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I am very grateful that PCSO Harrison will be there. These individuals across Kent—this whole team—have in the last year seen a reduction in crime of 6%. I know that that is not down to them alone; it is down to a network, and that network starts in Kent and spreads to the whole of the United Kingdom. That co-operation, which is led very much by the chief constable, has done an amazing amount to ensure the people of Kent are safe. Chief Constable Pughsley has ensured that we have been innovative in introducing new technologies, and I am grateful that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) has mentioned some of them. I would just like to raise one of them. In January, Kent Police introduced TrackMyCrime which I hope many other police forces will be introducing soon. It has seen the time taken for a crime report fall dramatically. It has also increased the satisfaction of those reporting crime. It is fantastic to say—or, rather, it is a mixed blessing—that 3,000 have been victims of crime and have used it; it is sad that there have been that many victims, but it is great that that many have used it, and the satisfaction levels have been very good.

The presence of police is not just about individuals, nor just about bricks and mortar, although I do know we all take very seriously the important decisions that will be taken over the location of police stations over coming years. The police station in Tonbridge and that in West Malling are extremely important. I welcome the work done in outreach—many policemen are now operating in our communities from council offices and, indeed, from supermarkets and mobile police stations, but it is not just about that; it is also about the work done across our whole nation.

That is why I am going to take a few moments to welcome the Bill introduced to this House earlier today. The draft Investigatory Powers Bill is absolutely essential. It is essential for ensuring that the intelligence the police need to do their job is available to them. It is essential to ensure that our intelligence services can co-operate effectively with the police so that we have the kind of integrated defence network we need to ensure that our communities are safe, not only from terrorism, violent crime and indeed child pornography and paedophilia, but also from more run-of-the-mill crimes that sadly blight the lives of so many of our constituents. I am delighted that the Bill is now before the House and will soon, I hope, become an Act.

Finally, I very much welcome the democratisation of police forces that we have seen under this Government. I know I am probably the only one in Kent who says this, but I welcome the new police and crime commissioner. That is not a universal statement in Kent—there are divergent opinions—but at least we know in Kent now who is taking the decisions.

Damian Green: Indeed, we do know who is making the decisions and we can hold the PCC to account. That is particularly important in that before the current PCC became the PCC she chaired the police authority so she was doing roughly the same job only with no public accountability. There cannot be a better example of the democratic improvement of having PCCs.

Tom Tugendhat: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right and speaks for me, because that is exactly what I was going to say.

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Knowing now who actually takes the decisions on police priorities, the location of police stations, the use of resources and the priority of innovation, it is essential that when we get to the PCC elections—in 2016 in my area—we focus on who we want. These decisions are no longer for anonymous apparatchiks who hold secret sway over our policing; they are for people who are empowered with a huge burden of responsibility, and I greatly welcome the quality of candidates who are stepping forward on the Conservative side. I hope very much there will be excellent candidates from the other sides as well, because we need the best candidates for this job—not party political, but the best candidates. I am delighted to say that we have put forward some of those.

The growth in interest in technology should continue. It is not a process that is going to stop; in fact, it will accelerate as the criminals exploit ever-greater technological innovation, whether through secret messaging on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, through exploiting online banking to commit greater fraud or through phishing—in the internet sense—for greater riches. It is therefore absolutely right that our police step into that world and that our security services help them. I welcome the work being done in this area by the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice and, in particular, by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

4.5 pm

Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab): I declare from the outset that I grew up in a policing household. My dad is a retired police sergeant and one of West Yorkshire police’s finest. I am incredibly proud of all that he achieved in the police, but he would be the first to say that he does not recognise today’s force. I am certainly not here to argue that that is an entirely bad thing, however. As crime has changed, so has policing. As new evils manifest themselves, legislators and law enforcers have had to adapt in order to stay ahead and to protect those they serve.

My speech today is not like the others I have written. Since becoming the MP for Halifax, I have been keen to bang the drum for my town, to speak about the potential for jobs and growth, and to speak with pride about what we have got right and what we have to offer in order to bring in the investment and the tourists we need if we are to prosper. However, I would not be a credible MP if I spoke only about the positives at the expense of those issues that are difficult, that are a challenge and that pose a danger to the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable in my constituency.

In May this year, on one of my first weekends in this job, members of the English Defence League marched through Halifax. They were there to protest about child grooming gangs, and the march highlighted to me, very early on, the value of local, informed and familiar neighbourhood policing teams. In Calderdale, we have had one of the highest numbers of arrests in the country in connection with child sexual exploitation. Crime may be changing, with a decline in certain types of criminal activity, but colleagues who have made the hard yards on raising awareness of CSE prior to my election—my hon. Friends the Members for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) and for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk) among others—will know just how complex CSE is to tackle.

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According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, all four countries in the UK have seen the number of recorded sexual offences against children increase over the past year, and the type of policing required to identify, disrupt and prosecute those seeking to exploit children and young people is intensive: it takes care, persistence and time. There are now 957 fewer police officers in West Yorkshire. The thin blue line is thinner than ever. My conversations with the local police have revealed their worry that policing will become much more reactive—the blue- light service that we heard about earlier. Reactive policing is of limited use when we are striving to secure prosecutions and deliver a zero-tolerance approach to child sexual exploitation.

Further to this, Calderdale has also been deemed to be vulnerable to radicalisation and extremism, and in that context I cannot stress enough the importance of trusted local neighbourhood policing teams. Again, we cannot afford to take a reactive approach to radicalisation. Over the past three years, the number of terrorism-related arrests has gone up by 56%. Britain’s counter-terrorism chief, Mark Rowley, has said that regular officers on the beat make an “essential” contribution to developing relationships with communities. He went on to say:

“Counter-terrorism is not simply delivered by the counter-terrorism network”,

and

“mainstream policing makes a big contribution”.

On the day the EDL came to Halifax, it was thanks to local officers that the march went ahead with limited trouble. They knew exactly where any geographical flash points would be, and they knew where to look on social media to take the temperature of the situation. They also knew who to keep an eye on, and where they were likely to be. I want to thank the officers who were on duty that day for the work they did, and for the work they do every day.

West Yorkshire police has weathered the cuts so far, but hon. Members will appreciate my anxiety about another round of cuts as high as 25% to 40%, which would be devastating. Neighbourhood police and police community support officers are at the forefront of identifying vulnerabilities, frustrations and other causes for concern within communities and among individuals before radicalisation starts, almost irreversibly, to manifest itself. We will lose the ability to do this proactively if there are further cuts to West Yorkshire police—or to any force, for that matter.

I have mentioned CSPOs and their role. We heard a little more about that from the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat). In 2013, the Home Office said:

“Since their introduction in 2002…PCSOs…have proved to be an invaluable link between the police and the communities they serve…They bring key skills, values and diversity to policing.”

PCSOs have proved to be an incredibly effective way of building trust within communities, bridging the gap between policing priorities and the concerns of local people and gathering information in a way that officers may otherwise not be able to do.

West Yorkshire police has lost 137 PCSOs since 2010, a reduction of 18%. The Home Office has acknowledged what it describes as the “invaluable link” between police and communities delivered by PSCOs, so it must recognise

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that further cuts will start to diminish that link. Given the changes in crime—not only the complexities of tackling radicalisation and child sexual exploitation, but the urgency with which we must carry out that work—I urge the Government to think very carefully about how they reconcile the proposed cuts to services with their responsibility to keep people safe.

4.10 pm

Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con): I am very pleased to contribute to this debate on policing. I am a criminal barrister by training, as I should probably declare at the outset. I have prosecuted hundreds of offences—from youth robberies in the magistrates court to murders and terrorism offences in the Old Bailey—and I know as well as anyone that our criminal justice system owes an enormous debt of gratitude to our police officers, particularly officers who carry out their duties with a tenacity that is always tempered by fairness. I believe our best police officers, particularly the ones I worked with in counter-terrorism and homicide cases, embody the finest traditions of British policing, with a determination to pursue lines of inquiry wherever they may lead and to get to the truth, however inconvenient that may be. The officers I worked with in serious cases were, without doubt, among the finest to be found anywhere in the world.

The background to this debate is the difficult funding climate that the police, and indeed other public services, have faced. We cannot get away from that, or forget that despite having the fastest growing economy in the developed world—generating more jobs in Yorkshire alone, the county of the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), than in the entirety of France, and creating more employment for young people in the United Kingdom than in the rest of the EU put together—we are still running a very significant deficit. If we do not get the deficit under control, it will be a real and present danger to our financial stability. It is also right to say that if we do not get it under control, the deficit will do nothing to keep crime levels as low as we want them to be. Indeed, if we do not get it under control, we will not be able to continue to plough more money into our NHS and into protecting our schools.

How have the police responded to this funding climate? They have risen to the challenge magnificently. Crime has fallen since 2010: there have been 2.9 million fewer crimes, 189,000 fewer burglaries and 465,000 fewer violent offences. The independent crime survey for England and Wales shows a fall of 8% in the year to the end of June 2015. In my own county of Gloucestershire, crime is down by 18%. That is a tribute to the police officers who have shown such resourcefulness and dedication in serving the people of Gloucestershire, and my constituency of Cheltenham in particular. It is worth noting that those stunning falls have been achieved in the context of a much improved reporting culture, with people feeling better able to report crime, particular sexual offences.

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman, with his considerable experience, asserts that crime is falling. May I quote City of London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard, who is the national fraud co-ordinator? He said in a circular to all police and crime commissioners and chief constables that the crime survey for England and Wales will shortly include at least

“an extra 3 million fraud and cyber incidents”.

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That reflects for the first time the changing and true nature of crime and, in his words, is

“an increase of up to 40%.”

Alex Chalk: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that crime is changing. That is of course correct, and I will come on to that in a moment. However, the truth—the inconvenient truth for Labour Members, some might say—is that the figures cited are the very figures on which they relied, being those of the independent crime survey for England and Wales. It is no good saying, “Yes, we relied on those in the past but we are not going to rely on them now because they are inconvenient.” There has to be consistency across the piece. There is that consistency of reporting and the figures are unanswerable: crime has come down.

James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con): Has my hon. Friend thought about some of the reasons why crime is falling? Does he agree that it may be linked to our having a stronger economy, with more employment? On the link between crime and deprivation, does he agree that it may be linked to the fact that we have the lowest number of workless households on record?

Alex Chalk: My hon. friend makes an important point, one that I was trying to make at the outset. We have to live within our means, not least because if we do not and the implications of economic instability befall our country, one thing that will rise, just as the sun rises in the morning, is crime. That is another reason why we have to live within our means.

How have the police managed to achieve this fall in crime? They have been innovative and forward-thinking. Savings have been made through improved procurement, which has delivered more than £200 million; the police have become less top heavy, rebalancing their forces in favour of rank and file officers; and they have redeployed their assets, putting a higher proportion of police officers on the frontline. As for the Government, it is right to say that the key priorities have been maintained and properly funded. I am particularly interested in counter-terrorism, and £564 million has been put towards supporting counter-terrorism policing in 2015-16. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has received additional funding, as has the police innovation fund. The College of Policing direct entry schemes have also been properly supported. Let us just look at what the police innovation fund has done. It is a multimillion pound fund that will consider proof of concept bids, as well as implementation-ready bids, to support innovation and breakthrough ideas.

Jack Dromey: The hon. Gentleman has asserted that counter-terrorism is fully funded. There is unanimity across this House in our determination to tackle the generational threat of terrorism, and there is effective funding of the national and regional strategies accordingly. But what does he have to say to Peter Clarke, the former head of counter-terrorism, who has said that what the Government are missing is neighbourhood policing? He said that if we hollow out neighbourhood policing, we

“risk breaking the ‘golden thread’”—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. That is a very long intervention and the hon. Gentleman’s time is running out.

