We are still learning some painful lessons from the past. There are still wrongs to be righted; the police are not perfect. We need to raise standards, and we should always hold the police to the highest standards in the public interest. The first thing I wish to say to the

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Policing Minister and the Home Secretary is that the British model of neighbourhood policing is celebrated across the world. The model was responsible for a generation of progress on crime, but the Home Secretary’s remorselessly negative tone about the police, taken with ever fewer police officers doing ever more work, has demoralised the service, and we are now seeing soaring levels of sickness and stress.

Andrew Gwynne: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. He is absolutely right to go back to the Labour success of neighbourhood policing. Is he as dismayed as I am about what is happening now? In my own constituency, neighbourhood policing is withering away, and officers are now being put on response duties. I accept that such duties are necessary, but so too is neighbourhood policing. This is undermining public confidence in the ability of the police to listen to the needs of communities.

Jack Dromey: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Typically, what we see all over the country is a neighbourhood sergeant responsible for perhaps one or two teams and a number of PCSOs. Those who were previously part of the neighbourhood teams are now being put on response duties. Following a Home Office decision in 2012 there was a reclassification whereby some people on response were given local neighbourhood policing duties, even if they spent all their time on response, so the earlier assertions about our having more officers on the frontline are simply not right.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that Humberside police—I do not think it is the only police force in this position—has been judged inadequate by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary? We have the lowest level of police officers since the 1970s. Will the shadow Minister reflect on what that means for neighbourhood policing?

Jack Dromey: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Surveys show that, increasingly, the public complain about a lack of visibility of local police officers. Neighbourhood policing is absolutely essential. It is not just about detecting criminals, but about preventing crime, diverting people from crime, building good community relationships, and bringing in people to co-operate in identifying criminals. Losing the benefits of neighbourhood policing will have an effect. At the most serious end of terrorist crime, the former head of counter-terrorism, Peter Clarke, said that neighbourhood policing is “the golden thread” that runs from the local to the global. He said that the patient building of good relationships with communities means that communities co-operate in identifying wrongdoing—in this case, it is wrongdoing of the worst possible kind.

Mr Hanson: Will my hon. Friend confirm that we are not just talking about crime? When we have floods in our communities, public order parades, and football matches, the police are the first port of call. Policing is not just about crime.

Jack Dromey: My right hon. Friend, who served with such distinction as a police Minister, is absolutely right. This is about the wider duties of the police service. The

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College of Policing has done some very interesting work. By the way, the National Audit Office has called on the Home Secretary to have a better understanding of what the police actually do. It is not just about that element that is focused on crime, but about the wider responsibilities.

The police, together with the fire service, the ambulance service, the Environment Agency and others, guarded premises to prevent looting during the floods. That is just one example of what they do. I have another example from last Saturday. I was deeply impressed to see West Midlands police, with other police services from West Mercia and Warwickshire, policing the pernicious Pegida attempt to march through Birmingham, keeping apart counter-demonstrators and those who were there in support of the march. They worked with the community and did a tremendous job. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right in what he said.

Debbie Abrahams: My hon. Friend might have heard me ask the Minister to comment on burglaries in Saddleworth, in which there has been almost a 50% increase. Does he wish to comment on what the Minister said? Greater Manchester police have just confirmed that there has been a reduction of 2,000 front-line posts.

Jack Dromey: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. If we look at the statistics overall, we see that areas of volume crime have gone down—I will come on to explain in more detail why Government claims about crime falling are simply not true. Car crime has gone down, and houses by and large are now more difficult to break into. Having said that, there are spates of burglaries all around the country. What is essential is good neighbourhood policing. Let me give an example from my own constituency. The admirable Sergeant Simon Hensley set up a canoe club on Brookvale lake. I literally launched it in a canoe—[Interruption.] It was one of my most terrifying moments as a Member of Parliament. Hundreds of young people joined the club, and very good relationships were formed. One benefit was that when there was an outbreak of burglary in Stockland Green, they came forward and said they knew who the bad lads were. Again, it is that neighbourhood policing that is so important. There is no substitute for it. It is the bedrock of policing in our country.

Mr Jackson: The hon. Gentleman is making a fair point. It would be churlish not to accept that there was progress around community policing, but that is not the whole story. Does he agree that one legacy of the previous Labour Government was an inordinate amount of bureaucracy and paperwork, which kept many front-line police officers in the station, processing data, rather than out catching criminals? This Government have tackled that, which is why we have seen a reduction in numbers and a significant reduction in recorded crime.

Jack Dromey: Let me give a straight answer. I think that we did prescribe too much and too often. It was right therefore that, by consensus across political parties, the previous Government became less prescriptive. Certain things will always need to be prescribed, but I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s point.

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Catherine West: Does my hon. Friend agree that, in relation to the very serious act of gun crime, neighbourhood policing is crucial in piecing together all the small bits of information that might secure a conviction? Will he assist me in highlighting the tragic shooting in Wood Green that I mentioned earlier? There are orphans who wish to know what happened to their father, who, in a case of mistaken identity, was shot in a drive-by shooting as he stepped out of his workplace. They would like to have that crime solved.

Jack Dromey: It is difficult to comment on the detailed circumstances of that crime other than to say that, of course, what we need is capacity to catch those people who are guilty of murder, which is one of the most heinous crimes. I ask my hon. Friend to forgive me if I repeat what I said in a previous answer, but key to that is good neighbourhood policing, as it is vital for intelligence gathering. If we run down neighbourhood policing, the inevitable consequence is that it is more difficult to detect criminals of that kind.

Stephen Hammond: I agree with the shadow Minister that neighbourhood policing is key. Does he agree with the borough commander whom I met again last Friday, who made the point that although the numbers in some of the neighbourhood units are down, they are now dedicated to that unit and that neighbourhood, so although numbers are lower, they are more effective?

Jack Dromey: That depends what we are talking about. For example, the West Midlands police service has sought to maintain dedicated numbers in high risk, high demand areas, but taken as a whole the numbers have been going down. There will be variations at any one point in time, but the evidence is clear: there has been a remorseless reduction in the number of police officers and a hollowing-out of neighbourhood policing.

Several hon. Members rose

Jack Dromey: I have given way about nine times. Let me make a little more progress, then I will gladly give way.

I celebrate the fact that, as the police bravery awards show, we are policed by ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things, often in the most difficult circumstances. They deserve better than what happened in the run-up to the comprehensive spending review. Yesterday I was privileged to speak, together with Conservative Ministers, at the 20th anniversary of the docklands bomb. Afterwards I talked to police officers, brave men and women, with an outstanding sense of duty and a powerful sense of obligation to their community. They talked to me about the mounting pressures they face—the challenges of counter-terrorism and the impact of the past five years—and they were dismayed that their Government had contemplated cutting the police service in half. As I will come on to say, that is precisely what had been contemplated.

In my constituency, Erdington, I saw one PCSO in tears—loyal, long-serving, much loved—describing how awful the uncertainty had been in the build-up to the comprehensive spending review. It should never have happened. After cutting 25% in the last Parliament, right up until the night before the comprehensive spending review the Government were contemplating a further 22% cut in this Parliament. The Home Secretary failed

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to stand up for the police service. We were on the brink of catastrophe, as a police officer said to me but yesterday, which would have had very serious consequences, demonstrating a disregard for the first duty of any Government, maintaining the safety and security of its citizens.

Under pressure from the public, the police and the Labour party, the Chancellor U-turned and a promise was made. I shall read it out, as the Policing Minister has clearly forgotten it. The Chancellor said:

“I am today announcing that there will be no cuts in the police budget at all. There will be real-terms protection for police funding. The police protect us, and we are going to protect the police.”—[Official Report, 25 November 2015; Vol. 602, c. 1373.]

In parallel, there were big cuts elsewhere—for example, to Border Force—but let us examine that statement to the House. That promise to the public, to the police and to Parliament has been broken. The Chancellor said he would protect the police, but now we know that police budgets are still being cut.

The force covering my constituency, West Midlands police, is excellent. In the next financial year it will suffer a £10.2 million cut in real terms, contrary to what the Policing Minister said earlier. Yes, the £5 mechanism is being used, but it will raise only £3.3 million, so there will be a £7 million overall cut in real terms.

Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab): On the precept, is my hon. Friend aware that a force such as Northumbria, which, under our excellent police and crime commissioner, Vera Baird, has made every saving possible, has cut into its reserves and has had the lowest precept hitherto, has had to accept that £5 maximum with great regret, just to try to maintain services?

