigh completely failed to address when my right hon. Friend challenged him on it.

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): On savings, according to the chief constable of Sussex, the last savings term delivered not only efficiency but reductions in crime—for example, by merging arrest units with detection units. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a question not just of how much money is spent, but of how well it is spent?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is about how the money is spent, not about the absolute amount of money. That is a crucial difference between ourselves and the Labour party. Labour thinks the answer to everything is more money; we recognise that it is how the money is spent. It is not just about police officer numbers, but about how those officers are deployed.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): Another problem that Labour seems to be repeating from its past, according to the shadow Home Secretary’s comments, is the plan to force mergers on to police forces. Will my right hon. Friend commend the way in which the West Mercia police force has worked in a bottom-up alliance with Warwickshire police? Only today, they have announced plans for a joint operational control centre with Hereford and Worcester fire service.

Mrs May: I do indeed commend West Mercia for the steps it has taken. The work that it has done with the Warwickshire force is an example of how forces can retain an individual identity while getting the benefits of working together and collaboration. It is a very important example.

Several hon. Members rose

Mrs May: I would like to make a little more progress, because I am conscious that a lot of Members wish to speak, and I want to turn to each of the points in the motion in turn.

First, the motion

“notes with concern the loss of 17,000 police officers in the last five years”

and the possibility of “further reductions” in numbers during this Parliament. Of course, that is not Government policy. Decisions on the size and make-up of each

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police force are not a matter for the Home Office but a matter for chief constables to decide on locally in conjunction with their police and crime commissioners. Indeed, and Labour Members might be interested in some of these facts, a large number of the police officer reductions since 2010—8,153 officers, or 48% of the total fall—were lost in the 13 areas controlled by Labour police and crime commissioners. Nowhere is this more the case than in neighbourhood policing. Between 2012 and 2014, Conservative PCCs increased the number of neighbourhood officers by 5,813, yet over the same period, Labour PCCs cut them by 701.




The hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) asks where these statistics come from. They should be familiar to Opposition Members, because they were released in response to a parliamentary question from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) earlier this year. As Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has said repeatedly over the past five years, what matters in policing and in the safety of communities is not how many officers there are in total, but how they are deployed. Since 2010, the proportion of officers deployed to the frontline has increased from 89% of officers to 92%—the highest level on record.

Andy Slaughter: I am sure that the Home Secretary will therefore join me in congratulating Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which is now funding 44 police constables on the beat in Hammersmith. At the same time, though, the Mayor of London has destroyed neighbourhood teams, is about to get rid of all PCSOs, and is closing two out of the three operational police stations in the borough. How can neighbourhood policing survive in that climate?

Mrs May: It is interesting to look at the Met, because it has been recruiting more officers, as is the Lancashire force, which I mentioned earlier. It is wrong to assume that the service that is offered by police officers is best judged by the number of police stations. Many forces up and down the country have sold off their police stations but have given the public better access to the police—as I saw when I visited my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) prior to the election—by siting them in council offices.

Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that more can be done on collaboration between the police and the fire and ambulance services so that efficiencies can be made?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are very good examples of where that is taking place. I referred to Hampshire. Northamptonshire is also doing this, and there are other examples of where there are real opportunities for savings to be made and for a better service to be given to the public as a result.

Secondly, the motion suggests that there is evidence that crime is rising, including increases, in the most recent police recorded crime statistics, in very serious crimes such as knife crime and sexual assault.

Mr Steve Reed rose—

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary give way?

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Mrs May: I am going to make progress.

The right hon. Member for Leigh and others are right when they say that those crimes are serious, and it is absolutely right that the police are recording more incidents of each, but it is wrong to suggest that an increase in police recording necessarily means more crime in communities. As the independent Office for National Statistics said last month:

“as well as improvements in recording, this is also thought to reflect a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes.”

Victims of crime—often very vulnerable people who have endured horrendous suffering and torment—are coming forward to tell their stories to the police and to put the perpetrators of their abuse behind bars. Members across this House should welcome that and not seek to manipulate or use it for their own ends. As I said earlier, according to the independent crime survey, crime is down by more than a quarter since 2010.

Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman says that crime is changing and traditional crimes such as burglary and car theft are being replaced by modern criminality like cybercrime. Crime is indeed changing, but the level of some digital crimes in no way compares with the dramatic falls in conventional volume crimes over the past five to 10 years. Crime survey data also show that the proportion of plastic card users who were victims of fraud is currently around 25% lower than its peak in 2009-10.

This Government have not failed to recognise the changing nature of crime; we have faced up to it. In 2012, we set up the National Crime Agency to lead the fight against serious and organised criminality. In 2014, we brought Action Fraud into the City of London police to better co-ordinate the response to fraud and financial crime. Our national cyber-security programme has invested nearly £900 million in protecting British people, businesses and state assets against cyber-attack. For the first time ever, the Office for National Statistics now publishes an estimate of the number of cybercrimes and frauds experienced by members of the public, making us the first major western country to capture the changing nature of crime.

Mr Steve Reed rose

Mrs May: I want to make progress because I am conscious of those who wish to speak.

However, it is the crux of the motion that I find most troubling—that is, the concern among Opposition Front Benchers that the police may endure spending reductions in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review. As I have said, in the previous Parliament we successfully halved the deficit. In a few weeks’ time, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will set out how we will finish that job in the comprehensive spending review. In doing so, he will show that this Government recognise the value of balancing the books, spending within our means, and lowering taxes for hard-working people, because the deficit is still too high, and it is right that police forces share in that effort, as they have done in the past five years. To echo the shadow Home Secretary’s speech to the Labour party conference, savings are still there to be made. The limit of those savings is not the arbitrary 10% that he sets out in his motion. Let us remember that usable financial reserves for police forces in England and Wales stand at just over £2.1 billion

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right now—built up, in part, to help soften the impact of future spending cuts. These reserves increased by nearly £100 million last year—up in 26 forces across England and Wales. Capital reserves are approximately £240 million in 2014-15—roughly the same as the previous year.

Nor can we forget the extraordinary savings and operational benefits that can be made, as several hon. Friends have said, from better collaboration between forces and effective joint working with other local services. Only last week, Cleveland, Durham and North Yorkshire constabularies announced a £5 million saving by bringing together their dogs units, while still maintaining a 24-hour service across the three forces. There are efficiencies afforded by better technology. Cambridgeshire police have saved an estimated 240,000 officer hours a year and over £7 million by rolling out tablet and mobile devices to officers to allow them to work better on the road and away from the police station.

Graham Stuart: I add to my right hon. Friend’s list the police and crime commissioner for Humberside, Matthew Grove, who is working hard with the fire service to have a joint service centre for vehicles across the two services, saving millions of pounds in capital and revenue terms over the years. We have not heard much today about Labour’s U-turn in recognising that greater democratic oversight of local policing has been a significant contribution to better policing and improvements in crime figures across the country.

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I commend Matthew Grove for the work that he is doing in Humberside, particularly in collaboration with the fire service. My hon. Friend reminds me that Labour Members have done a complete U-turn on directly elected police and crime commissioners. They were implacably opposed to them, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs, the former Policing Minister, will know from the time when he took the legislation on police and crime commissioners through the House, and now they have suddenly decided that they are a good thing and they should carry on.

Catherine West: The Home Secretary is painting rather a rosy picture of everything. What does she say to the orphans of Erdogan Guzel, who was tragically shot in Wood Green in the summer? The culprits still have not been brought to book because the police locally do not have the resources, despite the fact that the local authority, which is under immense strain, has pitched in and given them extra resources. Those orphans want an explanation as to what happened to their father and why that crime remains undetected because the follow-up work has not been done.

Mrs May: Obviously, I am very sorry to hear of that particular incident and the effect it has had on that family. Nobody wants to see anybody deprived of one of their parents through an attack of the sort described by the hon. Lady. I am very clear that I want the police to investigate such crimes and to be able to do so. That is partly why I stood here earlier to make a statement on a draft Bill that will ensure that our police have the powers they need to access certain data that they currently use to investigate crimes, but that, as modern technology develops, they are unable to access.

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Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mrs May: I apologise to the hon. Lady, but I did say that I would make progress and I am conscious that time is getting on.