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Alex Chalk: I am very grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Of course there needs to be front-line policing, too—that is simply unarguable—but I was going to discuss how resourceful and innovative police forces, doing more with less, have been able to deliver that. I wish to talk about what is happening in my county of Gloucestershire, but first let me address the change in crime, about which the hon. Gentleman made a point. He rightly said that crime is changing, but steps have been taken to address that. As we know, the National Crime Agency has been established to take the fight to organised crime, but Opposition Members made no mention of the £860 million invested in the national cyber-security programme to improve cyber-security. I respectfully invite them to mention it, because it is an important innovation. We have also had campaigns such as Cyber Streetwise to help members of the public.

In Gloucestershire, local officers have responded superbly. They have a commendable can-do attitude, they have rolled up their sleeves and they have got on with it. When National Police Chiefs Council officer Sara Thornton said that members of the public should no longer expect police officers to turn up at their door, officers in Gloucestershire said, “No, we will attend.” That is the right approach to take, because burglary is a horrible crime that robs people of their security and it requires a police response—and a police response will continue in Gloucestershire. It shows that Cheltenham and Gloucestershire’s officers are doing an excellent job—

Jim Dowd rose—

Alex Chalk: I am sorry, but I am not going to give way. Gloucestershire’s officers are doing an excellent job of making important reforms while continuing to deliver on the public’s priorities. The truth is that further savings can be made, be it through collaboration—emergency services collaboration, where appropriate—procurement or reallocation to the frontline. Measures can be taken by which we face the financial reality but keep our people safe, too. We should back our police officers. They have done it in the past and they will do it again.

4.19 pm

Julie Cooper (Burnley) (Lab): I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate and to support the motion. My constituency of Burnley is policed by Lancashire constabulary, which is renowned as a top-performing police force. It has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Kate Hollern).

Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has rated Lancashire constabulary as outstanding. Yet, since 2010, Lancashire has lost 20% of its officers and 23% of its community support officers. In 2010, Lancashire had six police divisions; it now has three.

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): Given what the hon. Lady has told us—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. The hon. Lady must resume her seat while the hon. Gentleman is standing.

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Kit Malthouse: Given that the hon. Lady has said that Lancashire has seen a reduction in the number of police officers but is still rated as excellent, will she accept that there is no connection between performance and bare police numbers?

Julie Cooper: As my speech progresses, the hon. Gentleman will see that I do not accept what he says.

There is no doubt that these reductions are impacting on crime levels and on the public perception of crime. Now, worryingly, crime is on the increase in some areas of Lancashire. Sexual offences, burglary and violent crime are all showing significant increases. In addition to that, and very importantly, the nature of crime is changing, and we ignore that at our peril. Cybercrime is growing at a phenomenal rate. A person is now more likely to be mugged online than in the street. Added to that, an ever-increasing amount of police time is spent countering terrorism and tackling child exploitation. Such crimes are more complex to investigate and place a massive demand on police resources. Bearing that in mind, I am hugely concerned by the further proposed cut to Lancashire’s policing budget. Under the new funding formula, the cut to Lancashire would be an additional £24.5 million.

I understand that savings must be made, but a reduction of that magnitude is particularly hard to stomach when the same formula proposes significant increases in funding for several other police authorities.

Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): Yesterday, in the Home Affairs Committee we had the privilege of meeting, among others, the chief constable of Lancashire police. I asked him why he has a reserve of £65.3 million. Would that money not be better spent on front-line policing to cover the situation described by the hon. Lady?

Julie Cooper: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that matter. The reserve is a result of prudent policing and developing new tactics to adapt to changing crime. It is about responsible policing.

There is no doubt that less delivers less, and Lancashire’s police constable has put his concerns on record. He talked about what would happen if the cuts went ahead. He said:

“Lancashire Constabulary will no longer be able to keep the public safe.”

Surely, when the police constable believes that cuts at the proposed level will mean that he cannot guarantee to keep the public safe, it is time to take notice. This is about not politics, but the safety of the people of Lancashire.

Last year, Lancashire police responded to more than 90,000 crimes.

Kit Malthouse rose

Julie Cooper: No, I will not give way.

Lancashire police has been praised as an outstanding force, and yet it is to have cuts that go way beyond those of most other forces. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and, yet again from this Government, no fairness. What will the cuts mean operationally? The chief constable and the police and crime commissioner tell me that if

4 Nov 2015 : Column 1035

these cuts go ahead at this level, the consequences will be this: no mounted police; no police dog units; the loss of the vast majority of our dedicated roads policing officers; the closure of every single public inquiry desk in the county; and dramatic cuts to our serious organised crime unit and the teams that deal with serious and complex crime—these officers deal with those criminals who pose the greatest harm to our communities. Added to that, police community support officers will become a thing of the past.

I know how much the people of Burnley and Padiham value their PCSOs. I have seen at first hand the positive impact that our PCSOs have on antisocial behaviour, but it goes further than that. PCSOs are key to delivering dedicated, accessible and visible neighbourhood policing. It has long been acknowledged that the mobilisation of local knowledge is fundamental in effective policing, and there is no doubt that PCSOs play a massive role in the prevention of minor crime and that the on-street intelligence that they access by virtue of their trusted role in the community often provides enormous assistance to major crime investigations. In addition, the presence of these uniformed officers on the street is a source of reassurance to the public. They make the public feel safe.

In all policing, safety is paramount. In Lancashire, we fully accept our need to take a share of the cuts, but I believe that we should never gamble with public safety. I urge the Government to listen to the professionals, including Lancashire’s chief constable, and to revisit the funding formula to ensure that cuts are shared fairly and that public safety is not compromised.

4.25 pm

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): I pay tribute to the work of the West Midlands police and the men and women who protect communities across the west midlands. As HMIC has pointed out, police forces across the country have been facing significant challenges, but West Midlands police were singled out for praise for how they have responded to those challenges. Since 2010, crime has fallen by 17% across the west midlands. Certain categories of crime have shown recent increases, but that is due to the success of getting people to come forward more readily to report those crimes. West Midlands police have had to do more with less, and as a metropolitan police force has faced funding challenges.

Jack Dromey: HMIC has certified that the west midlands crime statistics are 99% accurate and they now show an increase of up to 5% in recorded crime. Would the hon. Gentleman therefore like to reconsider the comments he has just made?

James Morris: The hon. Gentleman knows that since 2010 crime has fallen across the west midlands by 17%. As I have just said, there have been some increases in crime such as domestic violence, which I think is a tribute to West Midlands police in encouraging people to report such crimes.

I welcome the Government’s plans to revise the funding formula. West Midlands police are a low council tax precept force and are dependent on Government grant to a large extent. One of the key criteria for the new funding formula is to take that challenge into account,

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so I look forward to seeing how the new formula will help West Midlands police with their funding settlement. There are big challenges for West Midlands police and I know that through the work they have done with Accenture they have carried out a comprehensive review of the future of policing in the west midlands and have mapped out some strategic priorities through a transformation plan. I support that work.

The West Midlands police and crime commissioner has made some decisions that have been characterised by short termism. They have been driven by a desire to generate political opposition rather than being taken in the long-term interest of West Midlands police. I would put the police station closure programme being considered by the police and crime commissioner, which includes the police station in Halesowen, in that category. It cannot be right that West Midlands police are spending £33 million on refurbishing their central base in Birmingham while proposing to embark on a closure programme across the west midlands and the black country that will probably deliver savings in the region of £3.5 million to £4 million. It is vital across the west midlands and the black country area, part of which I represent, that the police are not seen to be losing their footprint in local communities. The Halesowen chamber of trade has expressed concern, which I share, about the lack of police visibility in the town centre.

Mr Jim Cunningham: The hon. Gentleman talks about the closure of police stations and desks, but that has been going on in the west midlands for the past five years, as we have experienced in Coventry.

James Morris: My view is that the police and crime commissioner is making some short-term decisions on the basis—[Interruption.]

Andy Burnham rose

James Morris: I will not give way, because I have done so twice already, and I have not even finished responding to the last intervention.

The West Midlands police and crime commissioner is making some short-term decisions in order to generate lurid, populist headlines about Government cuts, rather than taking the right decisions for the people of the west midlands and the broader black country.

Peter Dowd rose

James Morris: I have already given way twice.

Would it not be better for the police and crime commissioner to have a more strategic response by exploring how local police stations could be used more readily as community hubs, bringing together different services and allowing police visibility, but also allowing the involvement of other partner agencies, because modern policing does not happen in isolation; it happens with partners, whether mental health services or local authorities? Can we not be more strategic about this? I have met the police and crime commissioner in order to try to persuade him of the need for a more strategic approach. We need a decentralised model of policing in the west midlands that does not centralise everybody in an expensive headquarters. The West Midlands police and crime commissioner should avoid the temptation to make these short-termist decisions, grab lurid headlines and consistently campaign in a politically motivated way, as

4 Nov 2015 : Column 1037

he has done, in opposition to everything the Government are doing. That is not in anyone’s interests, including the public, who the police are meant to serve.

As other Members have pointed out, there are opportunities for other cost savings to be made by West Midlands police and other police forces across the country. As HMIC pointed out in its recent report, there are too many antiquated IT systems, and there are huge opportunities for efficiency savings in procurement. One example of a very successful collaboration in the west midlands has been the street triage system for mental health services. That pioneering collaboration between West Midlands police and the health service has led to a massive reduction in the number of people being taken to police cells after being sectioned under section 135 of the Mental Health Act 1983. It is an example of strategic thinking leading to cost savings and it is bringing a massive benefit to front-line policing. It is therefore in nobody’s interests to take a non-strategic view of what is happening. We need more innovation and creative thinking, especially at a time of fiscal challenges.

I will fight to save Halesowen police station from the decision taken by the West Midlands police and crime commissioner because I think that is the right thing to do in the long term to protect the visibility of policing in the west midlands. However, if he insists on his decision, I will continue to campaign for a successful high street presence in Halesowen. A successful example of that was when the local police took a shopfront and used it as a community hub. Why can we not make the right decisions?

I recognise that the challenges of modern policing are complicated and that crime is falling in the west midlands, but let us not take short-term, politically motivated decisions that undermine public confidence in the police. Let us do the right thing for the communities of the west midlands and the black country.

4.34 pm

Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab): Opposition Members recognise that the Tories have an ideological ambition to shrink the state. Attacks on the public sector have meant cuts in the workforce in almost all the areas where we try to serve our constituents, but I would never have thought that this Government’s ideological cuts would threaten to deliver the end of neighbourhood policing as we know it. That is potentially what we face if the Government go ahead with their plans for budget cuts.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) pointed out earlier, we have already seen a 25% reduction in real-terms funding since 2010 and 17,000 police officers have been lost since 2010, 12,000 of them from the frontline. I shall comment briefly on the potential cuts in Manchester as an example of the problem we face. Just as the Government have hit the poorest areas hardest with local government cuts, so it is with police funding. Generally, the more deprived areas, such as mine in Manchester, which rely on a greater proportion of central Government funding, will be hit hardest by Government cuts in police budgets.

Some 80% of Greater Manchester police funding comes from central Government. The disproportionate

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impact of the proposed cuts will mean that we would be among the hardest hit communities in the country. Greater Manchester has already lost £134 million from its budget—a quarter of the budget—since 2011. The majority of a police force budget is spent on staff, so these cuts directly hit the number of officers serving our communities. We have had the second biggest reduction in officers outside the Met. In 2010 Greater Manchester police had 8,200 officers. That is now down to around 6,500.