Jack Dromey: Indeed. I pay tribute to somebody who was a great parliamentarian and who has been a great police and crime commissioner. The work that Vera Baird has done on domestic violence and, more generally, on violence against women and girls is admirable and first class. My hon. Friend is right. As I shall say later, Northumbria, like the West Midlands force, has been hit twice as hard as leafy Tory shire police forces down south.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that some of our police forces are stretched just by the crime that they are currently dealing with? In Salford we have had 19 shootings in a period of 19 or 20 months. On some weekends there have been four shootings on the same day. Protection of the public is important, but should our police force be so stretched in Greater Manchester when they have that to deal with?

Jack Dromey: There has been an £8.5 million cut in real terms, contrary to what was said at the Dispatch Box. After a generation of progress, and despite the heroic efforts of the police and crime commissioner, Tony Lloyd, and the Greater Manchester police service, we are seeing profoundly worrying signs of crime starting to rise once again.

Andrew Gwynne: My hon. Friend is right to point out the sleight of hand by the Government. The real unfairness to areas such as the west midlands and Greater Manchester is this: we have a relatively low council tax base, so the precept brings in relatively small amounts of funding—nothing like the amounts of funding that are being cut

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by the central Government grant. Added to that, those are the areas that tend to have higher crime rates, so need is not matched by resources. It is a double whammy for the urban areas and it penalises places such as Greater Manchester.

Jack Dromey: My hon. Friend sets out the case powerfully. There is no question but that need does not determine the way this Government allocate funds, whether to the police service or to local government. I will return to that point.

There was another broken promise. The Prime Minister said in 2010 that he would protect the frontline. Not true—12,000 front-line officers have since been lost. It was a broken promise and, to add insult to injury, not only are the Tories continuing to slash police funding, but they are expecting the public to pay more for it. The Tory sums rely upon local people being charged an extra £369 million in council tax. Our citizens and the communities we serve are being asked to pay more for less.

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): In a forward-looking county such as Hertfordshire, which has the pressures of supporting London and Luton and major roads to police, it has been possible to use more police on the frontline and more modern methods. In Hertfordshire the police precept is being cut as the funding settlement is perfectly adequate.

Jack Dromey: Every week I see innovation in the police service; of that there is no doubt. In relation to road policing, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers, there are profoundly worrying signs that the progress made over many years, particularly under the Labour Government, in reducing road deaths, for example, is starting to reverse as a consequence of the cuts in road policing and other aspects, such as CCTV cameras. I am totally in favour of innovation and greater collaboration—for example, between the police and fire service—but ultimately there is a simple, grim reality: the remorseless downward pressure on our police service. The people who are paying the price are not just our police officers, but the public we serve.

Sir Oliver Heald rose

Jack Dromey: I shall refer later to old Macmillanites. On the basis that I believe the hon. and learned Gentleman to be one, I give way.

Sir Oliver Heald: The hon. Gentleman is very generous, though I shall not comment on that. Does he agree that police force reserves around the country are substantial—Hertfordshire has £48 million, but in one case the figure is as high as £71 million.

Jack Dromey: If I can put it this way, that is a canard, as we used to say in the T and G. Of course it is right that reserves should be used. Looking at the pattern across the country, however, why are they typically built up? The reasons range from investment in bringing three or four buildings into one, as the West Midlands police service has done in Birmingham, through better technological equipping of our police service—we need a technological revolution in policing—to planning ahead to recruit more police officers so that, even if the overall numbers are falling, the service is at least bringing in

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some fresh blood. If we look at the various studies that have been done of police reserves, including by the National Audit Office, we see that the line of argument has never stood up that all will be well if only the police use the hundreds of millions of pounds that are somehow there.

Opposition Members are with the police when they say efficiency savings can be made. Crucially, in the run-up to the last general election, we identified £172 million that could be saved through mandated procurement alone. Other measures included full cost recovery on gun licences, ending the bizarre arrangement whereby the police have to subsidise the granting of gun licences. If the Government had embraced that plan, we would have saved 10,000 police officers in the first three years of this Parliament.

Efficiency savings are one thing, but, ultimately, decisions have to be made. We listened to the police, and in the light of the tragic attacks in Paris, they said, “We think we can make up to 5% efficiency savings”—I stress again that we ourselves identified how one could do that. However, it was clear beyond any doubt that the chilling message from the police, who are so vital in maintaining our security, was that going beyond that would compromise public safety. I will never forget the powerful letter from Mark Rowley, Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism, who said that, post-Paris, we have to look at things afresh. Ultimately, numbers matter.

Rehman Chishti: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jack Dromey: No, forgive me if I finish this important point.

Numbers matter. In the light of attacks such as Paris, we need surge capacity on the one hand, and neighbourhood policing for intelligence gathering on the other hand. We also need more firearms officers; we have 6,000, which is 1,000 down from 2008. We listened to the police.

Several hon. Members rose—

Jack Dromey: I will give way to somebody who has not already spoken.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): It is all well and good bandying numbers around and saying we must have the capability to make a surge in the number of armed officers. However, if the leader of the Labour party is to be believed, what are those officers going to do? Just wave their guns at these people and say, “Oh, please stop what you’re doing.” Will the hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to dissociate himself from his leader’s remarks about what armed policemen can and cannot do?

Jack Dromey: The Opposition—all of us—have a very simple view. Perhaps I can draw a parallel with the deeply moving statement I heard one of the Parisian officers make about when he and his colleagues went into the Bataclan club. Innocent men and women, including British citizens, were being terrified by jihadis practising the most appalling form of terrorism. That officer said, “I had to make a split-second judgment. I made it, and as a consequence I saved lives.” That is our very, very clear position.

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Andrew Stephenson: I am slightly confused, and I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman can help me. He says that savings can be made. Today’s report includes a real-terms increase in anti-terror funding. Why, therefore, is the Labour party opposing this very generous settlement?

Jack Dromey: After Paris, the Government made a series of announcements—there was also one that pre-dated Paris, but that was about the Investigatory Powers Bill. We have to get the balance right, but we said, “Yes, we support the Government’s broad approach”—that we need enhanced means, for example, to combat those who use the dark net. We supported the Government in making £1.9 billion more available for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. We supported them when they said that additional resources would be made available for the British Army for counter-terrorism. Ultimately, however, it came down to this: Chris Sims, the former chief constable in the west midlands, and Bernard Hogan-Howe here in London say that the majority of the leads that result in the detection of terrorists come through good neighbourhood policing. If we have continuing downward pressure on neighbourhood policing and the hollowing out of neighbourhood policing, that will impact, in Mark Rowley’s words, on the eyes and ears of the counter-terrorism effort. It is not enough, therefore, simply to equip the special services and the special forces with additional powers; neighbourhood policing is key on every front, particularly counter-terrorism.

The simple reality is that neighbourhood policing will continue to be hollowed out. Some 18,000 officers have been lost since the current Prime Minister took office in 2010. Some 1,300 have gone in the last six months alone. Today confirms that the Tories’ back-door cuts to police forces will inevitably lead to further police officer losses. It appears that the Government are oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Hugh Orde, the former head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, as it was called, is right when he says that a generation of progress is being reversed.

Police in the 21st century face the new challenges of terrorism, cybercrime and child sexual exploitation and abuse. Undoubtedly, the threats to British security in the 21st century demand a modernised, more responsive and better equipped police service, not a smaller one. In defence of the Government’s position, the Police Minister said crime is falling, but that is not true: it is changing. In July, when an estimated 6 million cyber and online crimes are included in the official statistics, crime will nigh on double.

Resources are diminishing, just when demand is soaring. We face not just the three challenges that I mentioned; police recorded crime is rising, and some of the most serious crimes have soared to the highest levels in years. There has been a major increase in knife crime, which is up 9%. There has been a 27% rise in violent crime, including a 14% increase in the murder rate, while sexual offences have gone up 36%. Reported rape figures are the highest since 2003. Victims are also being let down, with half of cases closed without a suspect being identified.

Increasingly, the police are left to pick up the pieces, as other public agencies are slashed. Who, for example, goes after looked-after children if council social services departments are badly depleted?

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Barbara Keeley: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Jack Dromey: I am going to conclude my remarks, because I have been—forgive me if I say so—generous with interventions, and I want hon. Members to have the maximum time to make contributions to this important debate.