I have just quoted a few examples of how collaboration can benefit forces and represent savings. They collectively represent opportunities worth billions of pounds in savings for policing, without the loss of operational capability and without cutting corners on the service the public expect. Policing has risen admirably to the challenge of lower budgets and a changing landscape in the past five years, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so in the next five.

Before I finish, I want to address the final point in the motion. Police Scotland has previously been held up—including by shadow Front Benchers—as a better alternative to the model of police reform this Government have pursued in England and Wales. If on nothing else in today’s debate, I agree with what it says about Police Scotland, because I firmly believe that the amalgamation of eight local forces into a single body was mistaken.

Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) (SNP): I refer the right hon. Lady to her party’s 2011 manifesto, which said that it would agree to the creation of a single police force. If it was good enough in 2011, why is it not good enough now?

Mrs May: Top-down restructures of police forces do not deliver the benefits they supposedly promise. We as a party here have said that if forces wish to come to us and say that they have a business case and local support for a merger, we will look at it. On top-down restructuring, however, the economies of scale invariably do not appear. The complexity of bringing together distinct organisations can distract from the day-to-day business of fighting crime, and the most precious element of policing by consent—local accountability—can be lost. We must go further to drive deeper collaboration, better sharing of back-office services and a more intelligent approach to where police capabilities sit, to generate savings without the loss of local accountability and identity.

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way one last time. We agree that savings can be made, but what we disagree on is the extent to which they can be made safely. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) said that the Home Secretary is painting a rosy picture, and I think that police officers watching this debate will conclude that she is not living in the same world as them. This is not about what we on the Labour Benches are saying; chief constables from London to Lancashire are saying that the safety of their public will be compromised if the cuts go ahead. Does the Home Secretary think that those chief constables are scaremongering?

Mrs May: I will repeat the point that I have already made: if the right hon. Gentleman would care to look back to 2010, he will see that chief constables were making very similar points then and they have dealt with the savings. As he himself accepts in the motion, policing has not been damaged by the budget savings made over the past five years. Otherwise, he would not be able to stand up and say that further savings could be made.

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Over the past five years, officers and staff have worked day in and day out to cut crime. Chief constables and police and crime commissioners have demonstrated true innovation and creativity in meeting the challenge of lower budgets, and in doing so they have shown that that greater efficiency, improved effectiveness and strengthened legitimacy are possible, all at the same time.

For the Government, the job is not yet done. We are currently consulting on a new funding formula so that the police grant is allocated fairly and in a transparent way between police forces. We have made proposals to allow much deeper collaboration with fire and rescue services and ambulance services—to save money and improve the operational response—and later in this Session, the Police and Criminal Justice Bill will give police officers much greater professional discretion to allow them to make savings, cut crime and improve services for the public.

Police reform has worked. That is the lesson that the Labour party has not yet learned, but in this Parliament—under this Government—police reform will continue.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Before I call the spokesman for the Scottish national party, it might be helpful for the House to know that after Mr Arkless has spoken there will be a time limit on Back-Bench speeches of six minutes.

3.25 pm

Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) (SNP): I am grateful that I have avoided the cull on speaking time and that I will be heard in full, but I do not propose to take up as much time as the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and the Home Secretary.

I am delighted to be called to speak in this debate on policing. I am sure that everybody in the House would agree that the police in the UK are one of the best examples of civil law enforcement in the world. I have always been particularly proud of that. Police play a huge and invaluable role in all UK communities. They are a cornerstone of civilised society and the enforcers of what many of us understand to be the rule of law.

I offer personal thanks to all police officers and all civilian staff in all police forces across the United Kingdom. I also pay my condolences to the family of the courageous David Phillips. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

I pay tribute to all the civilian and police staff at Police Scotland, and thank them for their sterling and diligent work in admittedly challenging times over the past few years. When users were asked whether they felt confident that Police Scotland would deal with their inquiry efficiently, 79.1% gave a “very high” or “high” response.

My constituency of Dumfries and Galloway has faced challenging times with regard to policing. As the Home Secretary has said, the single police force was created in 2013, but not without concern locally. The local control room in Dumfries has been closed and I share the local concern about that. I am delighted to report, however, that last month the Scottish Government reacted by placing £1.4 million in an extra fund to train

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70 to 75 call-handling staff. I am confident, therefore, that the Scottish Government are reacting to local concerns.