Richard Arkless: Given the tone of the hon. Gentleman’s contribution, does he agree that if cuts are to fall on police services across the UK, front-line officers should be protected from those cuts?

Jeff Smith: Absolutely. We would all want to see front-line officers protected. They are the boots on the ground and the voices that connect with our communities.

Richard Arkless: Does the hon. Gentleman therefore agree that the Scottish Government’s response has been correct, in that we have protected front-line services and increased police numbers by 1,000 since 2007?

Jeff Smith: If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I am more interested in Greater Manchester and my own constituency, though I have nothing against Scotland.

The Home Office is asking for modelling of cuts at 25% and 40%. I asked the Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner what that would mean for Greater Manchester police. A 25% cut would take police officer numbers below 5,000. A 40% cut would be catastrophic. We might be down to fewer than 3,000 officers. From over 8,000 officers in 2010 to under 3,000 on the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary’s watch—do they really want that as their legacy? That is not sustainable.

The model of neighbourhood policing that works so well in my area and many others would be under threat. Bobbies on the beat is not some kind of romantic “Dixon of Dock Green” vision of how police forces should work. It is emblematic of the successful model of policing that we currently have—police officers and PCSOs connected to their communities and adding to community cohesion.

What the Government are proposing is a huge change. In the words of Lord Condon, who knows quite a lot about policing, these

“profound changes to the bedrock of British policing should be taking place only by design and after widespread debate . . . not by stealth as a consequence of budgetary change.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 20 October 2015; Vol. 765, c. 564.]

There are, of course, new challenges facing our police forces—terrorism, cybercrime, child sexual exploitation, human slavery and human trafficking, as well as changes in organised crime—and we need a proper debate about how the police deal with those challenges. We also need to consider how community policing helps to tackle those problems, because I believe, as do many police officers, that they are exactly the areas where local intelligence makes a vital difference, where good community relations are important, and where our police officers and PCSOs are the bedrock of those good community relations.

When I meet my local team—Ben and the other PCSOs—on the streets in Withington, I can chat to them and we can share our experiences of what is going

4 Nov 2015 : Column 1039

on in the local area. That is useful for me and, I hope, useful for them. The conversations that we have add to their knowledge of the local area—their community—and to the intelligence that they can pick up on sensitive issues.

Another former very senior police officer, Lord Paddick, has said of the changing nature of terrorism and lone-wolf attacks:

“In many cases, community intelligence about the individuals involved may be the only way that we can prevent terrorist outrages.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 20 October 2015; Vol. 765, c. 565.]

The conversations that take place with neighbourhood policing add to the safety of our communities. Cuts in the number of officers and PCSOs are a direct threat to the safety of our communities. The Government are making a huge mistake in assuming that just because some types of crime have fallen we can cut back our police to unsustainable levels. Nobody is saying that the police should not make savings, but cuts on this level will be a massive blow to our communities. I urge the Government to think again.

4.40 pm

Byron Davies (Gower) (Con): I am delighted to be able to speak on this subject of such great importance, and to declare an interest in it. I had 32 very happy years in the Metropolitan police service as a detective serving in the counter-terrorist command and the national crime squad.

Not surprisingly, this motion has some fundamental flaws in the way that Labour frames its arguments about policing. It is far too simplistic to make a point about policing numbers when we are having a really serious debate about what sort of police service this country needs and wants. This is not, and should not be reduced to, simply a numbers game. If the Opposition were serious about discussing it, they would be asking questions about how they want the police services of this country to look, what their priorities are, and how they face the challenges of policing in the 21st century.

The system of policing in this country has had to evolve. We cannot think or accept that a system that was created and honed in the 1820s for a different time will be completely fit for purpose today. While many aspects of police work are excellent, we need to adapt, and the Government are doing just that. Technology has advanced at an incredible pace, and that has left previous models of policing in need of reform to meet today’s challenges. The Government continue to promote innovation and improved efficiency by allocating £70 million to the police innovation fund this year. That is key to my point about police numbers.

This is about efficiency, and about management effectively deploying the resources at their disposal. I have had numerous discussions with my former colleagues in the police about this issue, and I have found their views illuminating. It has made senior police officers think about how they manage and deploy their resources. It has required higher quality management, and, through that, the police service has reformed itself by having to prioritise what is important and re-evaluate how a modern police force needs to operate. That has rarely been done before, as Governments have never challenged how the police service works on a deep enough level. Under the previous Labour Government, there was too

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much bureaucracy and obsession with target-driven performance, as I well remember. While targets are vitally important, the Government have challenged the long-standing model of policing. Through that, police services have managed their priorities and resources more effectively, and policing has thereby become much more capable of meeting the challenges that it currently faces.

I commend the work of the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister in doing this. During such major reforms of such a vitally important part of British public life, I also commend the Government for providing the stability needed in the Home Office. We have had the same Home Secretary for over five years, and three Policing Ministers, including the current one. They have done an excellent job in providing the continuity and strong leadership required during this period. That is in stark contrast to the Labour Government, who, if I am correct, had six Home Secretaries and seven Policing Ministers. I well remember the days at Scotland Yard when most senior officers did not know who would be Home Secretary on any given day. The constant change of direction and personality in such a crucial role is not conducive to providing the confidence that the police need if they have to undertake major reforms.

The current situation has required courage and innovative thinking on the part of police forces. Given the many trials faced by policing, I am glad that the Government continue to invest heavily in the College of Policing, to ensure that the most talented individuals will lead our police forces in the future.

The Labour motion also mentions sharp rises in knife crime. Policing is complex and nuanced. It requires preventative and outreach work in communities, to try to change deep-rooted cultures that have built up over time. We must concentrate on how police tackle any rises in knife crime. I have read that some say that it is the fault of cuts in funding to police budgets, but that is a deeply misleading and dangerous statement to make about policing. The causes of knife crime are countless and diverse. Many are down to multifaceted and nuanced social reasons that have grown and transformed over decades. Crucial reasons for the recent rise in knife crime include the dark web being used to purchase weapons, a cultural change among young people, and improved recording of knife crime statistics.

Andy Burnham: I think the hon. Gentleman is saying—the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) and other hon. Members have also said this—that there is no connection at all between police numbers and levels of crime. Is that seriously the argument that Conservative Members are putting to the House?

Byron Davies: It is about how people are managed and deployed, and managers have to be trained to do that properly. That is the argument. The police are making serious efforts to tackle knife crime and they are making some important changes. The police are there to investigate, prosecute and tackle knife crime.

That brings me on to something that is missing from the Labour motion. It states that traditional forms of crime are being replaced by cybercrime. That is no doubt true, but my point about the dark web being used to purchase weapons is important. We must examine and tackle the link between cyber and more traditional crime.

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Finally, I simply do not agree with the notion that this is the end of bobbies on the beat. I am sure that the Government would never compromise public safety. In fact, the proportion of front-line police officers has risen in the past five years. I implore the Police Federation to debate, discuss and engage in positive dialogue with the Government on reform, rather than continue to adopt its militant stance.

We must be serious about how we progress with policing. This is no time for political grandstanding. We must move on from the political obsession with police numbers. The public deserve a far more serious and forensic approach to policing services, and I am glad that the Home Secretary, the Policing Minister and the Government are undertaking the serious work required to do that, rather than engaging in political point scoring.

As a former police officer, I offer my full support to the Home Secretary on her and her team’s excellent work on falling crime figures and on ensuring that policing is able to meet the serious and perpetually changing challenges of the 21st century.

4.47 pm

Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I grew up with a huge amount of respect for the police service and the job it does in keeping our communities safe. When I was young, my dad served as a special constable with South Wales Police for a number of years, reinforcing my belief in the important job that our police officers, civilian staff and special constables do.

My constituency of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney is made up of a number of small villages and communities, each with different needs and priorities. The need for support from the police service is significant in many of the communities I represent, but that support is under threat from the Government’s proposed cuts.

Prior to being elected to this place in May, I spent 20 years as a county councillor. During that time I and my colleagues worked closely with the police service—specifically the neighbourhood policing team—to resolve a multitude of community concerns. As councillors we held monthly advice surgeries with the local policing team, delivering a joined-up service to local residents. That approach worked well and served to resolve most concerns that invariably required a two-pronged approach.

Neighbourhood policing has had a hugely positive effect on communities, with constables and community support officers being able to build a rapport with the communities that they serve. That in turn creates a greater sense of public safety and enables the police service to quickly target those who cause most problems. Neighbourhood policing also has benefits in reducing indirect costs for the public purse resulting from antisocial behaviour and low-level crime. By working at the grassroots in our communities, the police have been able to tackle the root causes of issues before they become major problems.

Unfortunately, due to the significant cuts over the past few years, neighbourhood policing teams are disappearing. Before they came to power, the Tories promised to protect front-line policing, but over the

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past five years they have cut about 17,000 police staff. In Wales, we have been fortunate that, despite the significant cuts to their budget, the Welsh Labour Government have funded the employment of 500 police community support officers.

The significant cuts to which police services have been subjected will put communities at greater risk. I know that in some large organisations, having fewer resources helps to create efficiency initially. I am sure that that is true of the police service, but the sustained cuts that we have seen and the further significant cuts that we face will serve only to weaken the service and impact on morale. There are many examples of how low the morale in the police service has become. I have heard at first hand of the most conscientious of officers leaving the service in the prime of their careers. That does not bode well.

We have all heard a variety of statistics, but stats have a habit of being interpreted in all sorts of ways. I prefer to listen to the people who know best—the people living in our communities and working at the grassroots of the service. Those people are saying that things are not getting better, but worse. This is hardly the time to cut investment. As we have heard, crime is not falling, but changing.

The Government’s proposals will take policing backwards in this country. My constituency is covered by two forces, Gwent and South Wales. With a 25% cut, we will see a 22% reduction in officer numbers in Gwent and an 18% reduction in South Wales. That can be compared with violent crime rates, which are up by 22% in Gwent and 28% in South Wales.

Community safety and law and order are too important to put at risk. The Government’s cuts will put our communities and residents in danger. I urge the Government to think carefully about the further cuts they are planning and the impact that those cuts will have on the lives of people in our towns and villages. Those cuts are not sensible. Most people do not live on gated estates; they live in ordinary communities and they need adequate protection from the police service. The proposed cuts will not allow the police service to give them that protection. I urge hon. Members to support the motion.

4.52 pm

Seema Kennedy (South Ribble) (Con): I welcome today’s debate on this important matter.

The headquarters of Lancashire constabulary are in my constituency of South Ribble. Indeed, I can see the building from my bedroom window. I have many neighbours and friends who are members of the police force. Lancashire constabulary was rated an outstanding force as recently as last month. I commend the work of Chief Constable Finnigan and Chief Superintendent Lee, and all those in the Lancashire police family who put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities.

I welcome the fact that police reform is working. Crime is down in South Ribble and down in Lancashire by over a quarter since 2010. Lancashire constabulary has made significant changes in the last five years. There is a centralised control room and there have been innovations using mobile technology. I know that the chief constable talked about that when he addressed the Home Affairs Committee yesterday. Such innovations,

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including those that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) spoke about, free up time for other police work. I know that there is more to do. The chief constable has told me that there is more to do in terms of real estate, particularly in respect of the large site at Hutton that the constabulary owns.