The Home Secretary does not seem to understand the challenges to the modern police service or its complexity. Despite massive and growing challenges, not only are police budgets being cut, but the funding formula fiasco in which the Home Office misallocated hundreds of millions of pounds of police funding means that the doomed review of the unfair funding formula has been delayed for another year. We have a stop-gap settlement of only a year, with more uncertainty and more unfairness. My force—West Midlands—and Northumbria face cuts that are double those that Surrey will receive.

As I was saying earlier when the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) intervened, we have had the tradition of Robert Peel, but there has also been the tradition of Harold Macmillan: a tradition of noblesse oblige, of care, of meeting need, and of serving the national interest in one nation. Macmillanites are increasingly an endangered species in the Conservative party, because both in this settlement and in the local government settlement that will be debated later, there has been a grotesque unfairness of approach where need has been ignored in favour of political heartlands being looked after.

I want to ask the Minister three questions. First, on an important detail, where exactly is the funding for the international capital city grant coming from? Why, in the published information, is it not included in the core police settlement figures? Secondly, when will he finally replace the broken funding formula and give forces the long-term certainty they need to modernise and address the challenges of the 21st century? He expects to implement the new formula in the 2017-18 financial year, but we will need a new formula by the end of this year, at the very latest. Will he even begin to make progress on that in the near future? Thirdly, when will he stop this financial rollercoaster and finally be frank with the public and police about the cuts that he and the Home Secretary intend to impose?

Yes, we will vote against this police grant settlement, because for Labour Members the first duty of any Government and of any Parliament is the safety and security of their citizens. Yes, we will vote against it, because that is what is at risk if we continue down this path of remorseless reduction in the numbers of police officers. Quite simply, the time has come to put public safety first and to cut crime, not cut cops.

2.11 pm

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): I would like to say a few words about police funding and, in particular, its significance for policing in Cumbria. There are two key issues: first, the police budget itself, which we are discussing; and secondly, the police funding formula, which is for the future but of equal importance. Before doing so, I would like to make one or two general observations.

It is well documented that Carlisle and Cumbria experienced serious flooding before Christmas. This was a very large local emergency. The Cumbrian

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constabulary rose to that challenge brilliantly. Its officers showed leadership, offered practical support and co-ordinated the emergency services. They also showed a lot of empathy. I remember meeting one PC who had himself been flooded, and instead of being at home, he was out there on duty helping everybody else. That demonstrated to me the importance that the police have over and above their normal duties. I pay tribute to the Cumbrian police and crime commissioner, Richard Rhodes. He has led Cumbria extremely well in a mature and professional way, and he has cross-party and widespread support throughout the county. This again demonstrates to me that it was right to create the PCCs. They should continue, and I will certainly support their continuation.

On the two issues I mentioned, I first turn to police funding in general. The House will recall the debate initiated by the Opposition—it has already been mentioned—calling for a 10% cut in police funding. I welcome the Government’s decision not to follow the Opposition’s lead but to maintain and, indeed, increase funding for the police, in what we all recognise as still very difficult financial circumstances. This will be welcomed in Cumbria and has certainly been welcomed by the Cumbrian constabulary. It will also be welcomed across the country, in recognition of the fact that the police are an important part of our society. They are the lead emergency service. Given concerns about security and safety, this funding will give confidence to our communities.

On the important issue of the police funding formula, I refer back to my earlier comments. The floods brought home to me how important it is that we have a Cumbrian police force, because it offered leadership, local knowledge and an ability to respond that I am not convinced would have been there had it been part of a larger, more remote force with headquarters elsewhere. The funding formula as consulted on would have had a dramatic and negative impact on Cumbria. Indeed, my local newspaper recognised this and ran a campaign that attracted a huge amount of support. That again demonstrated to me that support for the police and for a Cumbrian police force was deep-rooted.

I was therefore delighted that the Minister was in listening mode when he took on board the potential problems and issues for places such as Cumbria and agreed to postpone, or pull back from, going ahead with his consultation on introducing a new formula. I now wait for the new consultation to come out. I take this opportunity to emphasise the key issues for my county—primarily, rurality and sparsity. There are half a million people in Cumbria, but if one took a map of Cumbria and superimposed it over London and part of the south-east, there would be 20 million. It is a huge area. We have poor infrastructure, with a large mountain range right across the middle of the county, and we are a long way from any urban centre. Manchester is two hours away; Glasgow is an hour and a half away; and even Newcastle is over an hour away. I therefore look forward to the consultation, and I will certainly participate in it.

I give full support to the Government’s financing of our police as set out in the current settlement. I am glad to see that we are still the party of the police and the party of law and order.

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2.16 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson), who has put forward some important points for discussion. He may claim that his party is the party of the police and law and order, but let us make this an all-party issue, so that we can all praise the work of local police forces and all support the principles of the rule of law, and of law and order. I think that is something that will go across the whole House.

The Minister began by paying tribute to the appointment of the new Serjeant at Arms, who was formerly at the Ministry of Justice but has now taken his place in the House. I join the Minister in welcoming his appointment, not just because of his huge qualities, but because he is the first ethnic minority Serjeant at Arms in the history of Parliament—though of course he was appointed absolutely on merit.

Mike Penning: As the Serjeant at Arms was not in his place when I paid tribute to him earlier, Mr Deputy Speaker, may I repeat my tribute to him? Not only did I have the honour of giving him a reference for this job, but he comes from one of the great regiments of the British Army.

Keith Vaz: Those are two wonderful recommendations.

Jack Dromey rose

Keith Vaz: I see that we will now have another tribute to the Serjeant at Arms from the shadow Policing Minister.

Jack Dromey: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Now that the Serjeant at Arms is in his place, I would like to say that I was privileged to shake his hand the other day. He is deeply welcome to this House; it is great for us to have him here. It is a long and honourable role within this House. Like my right hon. Friend, I celebrate the fact that we have the first BME Serjeant at Arms—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Mr Dromey, can I just help out? The Front Benchers took well over an hour and there has been plenty of time. Everybody has welcomed the Serjeant at Arms, and so it should be. This is a debate on policing, and I know that the Chair of the Select Committee will not want to wander too far away again, because we do want to get through it, and we only have until three minutes past 4.

Keith Vaz: Absolutely, Mr Deputy Speaker. We now move on, your having encouraged everyone to do so, to the debate on the police grant.

I am very pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) in his place, because when he was Policing Minister, additional funding was provided, and the House therefore voted in support of every one of the motions that he put before it.

May I, like others, pay tribute to my local police force? Tomorrow, the Leicestershire police force will celebrate its 180th anniversary at a ceremony in Leicester cathedral and then at the Guildhall. I pay tribute to my chief constable, Simon Cole, for the excellent work that he does, and to Sir Clive Loader, the police and crime commissioner. I want to say how sorry I am that Sir Clive will be standing down at the next election, because

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he has made a great contribution, on an all-party basis, to tackling crime in the local area. They have made a great team.

We need to acknowledge, as others have done, what happens at a local level. Here we are in Parliament talking about global figures, but policing is about what happens to local people and what happens on the front line. We in the Home Affairs Committee are conscious of that fact when we discuss some of the big issues. As I have said to the Minister, the police funding formula means that my area is £5.6 million a year less well off than equivalent authorities, such as Derbyshire. The police and crime commissioner has recommended an uplift of 1.99%, which is the maximum amount permissible without a local referendum. On behalf of my local area, I welcome the fact that we see no further cuts in the figures that have been provided. However, as has been said, there are 17,000 fewer police officers than there were when the Government took office, and that is a matter of concern.

As I have said to the Minister, I welcome the fact that he has decided to tackle police funding and to look at the problems with the formula. He came before the House and, in his own words—he was modest, as always—ate “humble pie”. He recognised that the whole funding formula procedure was a bit of a “shambles”, as the Select Committee stated in its report. I know that the shadow Minister would like to claim credit, on behalf of the Labour party, for stopping the Government in their tracks, but he should remember that the Home Affairs Committee conducted a thorough inquiry into the matter. One of our members, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), is here following her astonishing assault on Assange during Prime Minister’s questions. I am not saying that the shadow Minister should not take a little bit of the credit, but he is not a Liberal Democrat; he does not have to take all the credit. The Select Committee had hearings, we considered evidence and we concluded that the process was, in the words of the report, a “shambles,” that needed to be looked at again. The Minister came before the House and agreed. It took Andrew White, the chief executive to the office of the Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner, to tell the country that the formula was wrong; senior, learned and intelligent people in the Minister’s Department were unable to do so.