I have been clear that policing in Scotland has not been without challenges. In 2013, we created the single police force—a move supported by both the Conservative and Labour manifestos in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections. That resulted in the amalgamation of eight police forces into one. I think it is right that a country of 5 million has one single police force. The crux of the move is to stop duplication, have a more joined-up approach towards policing and unlock potential savings over the next generation. The Scottish Government can confirm that they are on target to save £1.1 billion over 15 years. In fact, they have saved £120 million from Police Scotland’s budget since it was formed in 2013.

Good policing is not only about our fantastic police officers; it is about the wider criminal justice system. The causes of crime need to be addressed. Reoffending is down in Scotland, as is alcohol and drug abuse. The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which is passing through the Scottish Parliament, will reform court procedures to make them less rigorous, so that evidence can be agreed in advance and there is less need for officers to attend court hearings. There are increased obligations to provide procurators fiscal, the equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service, with better and more thorough information. The rehabilitation consultation in Scotland is considering extending the presumption against short sentences of under three months. The attacks on legal aid that have happened in England and Wales have not occurred to the same extent in Scotland. We are trying to maintain good levels of access to justice. I am proud to say that we have no criminal courts charge in Scotland.

At the crux of this debate is cuts, but if we scratch below that issue, it is the manner of the cuts and the areas that are cut that cause most concern, particularly to Opposition Members. In Scotland, we have decided to protect frontline policing. I am proud to report that since the Scottish National party came to power in the Scottish Parliament in 2007, we have created an extra 1,000 police posts—there are now an extra 1,000 police on our streets. That can be compared with what we heard before I rose to speak: almost 12,000 police officers have been cut in England and Wales. Worryingly, that figure could rise to 20,000 over the next five years.

Melanie Onn: If things are going so well, why in a survey that was published last month did 33% of respondents from Police Scotland say that they saw themselves leaving the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland in the near future?

Richard Arkless: The hon. Lady is correct that an independent survey of police officers in Scotland came up with that figure, and that is concerning. If we look beyond that figure, the survey said that 50% of those who expressed an opinion blamed that desire on the pension changes enforced by the Treasury at Westminster. It has compelled our police officers to put 14.25% of their income towards their pension. The decrease in morale is blamed predominantly on that decision by the Treasury. Of course, that finding is concerning and the Scottish Government are doing everything possible to work with the Scottish police force and the SPA to address it.

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Melanie Onn: It is very neat to blame Westminster for all the ills, but the survey also found that

“47% of all respondents stated that they did not receive recognition for any good work that they do and 37% stated they were not motivated to do the job to the best of their ability.”

Surely you cannot lay the blame for that at the hands of Westminster.

Richard Arkless: It is not me who is laying the blame. I am using the words of the police officers in Scotland, who have told us that the reason their morale is dropping is the pension changes made by the UK Government. I am merely the conduit.

It is interesting to note that there has been no similar sampling of police officers in England and Wales. Given the dramatic cut of more than 15,000 officers—the reverse of what is happening in Scotland—I suggest that any such exercise would produce similarly concerning results.

I am very proud of our approach in Scotland. My constituents and police officers tell me, as does every indicator I see, that people feel more confident when there are more visible police on the streets. That is the decision that we have made.

Members on both sides of the House have alluded to the letter that seven police and crime commissioners sent to the UK Government this week. The content of that letter is worrying in the extreme. As the right hon. Member for Leigh said, it states that the cut of 14% or £25 million next year in Lancashire will result in

“the loss of almost all of its proactive crime fighting and crime prevention capacity by 2020.”

It gives me no great pleasure to say that. The seven commissioners have informed the Government that they are

“taking legal advice with a view to initiating a judicial review”.

That sounds like a crisis. That is not happening with the single police force in Scotland.

Joan Ryan: Is it not the case that Police Scotland has had a year of chaos, with control centres closing, harming public safety? I understand that staff cuts have meant that some of the police who are working in the call centres are not trained in that work, which is leading to serious problems. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that?

Richard Arkless: I have just said that my constituency has been unfortunate to lose one control room, but that the Scottish Government have responded positively by providing an extra £1.4 million to train 70 to 75 call centre staff.