Lancashire has been mentioned many times in this debate, including by the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper), who is not in her place. Some of the figures that have been bandied about are speculative and slightly unhelpful.

Jack Dromey: The chief constable of Lancashire, Steve Finnigan, is one of the most outstanding chief constables in Britain. When he says that the proposed cuts will make Lancashire a less safe place to live, is he right?

Seema Kennedy: The word is “proposed”, but the problem is that a lot of what the police and crime commissioner says is based on figures that we know nothing about. There is a lot of speculation about what will come out in the autumn statement in three weeks’ time.

Andy Burnham: Osborne says 25%.

Seema Kennedy: I do not know whether I am allowed to respond when somebody speaks to me from a sedentary position and names a Member.

The Lancashire constabulary has made changes and will carry on making changes. Some of the talk about the changes has been speculative and unhelpful.

Andy Burnham: The hon. Lady claims that the talk is speculative, but did she not read the Budget documents published after the election? The Home Office is unprotected, and unprotected Departments are looking at cuts of 25%. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and her chief constable say that her constituents will be less safe if that goes ahead. Is she happy to nod that through?

Seema Kennedy: First, I am not nodding it through. That is why I am speaking. The right hon. Gentleman mentions the figure of 25%, but the police and crime commissioner has spoken of a figure of 40%. They are both speculation about something else.

I would like to speak about the funding formula. We are talking about cuts and safety, but we can have a safe country only if we provide a strong economy so that, in future, our children are safe. It is all very well saying, “Safer now,” but if we destroy the economy in the longer term, it will not be safer now or later.

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I am struck by the similarities between the actions of the police and crime commissioner in my hon. Friend’s constituency and those of the commissioner in my area of the west midlands. In her constituency area, the police have £65 million in reserves and yet are closing police services. In my area, we have £100 million of reserves. Will she reflect on that fact?

Seema Kennedy: I will reflect on it and address it later.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Byron Davies) referred to deployment. It is not just all about the money, but about how well it is spent, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) said.

The consultation period on the funding formula is ongoing. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice met all Lancashire MPs. Anyone who knows Lancashire—many Members do—will know that it is a unique county. It is mixed urban and rural—small towns with villages next to them. Lancashire MPs believe, on a cross-party basis, that the technical changes to the modelling have disproportionately disadvantaged Lancashire.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): In Cumbria, we have a large geographical area, a small population, a mountain range and poor infrastructure. Does my hon. Friend agree that, when we consider the weighting formula and funding, rurality and the circumstances of each county must be taken into consideration?

Seema Kennedy: Yes, but I do not want to strain the patience of the House on the technical detail of the funding formula. It is a very complicated formula—the right hon. Member for Leigh referred to that.

In conclusion, I applaud the innovation in policing country-wide, and I applaud the work of my constituents and all members of Lancashire constabulary. There is more to do in terms of innovation and responding to 21st century crime.

4.58 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome today’s debate. Policing is a major concern in my constituency and across Merseyside. The motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) sets out the key areas. It mentions the loss of 17,000 police officers since 2010—in Merseyside alone, we have lost 1,000. It also mentions the sharp rise in serious crime and the move away from traditional forms of crime.

Several hon. Members have talked about how crime is changing. In my constituency, the rate of firearm discharges has been a major issue, so I welcome the 23% fall in that rate over the last year. In Merseyside as a whole, however, the last year has seen big increases in the levels of serious crime, such as hate crime, violence with injury, violence without injury, rape and other sexual crimes. Conservative Members are right that this is partly because more people are coming forward, but when they do their complaints have to be dealt with—the capacity has to be there—and we are concerned that as a result of the cuts we might not have the capacity to deal with those larger numbers.

Since 2010, Merseyside has faced a budget cut of more than £60 million, which represents a 17% reduction in spending, and lost 800 police officers, more than 400 other police staff and more than 100 PCSOs—overall, a cut of almost 20% in staffing levels. Assuming a cut in the CSR not of 20% but of 25%, Merseyside would need to make further savings during this Parliament of £66 million. That would mean a cumulative cut across the decade of this Government of 35%, which would be one of the highest in the country—and in an area of

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social and economic need facing very big challenges. By the end of 2019, we would have lost 900, or one in four, police officers, 1,300 other staff, which, at 59%, would be the majority, and 78% of PCSOs.

My hon. Friends the Members for Halifax (Holly Lynch) and for Burnley (Julie Cooper) spoke powerfully about the impact of PCSOs. I have seen that in my own constituency. Jane Kennedy, the police and crime commissioner for Merseyside, has said we might have no PCSOs at all in Merseyside by the end of the Parliament. That is a very serious threat.

Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab): We face a similar situation in London, where the future of PCSOs is under threat. Were they to go, which is entirely possible—likely, indeed—the loss of intelligence and a visible police presence on our streets would drive a coach and horses through traditional community-based policing. I am sorry to hear that that is the case in Merseyside. I am worried it will be the case in London too.

Stephen Twigg: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary was right to remind the House that PCSOs were a major reform under the noble Lord Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, of the nature of policing in this country, and it is a great shame to see its reversal as a consequence of these cuts.

The motion rightly focuses on the cuts in the CSR, but I want to comment on the police funding formula. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) spoke about the impact of cuts to the central police grant on Greater Manchester police. It is similar in Merseyside. We receive 85% of our funding from central Government—the third highest of any police force in the country—whereas 51% of Surrey’s funding comes from central Government. That means that the impact of a reduction in funding from central Government is much greater in Merseyside than in Surrey, which is protected by the council tax base. I do not think the Government have shown sufficient regard to that as they have made their cuts.

Peter Kyle: I have sympathy with my hon. Friend’s argument, but does he realise that down in Sussex it is even more absurd? Sussex police are being cut by 5.1%, as the review stands now, while neighbouring Surrey is getting an additional 5%.

Stephen Twigg: My hon. Friend has made that excellent point already, and it is made even more emphatically by his repeating it. He is absolutely right.

The consequence is striking. Over the last five years, Merseyside has lost one in five of its police officers, whereas Surrey has lost just 1%, and this contrast has a direct impact. The proposed changes to the funding formula will also have an impact. As others have said, there will always be gainers and loser when we change the funding formula, but under the current proposal, which I accept is still out for consultation, Merseyside will see a further cut of more than £5 million in our police budget. So, we have the cuts I have mentioned, the impact of our being much more reliant than average on central Government support,

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and a new formula that, if not changed—I very much hope it will be—will take another £5 million out of our budget.

I pay tribute to the entire police team in my constituency and across Merseyside for the fantastic work they do, and to the leadership of Jane Kennedy and our chief constable, Sir John Murphy. He has said:

“We will not deliver as good a service as we have done before. In some instances, it will take us longer to get there. In some instances, we won’t turn up. That’s an inevitable consequence of having less people to do more work.”

It is as straightforward as that.

I want to say three things in conclusion. First, the scale of these cuts, as the shadow Home Secretary said so clearly at the beginning of the debate, is unacceptable—and that is what the motion says. Secondly, the proposed formula change for areas such as Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria and indeed London will result in a loss that will exacerbate the impact of the cuts. Finally, we need a recognition that many areas of the country, particularly those with the greatest levels of deprivation and social and economic need, including Merseyside, are more reliant on support from central Government. When that support is cut, therefore, we are hit the hardest. It is the same with the local government cuts. The Government should recognise that as they go into the comprehensive spending review.

I appeal to Conservative Members, who represent a party that used to be known as the party of law and order, to think again about the scale of these cuts. No longer can they be seen as belonging to the party of law and order or the party for police and communities. In all parts of the country, but particularly in areas like mine that have suffered from serious incidents of crime and antisocial behaviour, it is vital that we have a visible, effective local police service. I know that Jane Kennedy and John Murphy will do their utmost with whatever resources they are given, but let us give them the resources so that they can do the job properly.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I call the next speaker, I am going to have to lower the speaking limit to five minutes with immediate effect. I remind hon. Members, especially those hoping to catch my eye later on, that if they make a lot of interventions, they are eating into their own time. I hope that interventions will be kept to a minimum.

5.7 pm

Mrs Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South) (Con): I hope to be able to speak within five minutes. I would like to echo the thanks of everyone else to the police, and particularly to those in Hampshire, where our constabulary has been leading the way in channelling resources to the frontline. The force faces some particular challenges, to which I will return, but it does a fine job and I want to pay tribute to Chief Constable Andy Marsh and all his staff.

There has been a fall in crime of 11% over the last five years, and 96% of police are on the frontline. I hope that when the final funding formula is drawn up, it will recognise that Hampshire has already made the transition to becoming an efficient and responsive force. Hampshire

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should not be penalised when other forces, as we have heard, still need to catch up. It is very welcome that the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice accepted this point in a speech to the House at the end of the last Parliament.

Across the country as well as in Portsmouth, we have seen a fall in crime since 2010, and I am sure that it will continue as society grows stronger under our long-term economic plan. This has coincided with a period of budgetary pressure on police forces across the country; as we have heard, some forces have responded better than others. I welcome the initiative to put senior officers in closer touch with local authorities by sharing facilities. In Portsmouth, we now have our chief inspector and her team in our civic offices—much closer to the city council team, including community wardens, that play such an important part in helping the police.

It makes equal sense to pool facilities and resources across the emergency services wherever this is possible, and both Hampshire fire and rescue service and Hampshire constabulary are leaders in that development. Hampshire has set up H3, which merges all the back-office staff and functions along with the county council. Sharing these resources makes sense, as more money can be spent on front-line services rather than replicating back-office functions. This has meant £4 million going back into front-line services. I know that some authorities are doing the same, but not all. I urge them to follow the example of this scheme. I know the Policing Minister has visited Hampshire and that as a former firefighter he was most impressed to see this. The early implementation of body-worn cameras by Hampshire police has had a dramatic effect in reducing violence towards officers, and on confrontational behaviour generally when officers attend an incident.

Like the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy), Hampshire faces unique policing challenges. Some 85% of the area is rural, yet Portsmouth has the highest population density outside London. As a Member who represents an urban constituency, I was saddened to learn that rural crime is a huge problem. The farming industry in Hampshire is intensive and advanced, and there is a worryingly good trade in stealing equipment and shipping it out of the country through Southampton. That is a particular challenge for Hampshire, as it is for a handful of other forces that cover ports that have a rural hinterland.

I am especially keen to work with the police, local authorities and public health bodies on drug harm reduction and crime prevention, and I welcome the sustained fall in drug crime in Hampshire’s crime statistics. This year’s figures up to September show an almost 14% fall in reported drug crime. The police force has been running an excellent campaign against psychoactive substances in recent weeks—an issue that I campaigned on before my election to this House. Criminality from the drug trade is fought by street-level police intelligence. I welcome the shift towards getting rid of those drugs, something that the Government have promoted through the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

The Prevent strategy is working well. Six men went to Syria three years ago, but none has gone since. The police team have spent a lot of time with the families affected, and the Prevent team works closely with the Bengali community. I welcome the continued commitment of funding for counter-terrorism policing, which I am sure has stopped further young people travelling to join

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terrorist organisations. We now have more officers on the beat in Portsmouth as a result of the reforms, and I look forward to working with the police at all levels, from chief constable to police officers, as well as our valuable police community support officers, whose contribution is much valued.

5.11 pm

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): The British police force is one of, if not the, most professional and efficient in the world. The Home Secretary said in her statement:

“As the House knows, the first duty of Government is the protection of the public, and that is a responsibility this Government take extremely seriously.”