I wrote to the Minister on 1 February to ask him for an update on the consultation on the police funding formula. He began an important process by agreeing to consult, and the Committee set out in our report the procedure that we thought he should follow. In our 10th recommendation, we even suggested a number of organisations that could be part of the process. I know that he respects the work of the Committee, because he has said so on a number of occasions.

The Minister has told me that he wrote to me yesterday, but that letter has not arrived. When we discuss changes in policing, we talk about investment in IT, and I wonder whether the Minister’s private office might invest in email, because emailing me the letter would have been a quick way to ensure that I received it before the debate. We are all watching our emails and waiting for this letter, which was supposed to have been sent yesterday. I know that several of the Minister’s officials are here today, and perhaps nobody is in the office sending out emails. I would like to receive that letter, so that I can

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share it with other members of the Committee. I do not know what it will tell us, but I hope that it will say that the consultation process is about to begin. We do not want to run out of time.

I believe the Minister when he says that he wants the widest possible consultation. He is right to say that he met me and every other Member who came to see him, and that is the right thing to do. However, unless we start the process and consult the chiefs, the police and crime commissioners, the National Police Chiefs Council and other interested parties, including Members of the House, we will not reach a final conclusion. Perhaps the letter will arrive before I finish speaking. We do not know, but we would like it to come as soon as possible.

Barbara Keeley: My right hon. Friend is making a thoughtful and effective speech. As part of the consultation, will he and the Home Affairs Committee take on board the fact, which I raised earlier with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), that some police forces are peculiarly stretched by a local crime surge? In Salford, we have suffered from 21 shootings over 18 months. The hollowing out of neighbourhood policing, which we have talked about in the debate, is serious when the police have so much more to do because of crime surges such as the one we have seen in Salford. That really ought to be addressed.

Keith Vaz: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have visited her constituency, and I know that the issues she talks about are important. At the end of the day, we need to give the police the resources that we need, but decisions about such things have to be handled locally. She is right to say that the problem needs to be addressed and monitored.

I hope that the Minister might cover, in his closing remarks, the extension of the contract of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. It is important that we do not get into a position similar to that with water cannon, where the Mayor of London waited a whole year for a decision to be made on whether they should be used. The commissioner is due to appear before the Select Committee on 23 February to discuss that and other matters, and I hope that, by the time he appears, the Home Secretary will have written back to the Mayor to give some indication on the subject. Such stability and security at the top of the Met, which represents a fifth of our country’s policing budget and numbers, is extremely important. I remind the Minister that such decisions need to be made, in the interests of the policing service, the commissioner and Parliament.

I want to raise some final points. The first is the wider issue of what exactly we want the police to do. One of the recommendations in our report was that the Government consider the question: what are the drivers of crime and police demand? Of course, we live in tough times, and the Government will blame the Opposition for what they did in government, but the issue remains that Parliament and the Government will always look carefully at resources. The police service needs to know exactly what the Government are prepared to fund. Are they prepared to fund more work on immigration? Police officers nowadays act as though they are immigration officers, because they have to deal with many issues that

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they did not deal with previously. The Minister and the House know how many cases that reach the custody suite involve people who are suffering from mental illness and should not be there in the first place, which means that police officers are being used as social workers. We know that meetings with local authorities and others, and big inquiries, take up a huge amount of time.

When we begin the consultation on police funding and the new formula, the Minister needs to tell police forces exactly what the Government are prepared to fund. I know that the Government have turned their face against the idea of a royal commission, which the Committee favoured in the last Parliament. We need to look at what we want our police officers to do. They cannot do everything, but that is what they are being asked to do at the moment.

Rebecca Harris (Castle Point) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we have come to over-rely on our police for a lot of things? For example, there was some controversy in my constituency this year because the police were not able to police the Armistice Day march. When it came to it, however, plenty of local councillors and other volunteers were more than able to do that without using police time and resources, and it was a great success.

Keith Vaz: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. There are other people who can step in. As those of us who support football clubs—including Leicester City, who are currently leading the premier league—know, there are a lot of police officers on duty at football matches, but it is possible that part of their work could be done by stewards who are not warranted officers. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that we do not need warranted officers to do everything.

The Minister has a real opportunity this year to set his mark on the history of policing. He was prepared to tackle the issue of the police funding formula, and received the brickbats that people get, because there are winners and losers, when they try to deal with vested interests. This is a big opportunity: let us decide on a set of principles as a model that can be used for a generation. To do that, he must consult and he must begin such a consultation immediately.

2.29 pm

Rebecca Harris (Castle Point) (Con): I am very grateful for the opportunity to add my comments to this important debate. Policing and local policing is a subject about which I feel very strongly and in which I take a great interest.

Policing and crime rates are a huge concern to my constituents, as they are to all our constituents. My postbag, as regularly, I am sure, as those of other hon. Members, contains letters from constituents asking what the Government are doing to bring down crime rates. I welcome the reduction in crime during recent years, but I recognise the need to make savings. I commend the Home Office on the very tough decisions it took during the last Parliament. I express huge welcome for the announcement in the autumn statement that we will certainly keep police funding on a stable basis. I particularly welcome the flexibility over the precept, especially for forces with the lowest precepts in the country, such as Essex.

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Given my constituents’ natural concerns about current crime rates, I took it upon myself to enrol in the police service parliamentary scheme. I strongly recommend it to all hon. Members. It is quite a time commitment—at least 20 days are spent in different parts of the police force—but it has given me a very strong and valuable insight into the true pressures on our police, the challenges for modern policing, and the changes and innovations that the police need to bring in and are bringing in. I want to put on the record my enormous gratitude to Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh of Essex Police and all those I have been out with. They have made me feel extremely welcome and have been very supportive.

I have had some extraordinary opportunities on the scheme. I have been out with the Juno teams, which are tackling domestic violence, and seen for myself the enormous efforts made by the police in their approach to domestic violence. For example, I have seen how quickly they have adopted our new stalking legislation and how closely focused they are on it. That is part of their approach to hidden harms.

Victoria Atkins: Is my hon. Friend aware of the welcome police officers have given to the introduction of on-body cameras? One of the great hopes for the cameras is that they will greatly assist in prosecuting domestic violence cases.

Rebecca Harris: Absolutely. I have seen officers in action with their cameras, which they can use, for example, when entering the scene of a domestic dispute to which they have been called. As they arrive, they can record evidence of their own that they can use in court. When the victim of domestic violence is, for whatever reason, nervous, reluctant or intimidated about coming forward, they can prosecute on her behalf. That is an enormous innovation. It relies on the police remembering to turn the cameras on, however, so they are doing good training on that. It is a great innovation, and the police are very pleased to have it.

I have visited a custody suite. Hon. Members will understand my reluctance to be photographed anywhere near the cells. I can well imagine the comments on webpages about the picture of any Member of Parliament in the cells. I have seen the pressures that the police face there, and the teething processes involved in trying, not without difficulty, to modernise and to move to new technology. I have been out with CID, and I have seen the forensic labs. I also went to a drugs factory, which was very interesting. A Member of Parliament does not often get the opportunity to go into a cannabis factory. I have also seen how the police are dealing with the problem of modern-day slavery, which they were not geared up to deal with in previous decades. I have seen the sensitivity with which they approach finding out about what they call the “gardener”, who is sometimes left in such factories without any real means of escape.

There are big changes in the way that our police are policing and big differences in the kind of crimes they have to police. They are spectacular in standing up to the challenge of doing all that in difficult funding circumstances. I must say that I have been overwhelming struck by the sheer commitment and dedication of our police officers. I definitely expected to find professionalism, but I must admit that I did not anticipate just how

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passionate they are about their work and the extent to which they really care about the communities they serve. Again, I put on the record my thanks to them and to Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh for helping with the scheme, and I say to hon. Members, “Do it.” All hon. Members should take that opportunity, because it makes a huge difference.

Essex police, whose motto is “Sworn to Serve”, has long been an efficient force. I could wax lyrical about Essex police for a long time, because when I was in publishing, we produced a book about the history of the constabulary. It is a very long, honourable and proud constabulary. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has repeatedly found that Essex police force provides better value for money than other police forces. It already has a very close programme of collaboration with Kent police, as was mentioned earlier, including significant sharing of back-office functions, and it is collaborating increasingly closely with other forces in the east of England. It also has one of the lowest reserves in the country, so it has not had the option of absorbing extra costs and pressures by reducing its reserves. That makes the fact that it has managed to be so successful in what it does all the more remarkable. It is right, however, that it should continually look for efficiencies to ensure that public money is spent on keeping the public safe.