I must point out that in the week when the first Bill has been certified as an English-only Bill, this House has put forward a motion on a devolved matter that specifically criticises the Scottish Government. Scotland is watching and its people will be the final judges of what goes on in this House.

Police Scotland have done an incredible job recently on crime reduction. As I have said, the real test for the public is police numbers and crime levels. I am delighted to report that crime is down in Scotland. It is now safer to live in Scotland than it has been for 40 years.

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Byron Davies (Gower) (Con): If everybody is doing such a good job, why is the chief constable leaving after such a short time?

Richard Arkless: As I understand it, the issues for the chief constable were not operational. We are trying to find a successor quickly. It will be his job to deal with many of the concerns arising from the continued review of the police service.

Crime is down: violent crime is down by 52%; handling offensive weapons is down by 62%; homicide is down by 48%; and fire raising and vandalism are down since 2007 by 58%. In 2014, there were 270,000 recorded crimes in Scotland, which is down by 148,000 from 2007. Statistically, it is clear that Police Scotland, despite the pressures forced upon it, is doing an incredible job.

The reasons for the reduction in crime in Scotland are complex, but I believe that enormous credit must go to our exceptional officers within Police Scotland. Thereafter, there are other reasons. Perhaps it is due in part to our growing sense of community and our optimism about our country’s future. The devolved Parliament in Scotland engages directly with the community wherever possible. Our Government are made up from ordinary people from ordinary Scottish communities. Our sense of community extends to the Government—they are accessible and fully accountable to the Scottish people. We have been working and taking measures towards building a fairer and more equal society, so that people feel less ignored and more included.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) alluded to a survey carried out in Scotland by an independent provider. It sought views on a range of subjects, including management, training, development, wellbeing, equality and communication. Twelve thousand officers took part. It found that there is a very positive team spirit within Police Scotland: 73% felt that their team works well to improve services; 83% said that they are treated with the utmost respect by their colleagues; and 78% expressed trust and respect for their line managers and said that they have strong relationships with their colleagues. The survey also highlighted the cohesion within Police Scotland.

Melanie Onn: It seems incredibly convenient that you are cherry-picking some of the—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. The hon. Lady should speak through the Chair.

Melanie Onn: I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is cherry-picking the statistics, but nearly half of respondents felt overloaded with information that they did not need to know. Only 22% felt that they had appropriate information on what Police Scotland wanted to achieve, and only 12% felt that they had appropriate information on what the Scottish Police Authority wanted to achieve. Is the evidence he is presenting an inaccurate reflection of the survey?

Richard Arkless: Absolutely not. I freely admit that there are concerns, but when any organisation goes through the fundamental change that Police Scotland has gone through in the last generation, concerns will arise.

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Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is somewhat ironic that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) criticises him for cherry-picking from a survey when that is exactly what the motion on the Order Paper does? It picks one line from any number of different points in the survey. In fact, if we cherry-pick in such a way, we can make surveys say anything we want. We might even be able to find one that says that the Labour party is a credible political force.

Richard Arkless: I agree with my hon. Friend. The reality is that over 1,000 more police officers are on the streets in Scotland. That is what the public want and that is what they have received. There is a 79% satisfaction rate that, if people complain to Police Scotland, it will be dealt with in an efficient and responsible manner. To me, those two indicators are key. Our police perform well and the people in Scotland live in a country that is safer than it has been in my lifetime. I am very proud of that statistic.

The survey was the first ever of that nature carried out by Police Scotland. Officers embraced the opportunity to participate and there was a high response rate. There is a huge amount of interest in the results. It is important that they are used in a constructive and positive way to help to build a better police force in Scotland both for staff and civilians. Indeed, the chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, Brian Docherty, recently said that Police Scotland was an excellent service and should be recognised as such.

Interestingly, there is no comparable survey of police forces in the UK. Perhaps one should be undertaken with haste so that we can have a clearer picture of the police service throughout the UK. These reports should be read by everybody in the Government and the Opposition, particularly those who voted for continued austerity cuts. Sadly, most of the stresses endured by our police are the result of the continued UK austerity measures. Unison, which agrees, has said:

“It is clear from UNISON’s 2014 police staff stress survey that our members are suffering adverse effects from the impact of the UK government’s austerity cuts to policing.”