If we look at the Government’s proposals, however, we see that that statement is a joke, and it does not square with her actions in capitulating to the Chancellor’s demands for more and more cuts. That is a disgrace.

The Home Secretary suggested earlier that the police should be given the tools to do the job, but that is the opposite of what is happening. She has been congratulated on the proposals in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, but I am not prepared to congratulate a Home Secretary or a Government who are throwing caution to the wind by making cuts to everyday community policing.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), I represent a constituency covered by Merseyside police, and I have regular contact with the police—on a professional level, I might add; the shoplifting claim was just an isolated incident! The police are feeling under siege, not from criminals but from the Government—the very people they look to for support and resource. My hon. Friend said that the Conservative party was once the party of law and order; it is now the party of law and order on the cheap.

What is the picture nationally? There are 17,000 fewer police officers compared with 2010, and 4,500 fewer PCSOs—the proposed cuts take the figure to 22,300. What about a fall in crime? Violent crime is up by 16% and knife crime by 9%, and all in the context of a £2.3 billion cut in funding since 2010, which is 25%. Twenty out of 27 forces say that their response times are going up—there is an average 17% increase in response time, rising to a 57% increase in response time in the worst hit areas. The number of rapes has gone up, not down, to 31,621, and numbers of other sexual offences have risen to 63,800. Violent crime is up by 25%, and levels of hate crime and cybercrime have risen. As my hon. Friend noted, the chief constable of Merseyside police has said that we cannot carry on doing more for less.

All this must be set in the context of major cuts to local government, probation services, other social services and partner agencies, including the voluntary sector. The issue of reserves is one of the fallacies and myths that the Tories persistently use about local government. The figures suggest that 88% of the reserves are earmarked for the next four to five years. The idea that they are being wasted—that they are lying around in some bank account or someone’s cocoa tin—is complete nonsense. Moreover, my local force does collaborate: the Merseyside fire service and the police have a combined command and control centre.

My area is to lose 20 PCSOs, who are familiar faces in the community. The concept of neighbourhood policing is going west. There has previously been consultation

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about whether three police stations in my area should be closed; we thought that we had put that one to bed, but it is to be revisited. The 7,350 police staff whom we had in 2010 are to be reduced to 5,773.

Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab): My hon. Friend and I share the Merseyside region. He is in the heart of Liverpool, while I am on the periphery of the region, in St Helens. Does he agree that the cuts mean that our police force will not be able to respond to the diverse challenges of policing in Merseyside?

Peter Dowd: My hon. Friend is spot on. Our two areas are affected by a wide range of issues, from gun crime to organised crime, from day-to-day crime to fraud. A diverse community needs a diverse response.

By 2019, the workforce will be down by 40%. Specialist support teams dealing with such matters as sexual violence, hate crime, gun crime and organised crime will go, and that will have a significant effect on community reassurance. The police service is not just there to react. It is a bit like an insurance service: people like it to be there. All the partnership working is under a huge amount of stress.

Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab): My constituency is also in the Merseyside area. Does my hon. Friend agree that the threatened cut in the provision of PCSOs will have a devastating impact not only on community reassurance, but on the intelligence-gathering that is so crucial to police work?

Peter Dowd: My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on. I have talked about that issue recently, and, indeed, have given a presentation on it. PCSOs are the feet on the ground. They come into contact with members of the community day in, day out: in the shops, for instance. People approach those officers for information and intelligence. Losing them will have a deleterious, detrimental and significant effect on intelligence and the ability of the police to deal, on the ground, with issues such as gun crime, drug crime and organised crime. Whether the Conservatives accept it or not, that will happen as a direct result of the cuts. Indeed, it is already happening, and has been happening for a considerable time. The country, and my constituency, needs a Home Secretary who will stand up for safer communities and not put them at risk.

5.18 pm

James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con): I am delighted to have been called to speak in this important debate. Let me begin by associating myself with what has been said by Members on both sides of the House about PC Dave Phillips.

Members have rightly spoken about the way in which our policemen and policewomen do their duty on the frontline, but we must remember that we, as a Government, have duties as well. Yes, we have a duty to maintain law and order and to deliver safe communities, but we also have a duty to balance the books and to deliver sound fiscal policy and sound public finances. I am proud that

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the Suffolk constabulary has excelled in delivering more for less, as we have asked it to do: it has delivered lower crime with lower funding.

I pay particular tribute to the excellent leadership of our police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore. He is a Suffolk farmer, and he has used his Suffolk farmer’s common sense to take effective, practical measures that have delivered savings while continuing to carry out excellent policing. That has been achieved through, for example, collaboration with Norfolk and the wider eastern region, and the use of technology such as Toughbooks, which means that police officers can key in more data away from the police station and therefore spend more time on the frontline instead of behind their desk, and I commend them on that.

As a new MP I find having PCCs very useful as they are a direct line to what is going on when there is a live crime wave, as we have had in Suffolk. Since the end of August no fewer than 14 churches have been subjected to lead theft, including four churches in my constituency: Groton, Hawkedon, Stratford St Mary and the very ancient and historic church of Lavenham. I recently visited Lavenham church and walked on the roof. It is shocking to see the extent of the associated damage. It is not just the fact that the lead has been stripped. The criminals smashed crenellations and damaged the edge of the roof, which caved in, when they threw the lead down to a wheelie-bin on the ground, which they then went off with.

In the case of Hundon church, which is just outside Clare and in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock), falling lead damaged a grave, so this has become a matter of desecration. I have to say—I hope I am not going too far—that the United Nations has labelled the destruction at Palmyra as a war crime, and while I would not say for one moment that the damage to our churches is on that level, it is nevertheless a crime against our own Christian cultural heritage.

Fortunately, when one considers the huge costs our churches face—Stratford St Mary estimates it will cost £54,000 to make good the damage to its roof—our churches have an angel: the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), the heritage Minister. Following representations from myself and my fellow Suffolk MPs, on Friday she wrote to me to confirm that the Chancellor’s listed places of worship roof repairs scheme would be extended to include churches that have recently been the victims of lead theft, thereby hopefully providing the resources to ensure that they can repair the damage to their ancient architecture.

The other point I want to raise in relation to this recent crime wave in Suffolk is the issue of alarms. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of these crimes are still at large, although I know our rural crime unit is working hard to catch them. However, our churches have a duty to try to prevent this crime, as indeed do communities, because this sort of rural crime is almost impossible for the police to deal with. Many of our churches are scattered across the county in sparsely populated areas. We need the community to be alert, but we also need the installation of effective alarm systems. I want to make the point on the record that the Ecclesiastical Insurance company, which supports our churches, has a list of just three providers of alarms for churches in the whole

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country, including just one in the eastern region, meaning that alarms are incredibly expensive. I have received representations from firms that want to go on that list and I will be getting involved to make sure that they do.

At a time of tough budgets and necessary savings, which we have to make to deliver sound public finances, we need innovation and collaboration. We also need our community working in partnership with the police. In that way, we can continue to cut crime efficiently.

5.23 pm

Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): I am sure that this House would like to congratulate the many policemen and women who attended the police bravery awards last week—the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice was there—and also PC Winston Mugarura of the Met and PCs Adam Koch and Jean Stevens of the West Midlands on their exceptional bravery.

Policing has borne a significant burden of cuts since this Government became obsessed with slashing budgets and impoverishing the public good. Since 2010, overall central Government funding for the police, including grants and council tax freeze grants, has been cut by 22% in real terms. We are yet to find out how the police will be affected by the Chancellor’s forthcoming spending review, but we know that Departments have been told to plan for the same reductions requested ahead of the 2010 spending review; that is, of course, to model two scenarios of 25% and 40% savings within their own budgets by 2019-20 in real terms.

My local force, North Wales police, was staffed by 1,675 officers in 2005. It has lost 188 officers—11% of the total—in the past 10 years. Mark Polin, the chief constable, has announced that 57 further police community support officers are to go in the next three years. That police force serves a population of 676,000 people across an enormous 2,400 square miles.

I was fortunate enough to accompany the police during their Saturday night work over the August bank holiday. They were already tightly stretched, running between the busy towns of Abersoch and Pwllheli. Because the police responsible for that area of Dwyfor were concentrating on those towns, the rest of the towns in Dwyfor were effectively being ignored, and if anything had happened elsewhere, it would have been very difficult for them to cope with it.

There are already 17,000 fewer police officers in Wales and England now than there were in 2010. That means 17,000 fewer people to look after our communities, help the vulnerable, enable justice and provide security—and this at a time when child protection and digital crime are immense challenges.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): The hon. Lady is making a powerful case in relation to the impact of the cuts across Wales. We are facing a tremendous problem. Does she agree that the police in Wales play a vital role in the social fabric of communities, particularly in relation to dealing with the mental health crisis that Wales is experiencing?

Liz Saville Roberts: I agree with the hon. Lady. The police have talked to me about the difficult role that they play on the frontline when dealing with people with mental health issues.

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The Government often brag about their commitment to national security. They brag about protecting the defence budget and spending upwards of £150 billion on a weapon of mass destruction that we will never use, but they are all too happy to use the old excuse of balancing the books as a matter of urgent necessity when it comes to vital community services.

The Welsh police forces are unique within the UK. They are non-devolved bodies operating within a largely devolved public services landscape. They are thus required to follow the diverging agendas of two Governments. It is essential that the people of Wales should be given a democratic choice, through their directly elected Government, as to how the police are to be governed and held accountable, just as the people of Scotland are. I was dismayed at Labour’s cheap dig at the Scottish Government. It was a divisive elbow-jab, given the immensity of the challenges facing police forces in England and Wales.

Transferring responsibility for policing to the Welsh Government would not be the tectonic shift that many Unionists claim it would be. Relationships between the Welsh forces and UK services such as the police national computer and the Serious Organised Crime Agency would continue as at present, as is the case in Scotland. Cross-border arrangements could also continue. Why then should the people of Wales not be given the same democratic freedom as that enjoyed by the people of Scotland and that proposed for certain English cities? Devolving policing powers would lead to greater clarity and efficiency by uniting devolved responsibilities such as community services, drugs prevention and safety partnerships with those currently held by the UK Government.

The Tories have been justifying many of their policies of late by claiming that the people voted for them, regardless of whether those policies were included in their manifesto or not. Perhaps that is a democratic oversight. The people of Wales did not vote for the Tories’ policies. They did not vote for this Government. The people of Wales voted in 2011 for a Parliament: their own democratic institution to make decisions on matters that relate to Wales and to her interests.

The Silk commission—a commission comprising all four main political parties in Wales—spent two years consulting not only the public but civil society, academia and industry experts. It received written evidence, heard oral evidence and visited every corner of Wales, and its report recommended the devolution of policing. That is what the people of Wales have asked for, and that is what the people of Wales deserve. Wales’s police forces cannot cope with continuing cuts, and they should not have to.

5.28 pm

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in this important debate on policing. Prior to my election to this place, I served as a district councillor for eight years and interacted regularly with Sussex police in that role. Back in 2010, when Sussex police announced plans to make efficiency savings of £50 million over the following four years, many in my community felt nervous that crime rates would increase. As it turned out, crime has fallen in my area of Sussex. Indeed, we

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have seen crime rates fall nationally by a quarter. I recall the chief constable for Sussex addressing my council chamber in 2014 and explaining that the cutbacks in funding had, in certain instances, actually helped to decrease crime. He gave the example of the merging of certain operations, which resulted in enhanced communication between units and led to better detection and arrest figures.