Andrew Stephenson: My hon. Friend is making a very effective point about her local force. If I am called to speak, I intend to say very similar things about efficiencies in Lancashire police. Will she join me in welcoming the £55 million from the police innovation fund, which will help forces to continue to modernise and to create efficiencies in the way they operate?

Rebecca Harris: I absolutely welcome the announcement of those funds. A lot of things are already going on in the police, but it does cost money just to modernise and make improvements. I wish we did not have such an enormous debt in this country, but ultimately, in a strange way, the drive to create efficiencies means that, when our economy is back on an even keel and the money is again flowing in, our police service will be enormously efficient. Old practices, which have been stuck in place for many years, will have been ironed out.

John Stevenson: On that point, does my hon. Friend agree that such innovations and making our police forces far more efficient have been due to the introduction of police and crime commissioners?

Rebecca Harris: Absolutely. I will come on to that point later, but the innovation of police and crime commissioners was an enormous achievement of the last Parliament. My police and crime commissioner has been highly visible, and much more so than the old police board that he replaced. To this day, people do not realise that such police boards even existed, but they know the name of their police and crime commissioner and are able to approach him.

Essex police force remains very keen to see a review of the funding formula that determines individual police force allocations across the country. The changes to the formula proposed by the Home Office last year would have meant an increase of more than £10 million in the funding for Essex police. We hope that a review later this year will increase the amount of central funding for Essex.

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As I have said, Essex is an area with an historically low policing precept. I believe it is about £140 on average, compared with a national average of more than £180 for a band D householder. Essex police force is very proud to say that it has been a lean and efficient force for a long time. I recently surveyed my residents to ask whether they would be prepared to pay extra if that meant additional officers and greater police visibility. Unsurprisingly, the response was of course overwhelmingly positive.

Because of the difficulties of the existing rules about how PCCs can put across their case in a referendum and about how such a referendum is triggered by a rise of 2% or higher, there has been real concern in Essex, with such a low precept, that we would only ever be able to have an increase of 1.99%. That would embed, in perpetuity, a disadvantage for such a lower-cost force compared with more expensive ones. I am very grateful to the Chancellor and Home Office Ministers for listening to that point. The Government are now allowing police and crime commissioners in areas with the lowest precepts to have flexibility in raising their precept. In Essex, that has made it possible to raise the base budget for Essex police by £3.8 million to £266.3 million this year. Frankly, it is right for forces with the lowest precepts to raise their precepts on local council tax payers, rather than call on central Government and national resources to get other members of the public, who may already be paying a higher price for the police in their local area, to provide funding through a higher grant allocation. This is the right and fair way forward, and it is understood by local residents.

The current budget includes increased investment in specialist police officers and police staff to tackle child sexual exploitation, child abuse, serious sexual offences and domestic abuse. There will also be an increased investigative capacity to tackle those horrible crimes and greater support and safeguarding for victims. We now hear so much more about those hidden harms, which we did not used to talk about and recognise in the same way. As we have heard in this debate, the figures for domestic abuse, child abuse and other hidden harms have been rising, which has contributed to the appearance that violent crime is rising. I would contend, as I am sure would most police officers in my area, that these crimes are not rising. What is rising is the confidence of people to come forward and report them, knowing that they will be dealt with sympathetically. The police are taking a very different approach to such crimes and have had training in how to deal with them. They also wear cameras now, as my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) said, and other changes in legislation have been made.

Within the budget, there will be greater investment in the training that is needed to equip officers to investigate internet-enabled crime and cybercrime, which are affecting individuals and businesses across the country. That subject is very topical this week.

I welcome the autumn statement and the funding review, which will enable Essex police to keep many more PCSOs than it had planned and to make many positive innovations. Essex is lucky to have been served by such a fantastic police and crime commissioner in Nick Alston. I say unashamedly that he is the best police and crime commissioner in the country. He was recognised by his peers in an election on that basis. He

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has served as the inaugural police and crime commissioner at a time of real change and financial difficulty. We would not be in such good shape in Essex were it not for his sterling support for and challenge to the police. Far from being a faceless police board of the great and the good that no one knows about, his name is incredibly well known. I have only been able to accept his resignation because the highly able Roger Hirst is standing as the Conservative candidate in the police and crime commissioner elections.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I have allowed the hon. Lady to cover a broad scope, but I do not want to get into campaigning and electioneering. This must not become an election campaign, rather than a debate on the police funding grant.

Rebecca Harris: I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for your indulgence.

Despite the huge debt burden this country faces, I am proud that the Conservative Government have managed to protect police spending as much as they have. I very much welcome today’s motion.

2.42 pm

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. May I join in the welcome to the Serjeant at Arms? We served at the Ministry of Justice together many years ago. I very much welcome his presence today.

This debate is about the police grant—an issue that the Policing Minister skirted around. He talked about a range of issues, including rationalisation and making the police service more efficient, but he avoided the central question of the level of police funding that the Government are committed to for the next few years.

However, I do not want to start on a negative note. On a positive note, I share with the Minister and the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) an admiration for the work of the police and the professionalism of the police service. They do a marvellous job. We must never forget that the police put their lives on the line every day. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood), as a Merseyside MP, will note that, because we recently lost an officer in Merseyside. Anyone who has been to the National Police Memorial Day, as the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and I have, will know that the police do a great job and put their lives on the line every day.

This debate is about the level of financial support for the police service across England and Wales. It is clear from what my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington said that the level of support is not sufficient to meet the needs of the police service over the next few years. Nobody will deny that crime has fallen in certain key areas, and that the police are trying their best to reduce crime in key areas. However, a key point has been missed in this debate: policing is not just about crime and whether crime is falling or otherwise.

The hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) put his finger on it when he spoke about the difficult circumstances that Cumbria has faced with the recent flooding. In such circumstances, the police are the first port of call. When there are public order events, such as

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football matches and parades—my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington spoke about the recent events in Birmingham—the police are the first port of call. When there are road accidents or deaths in our communities, whether in houses or on the streets, the police are the first port of call. Because social services and health services are not always operational at weekends, on mental health issues the police are the first port of call 24 hours a day.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington spoke about the golden thread of neighbourhood policing that runs through the service. The police are about reassurance, visibility and evidence collecting, not just about solving crime. My worry is that today’s settlement will put the level of service at risk. No one can deny that the service is under pressure.

I happen to live in a relatively low-crime area in north Wales. The police force there does a great job under Mark Polin. I met Inspector Dave Jolley in my local area last week. The police are doing a great job and the level of crime is relatively low. However, the budget is putting great pressure on the level of service. It is important to examine that, rather than to duck around the issues, as the Minister did today.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): This Government clearly have a small-state Conservative view of the world, as we have seen in local government, which will be changed radically by this week’s settlement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that what the average member of the public wants is the reassurance of having police in their communities, and that what is being proposed in the small-state Conservative world that is being put forward is not what our voters want?

Mr Hanson: The constituents of north Wales and, I am sure, of Durham want a visible police force that engages with them locally, works with them locally and provides reassurance, as well as solving and preventing crime. The Minister has missed something extremely important. He has focused on crime falling in certain areas, which I accept it has—I will come on to the areas where crime has not fallen—but policing is about much more than solving crime.

Barbara Keeley: My right hon. Friend is making some very effective points. I have already raised the issue of gun crime, particularly in Greater Manchester. That will not be solved in any way other than through neighbourhood policing and working with the community. Our outgoing chief constable, Sir Peter Fahy, said before leaving his post that relationship building was needed with the community, so that people were confident to come forward and give the police information, without which the police cannot solve the gun crime that we have. In Moss Side, it took a long period of building such relationships to get that information out. That is the key point.

Mr Hanson: My hon. Friend makes her point very well. As she says, we need not just high-level policing but community intelligence and reassurance, and people who know their communities and who work at a local level.

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The Minister made great play of efficiency. Nobody will deny that we can make the service more efficient. He is absolutely right about the sharing of buildings and about procurement. He knows about the air contract and the vehicle contract. Those are reforms that we should be making to save money. However, the bottom line is that those efficiencies are not compensating local police forces for the long-term reduction in central Government grant. My police force in north Wales has made efficiency savings of £19.65 million over the past four years, but that has not compensated it for the loss of grant.

The central point I want to put to the Minister, as I said in an intervention on him, is that the reductions in central Government grant are being compensated for by rises in the local precept. My local force area in north Wales has had a grant reduction of 18% over the four years. At the same time, there has been a 14.5% rise in the precept. My constituents are paying more in local taxes at a time when they are losing money in central Government grant.