In conclusion, the creation of Police Scotland has allowed the Scottish Government to defend front-line services from Westminster austerity. I am proud that we have more police officers on the streets of Scotland, I am proud of the selflessness and dedication shown by Police Scotland members during these challenging times, and I am proud that Scotland has never in my lifetime been a safer place to live.

3.40 pm

Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): As we have heard from the Front Benches today, this is a sad and sobering week to be debating policing. The funeral of Dave Phillips sets the context that we should always remember: police officers do a job that is always difficult and often dangerous—sometimes tragically so. Front-line officers police a society that is largely peaceful and law-abiding and in which crime has been falling for years, but they still put themselves in harm’s way every time they go out on patrol, and we should not forget that.

Within that sombre context, there is a legitimate debate to be had about how to run this essential public service. I hope that in the less partisan moments of this

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debate, everyone will acknowledge that the coalition Government’s police reform agenda was largely a success. The introduction of police and crime commissioners has led to much greater democracy and transparency in the oversight of police forces, so I welcome Labour’s U-turn in agreeing to their continuation, and there is a much greater commitment to professionalism based on evidence and the spread of best practice, through the College of Policing—an institution that receives much less attention than it deserves, but which was an important reform.

Furthermore, the newly introduced National Crime Agency is transforming the policing of serious and organised crime, and there is a much more positive attitude towards the introduction of new technology, which has the capacity to transform policing at the sharp end. The police innovation fund has played a significant role in encouraging forces to make better use of digital technology—body-worn cameras are perhaps the most visible example, but it does not end there. The use of digital devices, along the lines of smartphones, can revolutionise the way the police access intelligence, respond to calls and write reports. There is no need now to go back to the station after every incident.

The Government can be proud of their record, but the reform agenda never ends, and further changes are needed. I will make a few suggestions in a minute that I hope Ministers will consider, but we should first consider the central issue of finance, which the motion addresses. The shadow Home Secretary is in a difficult position, because he comes in a long line of shadow Home Secretaries who have stood at the Dispatch Box and predicted that cuts in spending will lead to soaring crime rates. They have all been proved wrong, and it is a tribute to police forces around the country that they have coped with tough spending settlements and re-organised themselves to become better at crime prevention and catching criminals.

Labour’s motions raises two essential points. The first is that we still need restraint on public spending. We are still spending £70 billion a year more than we raise and so increasing our debts. We have to stop behaving like this as a country, and the central task of Governments throughout this decade is to put our public finances back in order.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): It was an honour to work as my right hon. Friend’s Parliamentary Private Secretary while he was Policing Minister. He did an excellent job then, and he makes an excellent point now. Cheshire police have not only cut crime and shown innovation, but achieved an outstanding score for efficiency from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. Is this not the balance—between crime reduction and fiscal responsibility—that we need to take forward?

Damian Green: My hon. Friend makes a very good point from his own position as someone with expertise in this area. He is right that the forces best at spending their money effectively are also often the forces best at fighting crime, which is what we want them to do. The overall issue of public spending is important.

The second point that needs to be considered is that the formula by which money is allocated to individual forces is out of date and needs to be changed. This has been a long process, and it is inevitable that when a

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formula such as this one is changed, there will be winners and losers—and the losers will shout very loudly and the winners will keep quiet. That is the phase we are in at the moment.

The point for today’s debate is that neither the overall amount of money available to the police, nor the distribution between the individual forces has yet been decided. Indeed, I think I am right in saying that the consultation period on the funding formula is still going on. We all know that tweaks, as well as transitional periods and damping and many other arcane tricks of the Whitehall trade, can be applied to any formula. I am sure they will all come into play over the coming months.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that the formula for policing is grossly unfair—to the west midlands, for example? If comparisons are made with other police authorities, it is clear that about 2,000 to 3,000 policemen have been lost in this region over the last three or four years.

Damian Green: I am interested to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say. We can all make eloquent pitches about how any formula is unfair to our own areas. I would happily talk to him about education funding in Kent, but perhaps not in this debate. As I say, all debates of this kind come down to losers always caring more than winners.

Whatever the final results of both the spending review and the funding formula distribution, there are serious underlying issues for police leaders and Ministers to address about the long-term viability of the way we do policing in this country. Assuming we do not return to irresponsible levels of public spending, settlements will continue to be tight, so if we want a serious debate, we need to address those underlying issues.