I recognise that additional reductions in funding for the next term will cause a further challenge to our police forces. That is particularly so in Sussex, which, having found savings of 16% during the last term, has one of the lowest cost bases from which to deliver further savings. I believe it is essential not to send out a message from this place that the police are not properly resourced and not able to do their jobs. To do so would be contrary to the facts, bad for police morale and bad for public confidence. Since I was elected, I have made it my business to meet police representatives in my constituency. My conclusion is that they recognise the challenges ahead, but believe in their ability to meet them head on, without detriment to public safety. I find that stoic attitude refreshing and admirable.

Having referred to the fact that the key to better policing it is not just the amount of money spent, but how it is spent, I want to mention police numbers. In this debate, the reduction in police numbers has frequently been used to highlight the idea that matters are in decline. In years gone by, crime detection required police manpower alone to solve cases. In our modern world, where technology provides surveillance, evidence-gathering and deterrence, there is no need to man as much of the front-to-back police operation as there was previously. Accordingly, it is too crude to use a reduction in police numbers to argue that policing must be in difficulty.

Finally, I would like to touch on the demands that this place and public campaigns put on our police. Since 1997, over 3,000 new criminal laws have been passed that our forces are ultimately required to resource and police. Most, if not all, of those laws are laudable, but each one passed is unlikely to lead to the decriminalisation of an existing law. The additional laws therefore stretch our police forces further, which may have a questionable impact not only on their own resource requirements, but on our civil liberties. One such example is the recent law prohibiting smoking in cars where children are present. Such a prohibition could be judged as sensible, but it has led one chief constable to state publicly that his force would not dedicate resources to cover it. I might add that that is not the best way to deter it. Does it not make more sense to consult the police about such occurrences before passing laws, and to consider whether public education, rather than criminal prohibition, is a better way to reduce such behaviour?

A further suggestion is to look at what we require the police to enforce. In my constituency, the police are required to ticket cars for overstaying in free on-street parking bays, even though around the corner it is the local authority that charges and tickets for car parks. The police have now made the call that they cannot continue to do that, but as parking is not decriminalised in my local authority, it has turned into a free-for-all.

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Like every other Conservative MP, I was elected on a mandate that promised to make reductions in public spending in order to deliver a budget surplus. Paying down the annual interest bill on our national debt is essential. The interest bill alone is much greater than the national policing budget. That will be a challenge for many of our leaders in public service. I believe that the police, as they have previously demonstrated, will continue to deliver for my constituents and keep them safe and protected. I look forward to working with my police force in Sussex to that end.

5.33 pm

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab): I come to this debate with a slightly different perspective, as someone who worked for nearly a decade in the police service, supporting victims and witnesses of crime. I am increasingly concerned about the impact this Government’s cuts will have on the people I worked for and alongside. Victims of crime have often had one of the most traumatic experiences of their life; yet a recent survey of detectives showed that only 39% of them felt that they were able most or all of the time to provide the services that victims needed. That is a terrifying statistic, but it will only get worse if the proposed cuts go ahead.

As a consequence of 25% cuts in funding, a number of police forces will no longer offer to visit victims of burglary, which is an event that can have a devastating impact on individuals and families. It has been widely reported that one police force is now piloting a scheme whereby those who report a crime are dealt with via Skype. That may suit some circumstances, but surely it should be offered as an option, not as the standard service we can now expect.

Although falling levels of crime have been welcomed, there is evidence to suggest that rates of certain crimes are on the increase, particularly violent crime. It is entirely appropriate that significant police resources are being channelled into specialist areas, including the investigation of child sexual exploitation, cybercrime and fraud, but as a direct result of cuts to police numbers, far fewer police officers are available. Many believe that the day of the bobby on the beat will soon become a thing of the past, as the police service regresses to the provision of a reactive response-only service.

Jo Cox (Batley and Spen) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that underpinning these cuts is a fundamental misunderstanding by the Government of the daily reality that many police officers face? As she will well know, in West Yorkshire many police officers spend 80% of their day dealing with safeguarding and vulnerable cases. These are cases that are often not reported but which place a heavy work burden on officers.

Paula Sherriff: I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. What she says is true. Although some crime levels have decreased in recent years, we are seeing a significant increase in much more complex investigations. A police officer recently told me that cuts were already hitting so hard that the scene of a serious sexual assault in a major city had to be preserved overnight as no detectives were available to attend until the following morning—that was just down to cuts in police numbers.

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In common with many Members of this House, I have witnessed the benefits of neighbourhood policing at first hand. Many officers who serve in Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton have nurtured and developed relationships with the communities they patrol, and take immense pride in seeing crime rates fall, cohesion blossom and trust build. While out door-knocking in streets across my constituency, it is refreshing to hear residents talk of their dedicated officer by their first name as an integral part of the neighbourhood. Officers working in and among local communities are an essential tool for intelligence gathering—this strength of eyes and ears should never be underestimated. Yet we see no sign that this Government are committed to preserving neighbourhood policing for the future. Prevention work is also being hit hard. I know of a local PCSO who runs football training twice a week for boys and girls. Within weeks of the project starting, antisocial behaviour in a previously blighted area had become practically non-existent.

The West Yorkshire police force, which serves my constituency, has seen a reduction of 1,100 police officers since 2010, and we fear that even more will be lost in the next round of cuts. An officer told me recently:

“we are just managing to keep our heads above water, any further cuts will see us drown. I fear a major incident happening around here.”

A survey of more than 32,000 police officers revealed that more than 70% felt that morale was low in their force, with only 10% saying that they would recommend joining the service. Officers talk of being stretched to capacity yet doing their utmost to deliver a comprehensive and professional service.

Of course, we know that the police service needs to evolve. Crime is changing and, like all public services, the police will need to find new ways to meet new challenges. But real reform needs modernisation not privatisation, investment not cuts, and partnership not confrontation. Unfortunately, we see the same attitude from Ministers to everyone in the public sector. As with teachers and doctors, this Government now treat police officers as public enemies, not public servants. Frankly, people in my constituency want police on their streets and a Government who are on their side. That is why they elected me to this House, and that is why I will be voting for the motion today.

5.38 pm

Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con): I am pleased to see in my constituency that police reform is working. Not only in my constituency, but across the country, crime is down by more than 30%, as a result of the police becoming ever more efficient. For example, strategic alliances between the Hampshire and Thames Valley forces have resulted in the sharing of many specialist units. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) also mentioned the sharing of back-office services with the county council. Those are all ways in which the police can become more efficient and protect the frontline. They are also doing that through procurement. Some £200 million has already been saved on procurement, and many sources suggest that there is about £300 million more to go. This is a strong direction of travel, ensuring that we protect the frontline, as has happened in Hampshire

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and as is happening elsewhere; it is protecting the roles that people want to see, while ensuring that the taxpayer saves money.

I am pleased that the funding formula is being reviewed because it is currently unfair. The fact is that a new simplified model, which is based on that review, will replace the current, complex, opaque and out-of-date model. The data on which the current model is based is from 2003-04. Indeed, the model even includes some information from the 2001 census. It is chronically out of date, and it is time for a change.

Yesterday, at the Home Affairs Committee, chief constables and police commissioners told us of the disparity that exists between the different police forces. One point that came through very strongly was the need to reflect the cost of rural policing. It is important that the Home Office considers that as part of the consultation. Further, and this point has been made by Members from both sides of the House, there is a lack of parity between different forces in the amounts that they get from council tax and from the central Government grant. That is why the funding formula changes will be felt more greatly in some parts of the country, but it is important that that is taken in the context of the efficiency savings that could be made.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): My hon. Friend mentioned rural policing. I very much hope that he will continue his excellent work on the Select Committee to probe the Government on the funding mechanism, because some policing matters do cost more in rural areas such as Shropshire. I very much agree with his sentiment on that.

Mr Jayawardena: My hon. Friend is right that the cost of rural policing is important, but so too is the way that rural policing is administered. We need to ensure that communities feel safe. The concept of feeling safe is as important to many people as the level of crime.

On the consultation, I believe that we are moving in the right direction. The consultation is trying to create a fairer formula for the country as a whole. However, I urge the Government to consider the point of damping. Damping affects Hampshire to the tune of £10 million, which is a significant burden, whereas Surrey gains £6 million from it. It is important that, as part of this new funding formula, we reflect the actual need of particular areas.

Let me turn now to population distribution, which is where some of the rural issues come in. This is about not only the sparsity of the population and the difficulties in addressing any crime that might exist, but the fact that the police authority boundaries are arbitrary—they are the result of historical boundaries in counties and elsewhere that have existed for many hundreds of years. There is no reflection of the fact that crime can cross county boundaries. We must remember that any funding arrangement should reflect not simply the population within a police authority area, but the neighbouring areas, as crime will cross boundaries. Crime from Surrey or the Thames Valley can very easily reach my constituency of North East Hampshire, so it is important that police forces work closely together. Therefore, I suggest that population distribution should not be looked at in isolation.

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I come back now to the point of efficiency. Hampshire is a low-cost force. It gets £38 million less than the average force, which means that it has had to drive those efficiencies faster than other forces. Indeed, between 2005-06 and 2010-11, it made savings when other police forces were spending more per capita. It then had to be even more frugal and it made further savings in 2010-11 through to 2015-16. We must ensure that those forces that have already made the savings are not penalised for having become more effective sooner than other forces, because that would be a perverse outcome, and I am sure that that is not what the Government intend.

That leads me on to the way that the police funding formula is taken forward, and needs to be seen to be taken forward. It is important that we do not scaremonger. The funding formula is designed to provide a long-term stable, simple to understand method of funding for police forces across the country, but there are then the local police commissioners, who are the best way to ensure local accountability and that funding for the future is determined by local people.

5.44 pm

Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP): When my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Richard Arkless) made his speech, there were a number of calls from Labour asking why we would not be supporting the motion and why we were not turning our focus on the Government rather than on Labour, so let me start with the motion.

The motion starts by expressing concern at the loss of 17,000 police officers, and that is very concerning, yet in Scotland police officer numbers have been maintained, with an extra 1,000 since the Scottish Government took over in 2007. The motion claims that there is some evidence that crime is rising, but in Scotland crime is at a more than 40-year low because of the actions of the Scottish Government. The motion states that the police budget could be cut by between 25% and 40%, but in Scotland the Scottish Government, operating within a fixed budget, have had to make difficult decisions but have not made cuts to anything like that extent. If it was not for the fact that we have to pay VAT for police services in Scotland, which is not the case across the rest of the United Kingdom, there could perhaps even be extra money that could be invested.

When we can agree on all those points, why on earth does the motion have to include a line about the Scottish Government? It is bizarre that in a week where we have seen the first piece of legislation classified as England and Wales-only we have a motion from the Labour party that talks about a matter that is devolved to Scotland.

Anna Turley: Surely one of the most tragic and distressing incidents we have heard about in the past few months was the terrible incident on the M9, in which two people died after being left at the side of the road for three days. HMIC conducted a review into the call handling on the back of that and produced a report that found significant issues with poor performance. Does that not show that there are significant issues with performance in Scotland and that it is absolutely right that we should raise them in this Chamber?

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Owen Thompson: Any force can have issues at any time. That was a tragic incident and I know there has been consideration of exactly how that happened, but such things happen regardless of where they are. Why include these references in the motion? It talks of the Scottish Government’s oversight, but if we listened to Labour Members of the Scottish Parliament, we would often be forgiven for thinking that they were asking for direct political intervention in the management of the police rather than any kind of oversight. That is not what anybody in this Chamber would want.