The point, which my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) understands, is that the poorest areas do not have the council tax base that richer areas have to raise that amount of resource. A 1% or 2% rise in—dare I say it?—the constituency or council area where we are now, Westminster, will raise a hell of a lot more than a 1% or 2% rise in a community such as mine in north-east Wales. When the grant is cut to forces such as North Wales police, and we are expected to raise the local precept, it means that my constituents pay more locally for something that should be provided as part of a national service, whereby richer areas contribute to crime reduction in poorer areas or, indeed, in higher-crime areas. It is important that the Minister recognises that it is not simply a case of reducing the grant and hoping that we can raise that local precept, which he did not mention in any detail today, but of having a fair settlement that meets the needs of poorer communities or areas where crime is higher.

It is important to place it on the record that, under the previous Labour Government, there were 18,000 more police officers than we have now. Crime consistently fell under that Labour Government. If we could look again, in the next three to four years while the Minister holds office, at how we respond to not only the efficiency agenda but the central Government grant agenda, he could do a great deal to help reduce crime and build reassurance.

The Minister mentioned crime falling but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington said, violent crime has increased by 27% in the past year. On victim outcomes, for half the offences recorded in 2014-15, the case was closed without a single suspect being identified. Hate crime, disability crime, sexual offences and violence against women are starting to increase. There has been a 36% increase in sexual offences. For historical reasons, the reporting of sexual offences is also rising. I accept that car crime, shoplifting and other forms of crime are falling. Good—I am pleased about that, and we want crime to continue to be driven down. However, the Minister cannot avoid the fact that the funding settlement will mean at least a standstill for some authorities, and at worst, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington mentioned, a massive cut, particularly for

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those authorities that have the highest crime, the greatest challenge and the lowest council tax base from which to draw the resources.

It is a little complacent of the Minister to say that all will be well because crime has fallen and forces are managing. My plea to him is to drive efficiency forward still further and perhaps even consider mergers, looking at some of the voluntary mergers that we have encouraged in the past, but not to pass on central Government grant cuts to areas that cannot meet the need, and need to raise money locally. The police service demands more. It is trying to do its best in a professional manner, but the settlement, given the new problems of increased terrorism, cybercrime, fraud and a range of other crimes, will not meet the challenge in the next four to five years. It will certainly not do so in the next year and I therefore support my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington in asking the Minister to review it. I will cast my vote this afternoon to try to make him review it and I hope that others will join me at one minute past four.

Mr Speaker: I will now announce the result of the ballot held today for the election of a new Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. Four hundred and sixty votes were cast, with one spoilt ballot paper. The counting went to three stages, and 417 active votes were cast in that round, excluding those ballot papers whose preferences had been exhausted. The quota to be reached was therefore 209 votes. Mary Creagh was elected Chair with 258 votes. The other candidate in that round was Geraint Davies, who received 159 votes. Mary Creagh will take up her post immediately. I congratulate the hon. Lady on her election. The results of the count under the alternative vote system will be made available as soon as possible in the Vote Office and published on the internet for public viewing.

Notwithstanding some of the courtesies that have developed around these matters in recent times, given that we are in the middle of a debate and people are waiting to speak, I should be most grateful if hon. Members expressed their congratulations and commiserations outside the Chamber.

Again, I warmly congratulate the hon. Lady and I thank the other candidates for taking part in that important election.

2.55 pm

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): May I briefly congratulate the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) on her election as Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee? None of us will miss the tsunami of paper to which we have all been subjected over the past few days, but I am sure we will all miss the poetry of the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner). It may not have been from Palgrave’s “Golden Treasury”, but it was certainly entertaining.

I am grateful to be called to speak in this important debate on the police grant and pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), a former Policing Minister, who is very experienced in these matters, although I do not agree with everything that he says.

I am certainly not always right.

Simon Hoare: No!

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Christopher Pincher: You may be surprised to learn that, Mr Deputy Speaker. However, when police and crime commissioners were first mooted, I have to admit that I was sceptical. I am a Conservative and, like all Conservatives, wary of change, so I was not sure whether we should employ this radical procedure of appointing police and crime commissioners. I always remind myself of the words of the former Prime Minister, the great Marquess of Salisbury, who, when officials and Ministers visited him at Hatfield House to encourage him to do this, say that or think about the other, would press his fingers to his chin and say after a moment’s thought, “’Twere better not.” Governments of all stripes would do well when considering officials’ ideas to say, “’Twere better not.” We might all be better off.

However, the Home Secretary was right, on police and crime commissioners, to say “’Twere better to do this” because they have transformed our police forces around the country and the way in which they spend their money, not least in my county of Staffordshire, where Matthew Ellis has done a tremendous job in introducing new technology. Hand-held tablets have reduced the amount of time that police officers have to work in their stations and has put them out on the beat. At a fraction of the cost, that has effectively created 100 new police officers in Staffordshire. As a result of Matthew Ellis’s reforms, there has not been an increase in the precept in the past four years, and he can balance the budget for the next four years without an increase in the precept.

Other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), have mentioned body cameras. We call them “bobby cameras” in Staffordshire, which led the way with that innovation. They not only make it easier for the police to prosecute crime, but make it far more challenging for people to bring malicious and false accusations against the police. If the police are wearing cameras and can film their own behaviour, angry, often young people are far less likely to make untrue claims about the police.

In Staffordshire, we have also led the way in introducing a cadet force. There are now 240 cadet officers between the ages of 14 and 17 working in and with the police to build their skills and work out whether they want a career in the police service. If money is spent effectively and considerately, we can have better policing, a community that feels safer, and a police force that has the tools it needs to do the job.

Mr Kevan Jones: I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but will he address the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson)? The central grant to counties such as Durham is far more important than the precept, given that even a large increase in our precept will not generate much cash because of the number of band A properties in County Durham. Does that not mean that there is no level playing field across the UK, given that the precept is not a way of generating any extra cash in places that contain large numbers of band A properties?

Christopher Pincher: I hear the hon. Gentleman’s point, but I feel that he may be thinking that Staffordshire is some sort of green and leafy county. Staffordshire has Stoke in it, and areas of deprivation in Tamworth, Stafford and Burton. That county, which is led by Matthew Ellis, has managed to make a saving of

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£126 million, which is invested in technology and makes policing better in Staffordshire and—dare I say this?—better than in County Durham?

Mr Jones: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Christopher Pincher: I will not give way because the House does not have much longer to debate this matter.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The House has lots of time. If you wish to give way, Mr Pincher, you must do so, but do not use the Chair as a debating point to say that we have cut the time down. That is not the case, no matter what the Whips might tell you.

Christopher Pincher: I am grateful, as ever, for your guidance Mr Deputy Speaker, but I would not wish to impose on the time of my colleagues on both sides of the House, and I am sure that the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) can make his own speech in his own good time. If he cannot, I am sure he will tweet about it later on.

In conclusion, Staffordshire has an innovative police force that works collaboratively with the community and its police and crime commissioner. We have cut costs and put more police on the streets, we have introduced innovation, and our public are happy. I commend our police force and police and crime commissioner to other police forces around the country. I was wrong to say no to police and crime commissioners, and the Labour party is wrong to pour cold water on this grant settlement, which will deliver more money to the police. When it does, Staffordshire will lead the way.

3.2 pm

Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) for his remarks about PC David Phillips whom we lost on Wirral last year. He died in the line of duty, doing the job that he did so well to protect the people of Wirral. He was a highly valued and dedicated officer, and I know that his loss is keenly felt.

The Chancellor’s eleventh hour U-turn on police funding in November’s comprehensive spending review was welcome. The police and crime commissioner on Merseyside had been anticipating cuts of between £62 million to £100 million by 2019-20, which would have stretched to near breaking point the capacity of the Merseyside police force to do its job of keeping us safe. Cuts on that scale would have meant the loss of all police and community support officers and the mounted police section, as well as reduced resources for tackling serious and organised crime, sexual offences and hate crime. People on Merseyside were extremely concerned about the impact that that would have had on the safety of our communities.

The relief with which the Chancellor’s announcement was greeted on Merseyside was qualified by the knowledge of the spending reductions that our police force was already being forced to make. Between 2010-11 and 2015-16, the force made savings of £77 million, resulting in an overall budget reduction of 20%. Over that period, the number of police officers fell by 20%, police staff by 24%, and PCSOs by 25%. PCSOs are the eyes and ears

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of community policing on whom we rely. On Merseyside, and particularly the Wirral, PCSOs now end their shifts at 10 pm, which is before the pubs have closed, as a result of the reduction in shift allowance in May 2013. There simply is not enough money to pay them to be on duty at one of the times when they are most needed.