Let me make a few suggestions. First, we have only scratched the surface of the benefits of new technology—for making policing more effective and for making it more cost-effective. I have mentioned body-worn cameras and the information available on smartphones. Both can save time and therefore money. There are huge savings in police time to be made from the better use of technology throughout the criminal justice system, especially with regard to police attendance at court.

The days when a police officer wasted a day at a court waiting to give routine evidence for five minutes should already be over. Evidence can be given by video link, or recorded on video at the time of arrest and charge. Faxes and photocopying should be things of the past in a digital age. The piece of paper in a bundle of evidence that goes missing or has not been sent to the defence, causing trials to be postponed and further days wasted, should be playing no part in a modern criminal justice system.

Andy Burnham: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Damian Green: It will come off my time now, so I am afraid I cannot. I can count as well.

The next main point is that we have reaped nothing like the full benefits of collaboration between forces, about which we have heard some examples. Economic necessity has forced some useful collaboration between

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neighbouring forces, providing more effective policing at less cost. Specialist units such as firearms, mounted police or dog handlers can well be shared. We need more of that, but we also need a radical change in procurement policies—perhaps with national contracts for repairing police cars, and indeed buying them. Clearly, too, computer systems should be able to talk to each other in a way that they cannot now. There is great scope for better and more collaboration between the different “blue light” services. This will be a huge area of useful co-operation in the future.

My final suggestion is that some force mergers are inevitable, and should be made easier. I completely agree with the Home Secretary that a top-down blueprint of the type that previous Home Secretaries have proposed, which failed, is not the way to go. Many sensible people will argue, however, that in the case of some individual forces, there is a logic that says they should merge with their neighbours. I have heard that argument advanced by police and crime commissioners.

Policing is always difficult, and so is making policy for the police. I think the Home Secretary has a record that she can be proud of in this area, and I hope that she will build on this with further radical reform in the future, because the police need it.

3.49 pm

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): The wisdom and strength of the Opposition resolution was proved by a novel decision by Leicestershire police, which recently decided to experiment by investigating only those burglaries that took place in houses with odd numbers. If the house had an even number, the burglary was not investigated. The news was welcomed with gratitude by the Leicestershire branch of the burglars and footpads trade union, but it was less popular with residents of Leicester who live in houses with even numbers.

I pay tribute to the late Michael Winner—it is rare that one has the opportunity to do that—and the matter of recalling and commemorating the deaths of policemen. Mr Winner, who was not admirable in every way, set up a charity to establish memorials on the sites where policemen had died in the cause of duty. We do not use such anniversaries to achieve political benefit for ourselves; we wear poppies because we want—genuinely—to mourn the deaths of those who have given their lives in warfare, and learn lessons accordingly. It is disappointing when a Prime Minister accuses us of using the Armistice ceremony for political purposes, when he started Prime Minister’s questions today by using the Armistice service to score a futile point against the leader of the Labour party.

My point is about Mr Daniel Morgan, and it is an issue of enormous importance that is endemic to the police force. Daniel Morgan lived in Llanfrechfa on the edge of my constituency. He was a 37-year-old private investigator who was working in London on a job to investigate police corruption. He was found dead 27 years ago in a pub car park in south London. His brother Alastair, who I spoke to yesterday, has carried out a campaign over all those years to expose what happened and discover the reason for the murder. He is still unhappy, and rightly so.

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I am one of the few Back Benchers who have had the opportunity to read an amazing document called “Operation Tiberius”—I recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to read it should do so. Two members of the Home Affairs Committee were allowed to read it under strict conditions, with a policeman standing next to us making sure that we did not take notes. Our cameras and mobile phones were also taken away so that we could not copy it. People are not allowed to know what is in “Operation Tiberius”, and I am bound by the secrecy vow that I made at the time not to reveal what I read. I can, however, reveal what the Independent newspaper has said about “Operation Tiberius”, and it is terrifying. The document reveals that corruption in the Metropolitan police force is endemic and has been for many years. The scale is staggering.