I want to pick up on the point about oversight, as I have a particular situation locally. Immediately before I was elected to this Chamber, I was the leader of Midlothian Council, and I have been a councillor there for 10 years. I saw how the council interacted with the police services pre-Police Scotland and post-Police Scotland. Pre-Police Scotland, Midlothian Council had two representatives to scrutinise police activity locally. They tended to be from the administration and, up until 2012, that was always the Labour party, so I, as a local elected member, had no oversight of the police in my local area. When Police Scotland took over, a local safer communities board was established in Midlothian that allowed members of the council across the political board to have direct interaction with the police and a direct say in the local policing plan. It is deeply unfortunate that today’s Labour motion criticises the Scottish Government’s oversight when the Labour party in Midlothian is the only Labour party in the whole of Scotland not to participate in the safer communities board to oversee local police operations. From my point of view, it is hypocritical for Labour to be saying anything about oversight of the police when a local Labour party will have nothing to do with the oversight of police and fire services.

Let me move on. The cuts to police services are tragic and, because of the Barnett consequentials, they filter through to Scotland. We need to ensure that we do everything we possibly can to maximise investment in policing so that we can continue to maintain the lowest crime levels we have seen in more than 40 years and to make the improvements we have seen across the country. If the Government would take just one more look at VAT, that would enable us in Scotland to make some of the changes we need to continue the progress we have made.

When I look at this motion, I cannot help thinking that somebody on the Labour Benches looked at a previously drafted motion and said, “Hang on a minute. We haven’t mentioned Scotland, so we need to do so.” It has ended up looking like a typical example of the Labour party saying, “#SNP bad.” The section about Scotland makes no sense at all in the context of the rest of motion. Had it not been included, I can see myself supporting the motion. Why has Labour included it? Was it simply to make SNP Members vote against it? It is utterly bizarre. This is a strange situation to find ourselves in, and it is really sad that it has come to this on such an important issue.

5.50 pm

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): As possibly the only person in the Chamber who has actually handled a police budget, I must say that over the past few hours I have had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. In my first week as deputy Mayor for policing

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in London I was told by various senior police officers that if I even thought about touching the budget, it would be the end of life as we know it. The first thing they would wave in front of me was safer neighbourhood teams. In every one of the four budgets I handled during my period at the Met, safer neighbourhood teams were the first saving to be rolled out. Of course, that was designed to frighten me and put me off making the much-needed savings and efficiencies in the force. Despite the fact that during my time I took something like 12% out of the overall Met budget, crime fell very significantly.

I also got used to armchair chief constables giving their views. Opposition Front Benchers have today made much of Peter Clarke. Lovely man though he is, Peter Clarke retired over 10 years ago, so he has not seen a budget for over a decade. Opposition Members would do much better to rely on more up-to-date expertise.

Jack Dromey: The concerns expressed by Peter Clarke about the impact on counter-terrorism of the hollowing out of neighbourhood policing have been echoed publicly in the past three months by the current head of counter-terrorism, Mark Rowley. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that good neighbourhood policing—forming relationships, gathering intelligence and being the eyes and ears—is key to counter-terrorism?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We need interventions to be short, because I am worried that the hon. Gentleman will not have enough time to respond to the debate in his own speech.

Kit Malthouse: I do accept the “golden thread” argument, but what I am trying to illustrate is that in February and March of every single year of my tenure that argument was waved in front of me, and it never came true.

I have some observations to offer on some of the arguments we have heard today. First, on the connection between police numbers and crime, I can say from experience that there is absolutely no direct connection between the two. The best illustration of that I can give is the apprehension of Delroy Grant, a night stalker in south-east London. That man terrorised and raped elderly people over a period of 17 years. The operation to catch him was the largest and most complex the Met had ever mounted and it cost millions and millions of pounds. They did not catch him for 17 years because they were trying to catch a rapist. They appointed a new investigating officer who realised that they were trying to catch a burglar, and then they caught him within two weeks. Millions of pounds was spent on the wrong investigative method. If they had adopted the right method earlier, they might have prevented a lot more crime. Homicide in London fell from 211 in 2005 to 101 in 2012—happily at the end of my tenure. Is anyone saying that we should have the same number of police officers investigating murder as we had back in 2005? Of course not. There is no direct connection between the two.

Those Members who are complaining about a rise in crime types in their constituencies would do better to ask serious questions of their police forces about performance, technology, targeting and skill. Let us look at two similar police forces, Warwickshire and Cleveland. Cleveland currently attracts a lot more funding than Warwickshire, despite the fact that they have similar

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populations. Warwickshire’s performance, however, is excellent. Cleveland has just been criticised for not handling antisocial behaviour correctly. Performance—skill, leadership and focus—has much more of an impact on crime types in any particular area than money does. I recommend that Members go and ask some of those testing questions. Most of the time, police officers know where, when and by whom crimes will be committed, and using intelligence better will be much more effective.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): My hon. Friend is making his point in a typically powerful way. Does he agree—this might be a cynical point—that there are some who will say that we should not be playing ball as we have been doing in trying to reduce our budgets, in order to make political capital? That might make good political press releases; it does not make good policing.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. When I say I want short interventions, I do not mean, “Then carry on and make long interventions.” [Interruption.] No, I decide whether it is short. I am sure, Mr Hoare, you can find something else to do rather than challenging the Chair. I am sure that is not your intention. I want to get everybody else in, and the only way I am going to do that is to have fewer interventions. I want to allow the right amount of time for the closing speeches.

Kit Malthouse: My hon. Friend is right. I sat in the chamber at City Hall for year after year while Labour members waved the shroud for the public and tried to engender a sense of alarm, and of course crime dropped year after year, particularly very serious crime.

There is more to come out of police budgets—cars, buildings, reoffending rates, possibly a merger with the probation service. There is a huge amount that can be done. Many police forces still have not got a handle on procurement in the way that local authorities have, and many of them are saddled with scalping PFI deals that were brought in under the Labour Government. All of us bear the scars of that.

Much has been made of the supposed rise in crime as a result of online crime and cybercrime, but the truth is that no single force can tackle this. The idea that giving Lancashire more to deal with cybercrime will do anything for us is ridiculous. Often the perpetrator is not within the force area and may well be overseas. We would be much better off having a focused, efficient, combined central force to deal with cybercrime, which is exactly what is proposed.

Finally, I want to say something about the police formula. For many years it has been an unspoken secret—something that senior police officers sniggered about behind their hands—that the formula that was put in place 10 years ago was so manifestly unfair, but nevertheless politically sensitive, that politicians would never have the courage to meddle with it. During the four years that I was deputy Mayor for policing, there were constant complaints about the police formula and nobody really had the cojones, if that is parliamentary language, to get a grip on it. So I congratulate the Minister on finally dealing with it.

As my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) mentioned, the biggest injustice in the formula has been damping. Most of the Opposition Members who have been

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complaining about cuts have forces that were beneficiaries of damping. Merseyside and Sussex did well out of damping. Hampshire has been significantly penalised over the past 10 years by damping, and its removal will be welcomed not only by those forces that have been penalised thus far and which will therefore benefit, but by anybody who is interested in fair play in police finance.

Some of the forces that have benefited from damping thus far, such as Lancashire, were wise and knew that they were living on borrowed time, so they took action and built up their reserves. Lancashire, as we have heard already in the debate, has £65 million in reserve. Much of that is money that has been accumulated by taking money away from Hampshire. Now that we are getting to a fairer formula and a level playing field for all counties, it is time for Lancashire to use Hampshire’s money to plug the gap that it may now experience.

5.58 pm

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): I want to talk about the serious gang-related violence and crime happening in my constituency and in Salford, and the strain that the incidents are placing on an already-overstretched police force in Greater Manchester and on our community.

Over the past 18 months in Salford we have witnessed a frightening escalation of gang-related gun crime, with 21 shootings. Hundreds of “threat to life” warnings have been issued to people in Salford in the past nine months. These “Osman” warnings are given to people, including children, whom the police believe are at risk of being killed or seriously injured. Recently, in the Winton area of my constituency, a seven-year-old boy and his mother were shot at close range on the doorstep of their home. Both were seriously injured, and the seven-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries. This was a sickening attack which shook the whole community locally in Eccles and in Salford, and I was shocked by it. The escalating violence in my constituency and across Salford has been linked to feuding among armed gangs which are seeking to settle disputes. The use of weapons in Salford is now becoming a regular threat. Constituents have contacted me to tell me about their fears and how they feel about living in an area where shootings happen so frequently. After the seven-year-old boy was shot, people were very fearful about the safety of their own children and grandchildren.

Despite many of the comments by Conservative Members, crime is rising in Greater Manchester. From November 2014 to October 2015, recorded crime rose by 12%, and violent crime rose by 34%. Given this rise in violent crime and the shootings on our streets, I join our police and crime commissioner, Tony Lloyd, in saying that it is time for the Home Secretary to listen to him, to stop the policing cuts, and to invest in keeping our communities safe. As he says:

“Local people are rightly concerned about the cuts to GMP and, while police officers and staff remain committed to keeping people safe, it is getting…more difficult to put the public’s mind at ease. The reality is that we are heading towards 1970s police numbers where police were used simply as an emergency response”.

In Greater Manchester, we have already lost £175 million from our police budgets, meaning a loss of more than

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1,500 officers. Now, any further cuts could be very damaging. We used to have a force of 8,000 officers, with former chief constable Mike Todd saying that that needed to increase to 11,000. It is obvious to me that the Government’s cuts to police numbers are leaving Greater Manchester police overstretched, and without the extra help that is needed to deal with the gang violence I have described. I am deeply concerned about the impact that any further reduction in police numbers could have on my constituents.

Recent comparisons have been made between the current situation in Salford and the gang-related violence that happened in the past in Moss Side. Our new chief constable, Ian Hopkins, has gone on record as saying that the gang violence would not be sorted out inside a decade. Our former chief constable had said previously:

“Certain families have been ruling the roost for many many years. That’s the sort of thing that needs to be tackled and it’s going to take…10 years to do that.”

So we are facing 10 years more than 10 years. High visibility policing and proactive community work have helped to tackle the gang violence in Moss Side. Our chief constable has said that

“the key…is gaining the confidence of the community...in south Manchester…the community said ‘enough is enough’ and worked alongside us, and we’ve seen a remarkable turnaround.”

Further cuts to our policing budgets could mean that our police force just becomes reactive, only able to deal with emergency calls. As we saw in areas of Moss Side in the past, proactive strategies are needed where police work with the local community, and we need a good visual police presence.

I hope that the Home Secretary will think again before forcing any more cuts on to Greater Manchester police, because we need not less, but more help to protect ourselves from the gun crime and violence on the streets of Salford.

6.2 pm

Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate. It is a great privilege to follow the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley).

I want to put on record my thanks to the Policing Minister for his readiness to meet Lancashire MPs—including you, Mr Deputy Speaker—with officials to hear our concerns about the funding formula. The Minister was very generous with his time in listening to our concerns, and I have every faith that they will be taken on board. We may not get all the solutions we want, but he is definitely prepared to listen, engage, and see what progress can be made.

For me, the key thing is to maintain some of the real positives in policing in Lancashire, mostly in community policing. Community policing is important in Lancashire, where we have very mixed, diverse communities, whether in east Lancashire, with some of the challenging issues we face there, through to the rural communities or to Blackpool, with its very challenging night-time economy. Lancashire also has great challenges with regard to counter-terrorism. Community policemen and women are often the people there on the ground, speaking to residents, allaying their fears, and ensuring that their voices are heard. Whenever the funding formula is changed, I urge the Minister to ensure that everything

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that can be done is done to ensure that community policing is not adversely affected.