The relief felt on Merseyside at the news of the Chancellor’s U-turn was therefore tempered by what followed. Since November, it has become clear that the Chancellor’s pledge to safeguard police funding was not the full 180° U-turn that we hoped for, but only partial, and the devil is very much in the detail. The Chancellor’s pledge to protect the police depends on an increase in the precept to compensate for a reduction in Government grants. Merseyside’s general grant was reduced by £1.3 million.

The Home Secretary has made it clear that she expects the grant reduction to be offset by increasing the precept to the maximum available, and the police and crime commissioner has consulted the general public and the police and crime panel on increasing the precept by 1.95%. That proposal has won strong support in both cases. However, for 2016-17, Merseyside police faces a budget deficit of £5.4 million. To address that deficit and balance the budget, the PCC is proposing to utilise £2.1 million of reserves, and request the force to make further savings of £3.3 million in 2016-17. Assuming that the PCC’s overall level of funding remains broadly at the 2016-17 level, it is anticipated that further savings of £22 million will be required by 2017-18 and 2020-21.

Although the final settlement announced in the spending review will mean that the force will have to make smaller savings than expected, it still represents a challenge. Those savings will have to be made against a background of increasing demand on the Merseyside police. The increase in some kinds of crime—including serious offences—on Merseyside has been significantly higher than the national average, and I urge the Minister to look at the detail.

The overall increase in crime on Merseyside between September 2014 and September 2015 was 6.4%—that is just in one year—which was in line with the national averages for England and Wales. However, when we look at other offences, we find that the picture is not so favourable. Vehicle theft offences on Merseyside increased by 8.9%, compared with 0.1% in England and Wales. Domestic burglary increased by 1.2% on Merseyside, but decreased by 5.1% in England and Wales. There was a 48.7% increase in offences involving violence against the person in Merseyside, compared with nearly half that—26.8%—in England and Wales. Those are worrying figures. Violent offences involving injury increased by 38.6% on Merseyside, compared with 16% in England and Wales, and the number of violent offences without injury leapt by 60.7%, compared with 37.5% for England and Wales.

Those figures for Merseyside are a matter of concern and reflect the serious need for properly funded policing. Sexual offences increased by 34.5% in Merseyside. It is thought that that increase may reflect a greater willingness of victims to come forward, as well as improvements in recording crime.. While that willingness must be welcomed, the resources must be available to pursue cases and deal with victims in a sensitive way. If that does not happen, victims will not continue to come forward in greater numbers. People on Merseyside must have redress in

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1621

law when they are subjected to violence, and the state must act as their protector and defender. The first duty of the state is to protect the public, and the Chancellor must ensure that the police have the resources to do so.

Wirral West is a lovely part of the world with some areas of real prosperity, but it also has areas of deprivation. In some areas of my constituency people are frightened to go to the shops in the middle of the day because of antisocial behaviour. That is wholly unacceptable.

Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a strong case by articulating the impact that these cuts are having on communities. Despite being at opposite ends of the region, she and I are both covered by the Merseyside police force, and every day we see the impact of the cuts on the people she has spoken about. Does she agree that the people we ask to do this difficult job are the men and women who are police officers on Merseyside, and that they are also suffering as a result of these cuts? A Police Federation survey towards the end of last year showed that more than three-quarters of police officers did not feel valued in the service and were suffering from low morale, and that is a real cause for concern.

Margaret Greenwood: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and it is important that we value police officers and all police staff who do such a difficult job.

All my constituents deserve to be able to go about their daily lives without fear or anxiety. All of them deserve a police service that is funded at a level that enables it to do its job safely and efficiently. I pay tribute to the work done by all Merseyside police staff, including PCSOs, police officers and so-called back-office staff. They have been rather maligned, I feel, by certain Government Members. Front-line personnel, often in perilous situations, rely on them. Without them, the force could not operate. I also pay tribute to the police and crime commissioner, who does such a good job.

The Chancellor made his U-turn on extreme cuts the night before the spending review. That suggests an extraordinary lack of planning and calls into question the quality of decision making in the Treasury. The police force on Merseyside must be funded at a level that enables it to prevent crime wherever possible and pursue effectively those who commit it. The force has to be able to meet the rising demands on it from increased levels of crime and the expectations we have of it. That is fundamental if we are to live in a civilised, stable and safe society. I urge the Minister to look carefully at policing need on Merseyside and to fight for a fair police funding settlement.

3.10 pm

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate and a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood). I will use the short time available to address some of the issues that affect London in particular, but let me start by making it very clear that I have not heard any Government Member maligning anybody in the police force—far from it. I put on record my tribute to the Metropolitan police, particularly in my borough where they have had to deal with some interesting issues over the past month. I will refer to those later on.

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Last September, a number of London Members had dinner with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who went through the modelling to which my right hon. Friend the Police Minister referred earlier. So that we understood the potential of the modelling, I think that it was dinner without wine, but it was dinner none the less. After that, my hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) led delegations to meet the Home Secretary. From a London point of view, I am delighted that the Minister, the Chancellor and the Home Secretary listened. It will make a huge difference. The £900 million in cash terms over the next four years, with the reforms the Minister talked about, will allow for the policing of our national city, including our local constituencies.

The key point is that there have been reforms, a number of which have rendered the police force more effective. I made an intervention on the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), who was rightly talking about the effectiveness of neighbourhood policing. One problem with the previous model, however, was that people got taken off neighbourhood policing, particularly in London. There have been some real issues with that at various times. I have no doubt that it was a great innovation and he was right to say it. It works and it has worked. Even though there is a reduced number, having dedicated people there the whole time has a similar effect. We saw that recently in my constituency, with the help the police received in relation to information brought forward to solve a very unfortunate murder.

The money for London, of course, is not just there for the local; it has to be there for the national. I thank the Home Secretary and the Chancellor for listening to the issues relating to the National Crime Agency. The investment has the potential to transform it into a world-leading law enforcement agency. If we look at any number of the debates we have had in the Chamber in the past two years about cybercrime and the impact it has on our national city, we see that on one level it affects us all. The risk that criminals will be able to break into the internet of things and create problems for people on a personal level is high. London is the financial centre of Europe; nay, it is the global financial centre of the world. Alertness to cybercrime, and giving the police the resources to be able to fight cybercrime, is therefore absolutely key. Investment in the NCA will have a big impact not only in London, and on the reputation of London, but nationally.

The same applies to counter-terrorism. The money that has been invested will have a huge impact both locally and nationally. The Police Minister will be aware that there were a number of incredibly callous bomb hoaxes at four of my local schools two weeks ago. The money secured for the NCA and counter-terrorism can not only be invested in the capability to ensure there are extra police on the streets but to deal with and to build up the intelligence on callous bomb hoaxers and defeat them. The local commander kindly shared with me a lot of information that I would not want to bring out today on the work it has done, but that work can only happen if we put the money into some of those agencies as well. The police grant will protect those agencies and protect people on the streets day after day, minute after minute. All that is absolutely crucial in the great city of London.

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Many cities in this country and around the world face the threat of terrorism. London, however, faces a unique and very severe threat from terrorism, so there are additional pressures on London police. It is therefore particularly welcome that the Met and the City of London police will, through the Greater London Authority, receive national and international city funding worth £174 million.

We in London are pleased that the Minister has listened. The money was necessary and it was right that the adjustment was made. It is right that we are protecting the police. What we do in London has an impact not only across London constituencies, but nationally and internationally. Like the former shadow Police Minister, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), I will be casting my vote on the basis of what I think the police need. I recognise and pay tribute to what the Government have done. I hope my colleagues and others will join us in realising what a good settlement this is for the police and support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

3.16 pm

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I would like to speak briefly about Bedfordshire, which has been very seriously underfunded for a prolonged period. It still has serious problems. I was very pleased to visit the Police Minister with the other five Members of Parliament for Bedfordshire—Conservative and Labour—a little time ago. He will have seen the paper prepared by the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable illustrating the desperate state of funding for policing in Bedfordshire. I made the point, in Business questions last week, suggesting that the funding formula was fundamentally flawed—broken was the term I used. I hope the funding formula will be amended rapidly, so that it can provide fair funding for Bedfordshire and other authorities across the country.