Andy Burnham: I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend, because I recently had the privilege of meeting Daniel Morgan’s brother, who has campaigned with unbelievable courage over the years. My hon. Friend should be in no doubt that although I am calling today to protect our police and for more resources, that does not mean that we should not learn the lessons of what happened at Hillsborough, Orgreave, Shrewsbury and in the case of Daniel Morgan. We must hold that mirror up to the past if we are to build a police service that is ready for the 21st century.

Paul Flynn: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and I am far from being anti-police. I have known every police chief constable in my area since 1972—43 years—and they were all men and women of integrity who achieved great things in that police force. It is a fine force, and has been all that time. I was brought up to believe that all policemen were like “Dixon of Dock Green”, and that is why the contents of “Operation Tiberius” are so deeply shocking. It tells the story of crimes planned by little units of serving police officers of various ranks, and criminals. They met not in clubs or pubs where they would be observed, but in the branches of a secret fraternity. Jack Straw tried to persuade all police forces in the country to require a declaration of membership of that fraternity, but he was frustrated in that effort, because several of them refused to co-operate.

I believe that we must look at the “Operation Tiberius” report. I see no reason why it cannot be published with the names redacted. The names are all there—names of serving policemen and names of criminals—and the crimes are horrendous: they were plotting crimes, organising crimes, carrying out crimes, covering up crimes, and using people who were corrupted in all branches of Government. The report exists, and it is deeply serious.

I have already talked about Alastair Morgan. Another worrying example relates to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the way in which the police—certainly—tried to protect the perpetrators of that dreadful murder. We should recognise that a great problem existed then, and we should ask whether it still exists. When I raised it with Bernard Hogan-Howe in the Home Affairs Committee, he generously admitted that the issue was one of great seriousness, and that many people believed that the problem still existed.

The report, which was leaked to The Independent all those years ago, is also significant because, although it covers many parts of London, it does not cover south

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London, where Daniel Morgan was murdered. The suggestion is that there was some corruption in that leaking. I ask the Home Secretary and Ministers to examine the report and find out whether it is true that the contemporary situation in the Met is one in which endemic corruption still flourishes.

3.56 pm

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): I am very proud to be the second Kent Member to speak in this important debate, because we in Kent are very proud of our extremely effective police force. It has faced some of the greatest challenges with which our nation has struggled—a few months ago the chief constable, Alan Pughsley, said that some 900 migrants were coming into the country each month—and it has to deal with the immediacy that being a front-line county in our great kingdom involves.

I am extremely proud of Alan Pughsley’s work. He has done something remarkable: he has managed to increase the proportion of warranted officers on the frontline to 92%, which is the highest percentage for six years. That is a phenomenal achievement. Kent has some 3,000 warranted officers and 352 police community support officers, and they do a fantastic job. When I hear Opposition Mems bad-mouthing them or accusing them of failing in their duties, I feel offended for them, because they are performing their duties amazingly.

The officers in my constituency have done fantastically well too. The West Kent divisional commander is Chief Superintendent Julia Chapman, whose team has done fantastic work in West Malling, Tonbridge and Edenbridge. She is ably supported by two district commanders, Chief Inspectors Gill Ellis and Roscoe Walford. Sadly, Chief Inspector Ellis is moving on. I send her every good wish for her future career, but I am very sorry that she is not staying in Tonbridge, where she has done such fantastic work.

One of the PCSOs has done fantastically well in West Malling. Phillip Harrison has been the PCSO on duty on Remembrance Sunday for at least three years—probably more—and he will be there again this Sunday. Very quietly, like so many PCSOs, he will be carrying out his duties armed only with his strength of character and his personality, and he will do that phenomenally well.

Anna Turley: I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman pay tribute to PCSOs, because I genuinely think that creating them was one of the best things that we did as a Labour Government. I am sure he shares my despair and horror at the fact that so many of their jobs have been cut, because they do very important work and often free up regular officers to carry out much more serious and heavy duties. I appreciate his support for a Labour Government policy.

Tom Tugendhat: I am happy to welcome Labour policies when they work, and PCSOs do work. They are a brilliant innovation. I particularly welcome the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice in supporting them, and the amount of work that he has personally done in ensuring that they have every opportunity not only to serve in their current roles but to be promoted to warrant service if they wish—and, indeed, many do.