Lancashire has great variations in its seasonal economy, and that can often involve a policing challenge. My neighbouring constituency of Blackpool will see huge fluctuations in visitor numbers depending on the time of year, with hen nights, stag nights and so on. Having been out with the Lancashire constabulary late on a Saturday night, I know that they are stretched.

Let us not lose sight, however, of the fact that budget savings have to be found. Lancashire has a reserve and the onus is on the constabulary to make sure that the budget is spent wisely. As my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) has said, the reserve is not a rainy day fund but should be used to provide policing. We also have to make sure that resources are being properly managed.

May I take this opportunity to thank the police in Lancashire for all they do to keep my constituents—and indeed yours, Mr Deputy Speaker—safe? That goes without saying. When the review gets underway, I urge the Minister to look at the funding formula, to see whether there are any anomalies and to make sure that the people of Lancashire can be very proud of what this Government continue to do to support the police.

6.5 pm

Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab): It is a pleasure to speak in the same debate as so many Lancashire colleagues and to follow my parliamentary neighbour, the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies).

Lancashire has featured prominently in the debate, including the fact that the Lancashire constabulary has reserves. Under the funding formula, the Policing Minister’s local force in Hertfordshire has greater reserves than Lancashire. It has gained £6.6 million, while we have lost £24.5 million. Indeed, Lancashire faces a reduction in funding of between £134 million and £164 million between 2010 and 2020. The funding cuts are going to result in a fundamental change to policing in Lancashire. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper) has mentioned the huge decrease in police numbers. They have fallen from 3,611 in 2011, and we fear that by 2020 there will be only 1,699, if the cuts go ahead in full.

Statistics have been used liberally during this debate, but I want to share a very personal experience of community policing. When I finished work on 24 July 2013, I got the last train home from Preston to Lancaster, which arrives at about 11.30 at night, and then walked the short, 10-minute journey home. When I left the train station, a huge crowd of people travelled away from it with me. People slowly filtered off in different directions until I became very conscious that there was just one person behind me, following me suspiciously closely. An instinct kicked in and I decided to cross the road. This man crossed the road after me. I thought maybe I was making it up—maybe it was all in my head. I crossed back to the original side and he crossed back with me. That moment when you realise that you are not making it up—that you, at 11.30 at night in your home city, are being followed home by a strange man—is a terrifying one that can happen to any one of us.

I was very fortunate that I managed to come across PC Bruce Irvine, who was attending an incident while on the beat. At 11.30 on a Wednesday night, I could go

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to him and explain that a man was following me. He was able to put me in the back of his police car to make me feel safer and make sure that I got home safely. He spoke to the man who had been following me, who admitted that he had been following me and that he had intended to follow me all the way home to find out where I lived because he “liked the way” I looked.

The police cuts and the loss of community policing will have a real impact on real people’s lives. When my chief constable in Lancashire, Steve Finnigan, says that the cuts could result in Lancashire becoming a blue light only service, that terrifies me as a woman. When some councils talk about switching off street lights at night because of the cuts, that makes me question whether I, as a woman, can walk home safely from work in the evening. I am not the only woman in that position. Police cuts are having a huge impact on our communities and a particularly huge impact on certain groups that may be more vulnerable than others.

At a time when the national crime recording standard in England and Wales is showing an increase in the number of rapes and sexual offences being reported, I urge the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice to take this matter seriously and to reconsider the proposals for Lancashire and other forces that have been adversely affected, including the neighbouring Cumbria force, because they will impact on women’s lives and make them scared to go out at night. Please consider that.

6.10 pm

Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab): The police do not usually do politics. The Representation of the People Act 1983 prevents them from influencing any person’s decision to vote by word or deed and the police’s code of ethics states that the police

“must not take any active part in politics.”

That did not stop an open letter being issued on 21 April from 1,000 past and present police staff, including 600 serving officers, 423 police constables and even four chief superintendents, warning of the grave consequences of a Conservative victory at the general election. It said that in power the Tories would “endanger public safety” and leave the force “perilously close to collapse”. We all know the result of the election and it was community safety, not just the Labour party, that was the loser.

The letter said that the public were in “blissful ignorance”, but people are becoming aware of the situation. I have received email after email from people in Hanger Hill ward—the least Labour-friendly territory in my constituency—who are disgusted that their PCSOs are going. And all this from the one-time party of law and order. Since May 2010, the Met has seen £600 million slashed from its budget, resulting in 190 fewer police officers and PCSOs in Ealing. We will find out in the spending review how many will be lost in the next round of cuts. People fear that, with the Tories unfettered by coalition government, things will get worse. The Guardian reckons that 22,000 officers will be lost. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary said last week:

“The reductions in forces’ workforces are likely to lead to a further erosion in neighbourhood policing.”

Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have recounted the figures for the Met police. The number of officers has fallen from 33,367 in March 2010 to 31,877.

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Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said last week in an interview with the

Evening Standard

that the combination of the comprehensive spending review and the recalculation of the formula would lead to £800 million of cuts, which amounts to between 5,000 and 8,000 officers. He stated:

“For the past four years we have taken cuts…and we have just got on with it.”

He continued:

“I genuinely worry about the safety of London.”

Sir Bernard spoke at a public meeting in Ealing town hall the other week that was organised by our Assembly member, Dr Onkar Sahota. He was asked how the cuts would affect Ealing. The answer was that if they were shared equally across all the Met’s frontline teams, including firearms and sexual offences specialists, Ealing borough would lose about 25% of its officers, which is 170 police officers. If they were sliced another way, with the specialist units being protected and the 8,000 officers being lost from all the London boroughs, Ealing would lose 299 police officers, which is equivalent to 44% of the current force.

I have been to Ealing and Acton police stations in recent weeks, where I have spoken to our chief superintendent and officers at every level. People are seriously worried. They talk about devastation and a lack of morale. Just like the iconic Scotland Yard, both those police stations will go and the officers will be relocated to Brent. Everyone was saying, “God forbid if anything like the August 2011 riots were to hit Ealing again.”

Mrs Moon: We police by consent in this country, but we also police by local knowledge. Every police officer lost is local knowledge lost. Is not that what the Conservative party fails to understand?

Dr Huq: I totally agree with my hon. Friend. The contact that means officers know the names of people on the streets is what we value about our police force, and it is endangered by the Government’s actions. The police in those police stations told me that the thin blue line is getting ever thinner and that precious human resources are being stretched to breaking point.

In the 2011 riots, our borough—my constituency—had one fatality. It was not just “happy shopping” or whatever people called it.

Among a long list of people, Sir Hugh Orde, the former Association of Chief Police Officers president, has said:

“The notion you can take money out of policing and numbers out of policing without increasing the risk exponentially is flawed.”

Hon. Members might have seen a story about Epping—the other side of town to my constituency—on BBC “London News” yesterday. A Remembrance day parade that has been held every year since 1919 is not happening this year because there are not the police to marshal and cordon off the areas for it.

In New York, the population is decreasing but police numbers are being increased. It is odd that the opposite is happening in London—it does not make sense. We are in the nation’s capital. Hon. Members see on the annunciator screens in our offices that the threat level is

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severe. How will slashing our police force to ribbons help? Many hon. Members have said that the nature and scope of policing have changed and that we have new crimes. We should listen to the unprecedented intervention of 1,000 past and present police officers. The letter says that we

“cannot stand by watching the destruction of the UK police service.”

The people of Ealing, Acton and Chiswick deserve better.

6.16 pm

Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab): Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a pleasure to be called to speak by you. Most often when I have spoken in the Chamber it is you who have called me, so I am always relieved to see you walk through the doors. [Interruption.] I shall say something nice about the Minister in a second as well, so he should prepare himself.

It is interesting to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith). We have heard from hon. Members who have been affected by crime and there are many different perspectives on crime and policing on both sides of the House. I welcome those and enjoyed listening to them because it is important to get different perspectives. I have seen the impact and importance of policing from many different perspectives and angles. I have been a victim of crime—a victim of serious crime—and saw at first hand during that experience the humanity, professionalism and determination of good policing. When I hear from Conservatives who have had experience of policing, from the Minister to the hon. Member for Gower (Byron Davies), I never fail to have respect for their profession and the dedication they showed when they were serving, even though I disagree with the conclusions they draw. Similarly, my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) spoke about her work with victims of crime, which she did for 10 years. I saw that work at first hand too, and have absolute admiration for it.

I have spent time work shadowing with Sussex police. I recommend that all hon. Members do that if they have the opportunity. I spent time with the antisocial and hate crime unit in Brighton and Hove police—it is one of the very few police forces to have a dedicated unit for antisocial behaviour and hate crime. I learned an extraordinary amount about the complex work they do, and about the interdepartmental work they do on the ground, working with councils, social services and so forth to make policing integrated and to make it work for the long term.

As an MP, I see things from another angle, particularly representing Brighton and Hove. It is a complex place to police. We have 8 million visitors to our city every year and two universities, which bring with them specific opportunities and challenges. We have the highest number of pubs and clubs outside London. Being a party town is great fun, but it brings with it a price to police. We have very diverse communities. Some of the most privileged communities in our country are in the city of Brighton and Hove, but we also have communities in the bottom 3% for deprivation in the whole country. We also have Pride, which brings in 200,000 people.

I understand that good policing underpins our economy, something that has not been mentioned enough in the

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debate. Our economy in Brighton and Hove is dominated by retail, small and micro-businesses, small traders and the self-employed. Our economy is not hidden away in tall buildings with private security on the front door. Our economy happens on community high streets and people’s neighbourhoods. That requires good, solid community policing. Our economy needs a safe space to thrive.

Sussex police have already implemented a 20% cut, as a result of which 500 front-line staff have gone. This is where I extend an olive branch across the House. I have had many frank conversations about this matter. The hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) was slightly patronising earlier when he suggested that we needed to get out and speak to police. We do, and they have told us about their innovation and what they did to survive the first round of 20% cuts. In many cases, these are examples of best practice, doing more for less and learning from experience. There has been innovation, but the CPR will mean a further cut of between 25% and 40%. To put that in context, of its current budget of £250 million, my police force could lose up to £96 million. I do not believe Conservative Members who say that this will not have a direct impact on the frontline. Add to that a funding formula that could take another 5.1% away from our police force, and it is impossible to see how this is anything other than a Government waging a war against policing in cities such a Brighton and Hove.

6.20 pm

Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): I stand here in solidarity with the police and crime commissioners and policing staff across the UK who are facing cuts, and I join them in urging the policing Minister to halt the proposed changes to the police funding formula, which are, to quote the PCCs’ open letter,

“unfair, unjustified and deeply flawed”.

I am strongly opposed to the proposed policing cuts, under which London will lose 11.3% of its central grant, which equates to £184 million in annual funding for its police service—equivalent to many forces’ entire budget or the loss of 3,000 police officers. In the middle of October, the capital’s most senior police officer told a meeting of Enfield residents that he feared for the safety of London as a result of the proposed cuts, and I agree with him.

The situation for my constituency is critical. Recent figures show violent crime has soared in London over the past 12 months, especially in the borough of Enfield, in which there are 18 offences every day. The level of youth violence has increased by 19% over the last 12 months, compared with the London average of 13%. In the same period, while London saw a 3% fall in the number of homicides, Enfield saw a rise of more than 250%. It is now 7%, which is the joint highest in the capital. Enfield cannot afford any more cuts. The region has been historically underfunded through the distribution of grants to London boroughs. In the last five years, two of its police stations have closed and more than 100 police officers and PCSOs have been lost.