We have a particular problem with knife crime that is comparable with Merseyside, Greater Manchester and other areas, yet we are substantially less well funded. We also have a problem with gun crime that is comparable with large urban areas. Again, we cannot cope because we have serious underfunding. Our police force does a wonderful job with the resources it has, but those resources are simply not good enough. Rural Wales has, per head of population, resources and police numbers that are a multiple of those available in Bedfordshire, yet it has very little crime. There is something fundamentally wrong with a formula that can give such relatively generous police funding to rural areas with very little crime, when Bedfordshire has some fairly serious problems with crime, which we do our best to deal with but really are struggling with.

We have an excellent chief constable and an excellent police and crime commissioner in Jon Boutcher and Olly Martins. They are doing their best and have provided me with detailed arguments and statistics, which the Police Minister will have. They make the point over and again that we need a fairer funding formula to bring Bedfordshire into line with other areas.

Our area needs extra resources for policing. As I mentioned, we have crime, but we also have political extremism on both sides of the divide, and that requires extra policing too. The police do the best job they can,

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with the resources available, but we do not have enough resource to do the necessary job. I urge the Policing Minister to look seriously at the funding formula. It should not just be an extra bit of cash to help out in the short term. We need to consider fundamentally how it can be revised, so that it treats Bedfordshire and every other area more equitably. Overall, we still need more funding for the police in general, but the lower funding we have across the country ought to be allocated fairly, and Bedfordshire should get its fair amount.

I will leave it there. I apologise to hon. Members and to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I have to go to the European Scrutiny Committee, where we are interviewing the Foreign Secretary. It is pressing business, so I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I leave fairly quickly after my speech.

3.20 pm

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): Despite some of the scaremongering in the press, the police grant report is good news for police forces across the country and for the force that covers my constituency. I strongly welcome the significant increase in financial resources available across England and Wales and the fact that no police and crime commissioner will face a reduction in cash funding in the next financial year. Credit for that must go to the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister, whom I thank for investing in protecting my constituents from crime and disorder.

The police have had to bear a heavy burden, as the country has had to deal with the mess left behind by the Labour party. The report confirms that we are through the worst and that under a responsible Government we can once again afford to offer our police the support they need and deserve. The fact is that crime has fallen by more than a quarter under this Government. Crime has fallen across Lancashire, including in Pendle.

Barbara Keeley: I counsel the hon. Gentleman against talking about crime falling across the country. He is saying things that are not true for Greater Manchester, which has seen a 14% increase in recorded crime and a 36% increase in violent crime, but which is facing an £8.5 million cut. Will he please not talk about crime falling across the country, as he is not referring to Greater Manchester?

Andrew Stephenson: The hon. Lady is talking about reported crime. According to the British crime survey, crime has fallen across the country, and that survey has always been accepted on a cross-party basis as a more accurate reflection of crime rates across the country.

Barbara Keeley rose

Andrew Stephenson: I want to talk about rates of crime that have increased, so if the hon. Lady will allow me, I will make some progress.

Jack Dromey: My intervention will be quick, because I am keen that everyone has the chance to speak, but it is important to put the record right. In July, cybercrime and online fraud will be included in the crime survey of England and Wales. The early estimate is that it will add 6 million crimes and result in crime possibly doubling. Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on what he has just said and recognise that at last the truth will be told on crime? It is not falling; it is changing.

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Andrew Stephenson: If the shadow Minister will hold his horses, I will talk about cybercrime and other types of crime not currently reflected in the crime figures and why the police grant is a sensible investment in our ability to deal with new forms of crime.

Drug gangs are a real problem in Pendle, but Operation Regenerate has seen significant resources and a significant number of officers dedicated to tackling organised crime there. The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 will help further by stopping people profiting from selling dangerous drugs to our young people. So-called legal highs have caused serious harm to young people across my area, and I am proud to have served on the Bill Committee, alongside other right. hon. and hon. Members in the Chamber today.

Although most types of crime recorded in the statistics have fallen, we have seen upwards trends in certain types of crime. Rates of violence and sexual offences have increased in recent years. Some of that is down to historical under-reporting, but there are other factors. As a country, we still face an epidemic of domestic violence—it is mostly against women, but men are affected too. Just last week, a woman was the victim of a very serious sexual assault on the streets of Colne, the town in which I live. This is a rare thing to happen in the town, and I am sure the whole House will join me in hoping for the swift arrest of those guilty of this appalling attack and in expressing our every sympathy for the victim. I hope the Minister will set out how the Home Office will support police forces such as Lancashire to work with other agencies to ensure that domestic violence and sexual offences are reported and victims protected.

Lancashire police are at the forefront of fighting the rise of modern slavery. One of the first—if not the first ever—modern slavery orders was given to a man in my constituency, using new powers given to the police by the coalition Government’s Modern Slavery Act 2015. This shows that we face new types of crime. The Government must continue to help the police to reform so that they can tackle new forms of crime and protect vulnerable people at risk of exploitation.

The commitment to transforming funding towards developing specialist capabilities to tackle cybercrime will be hugely important, if we are to protect individuals and businesses from the growing threat of online fraud, which all the statistics indicate is of real concern. A new cyber-skills institute will soon open in Nelson, in my constituency, which I hope Ministers will help to support so that we can train the next generation of cyber experts that our police forces desperately need.

There is also the challenge of identifying how the police can best help to integrate communities in east Lancashire and across the country, as we join together to fight extremism and discrimination against certain groups based on their ethnicity or religion. I recently met Andy Pratt, who served Lancashire for 28 years as a police officer. During his career, he set up the first ever community cohesion team in the county, and since his retirement, he has worked tirelessly on interfaith work, trying to build bridges, particularly between our Muslim and Christian communities. I am delighted that he has been selected as the Conservative party’s candidate—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I said I did not want us campaigning for people standing

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for election. The debate is about police funding, not candidates, no matter how good or bad they are; that is not the idea of the debate.

Andrew Stephenson: I thank you for that guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker: It was not guidance.

Andrew Stephenson: In conclusion, I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for how he has worked with me and other Lancashire MPs on a cross-party basis, particularly over the proposed changes to the police funding formula, which would have disadvantaged Lancashire police. I welcome the generous settlement before the House. We now have to work with our local police forces to continue to reform policing across the UK and to drive down all types of crime.

3.28 pm

James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): I rise to make four brief points. First, on the level of funding, before the autumn statement, the Home Office, like many other Departments, was asked to model reductions in spending, and the police were preparing for cuts of 20% to 25%. Labour said that the police could withstand cuts of 10%, but the Chancellor protected police funding, and I welcome that protection, as do many police leaders. The most impressive responses from the policing community came from people such as Chief Constable Sara Thornton, who recognised the need not only for sufficient funding, but for the police to reform and to adapt to the changing demands on their services.

My second point is about flexibility. It is important that the police are flexible to meet the demands on their services. A National Audit Office study reveals that the police do not have a sufficient understanding of those demands, so it is important that they both understand and adapt to meet them.

Mr Kevan Jones rose

James Berry: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, who was wronged earlier, because Durham is, in fact, the most efficient police force in the country. I think he wanted to make that point earlier.

Mr Jones: I wanted to put the record straight for the hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher). As the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) rightly says, Durham is the only constabulary in the country that has received an “outstanding” rating for efficiency five times from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs inspectors. In spite of that, however, it is going to have to save about £3 million over the next year. The hon. Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) has said that the cash settlement has not been reduced, but other demands mean that the number of officers in County Durham will have to be reduced, even though it has already been cut by some 400 over the past 10 years.

James Berry: I am sure the Minister will deal with that in his response. I do not recognise those statistics, but I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s chief constable for running such a fantastically efficient force.

Jack Dromey: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

James Berry: No.

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The point about flexibility is clearly lost on the Labour party. I recently attended a Westminster Hall debate in which a London Labour MP insisted on a top-down, inflexible model of ward policing in London, without recognising the fact that some wards needed more policing than others, as is the case in Kingston. That is why I endorse the decision taken by the Home Secretary and the Chancellor to be flexible themselves, including increasing funding both for counter-terrorism policing and firearms officers, which is what the police asked for, at a time when we face an unprecedented terrorism threat, and for a new drive to co-ordinate the fight against fraud, which, as the hon. Gentleman has said, has increased, particularly on the internet.

Thirdly, police funding has to go hand in hand with reform. Thanks to the coalition Government—particularly their Conservative policies—there has been an increase in the democratic control of policing through police and crime commissioners. Important reforms have also been made to the police misconduct regime, including, most recently, opening up misconduct hearings to the public, to increase transparency and public confidence. The College of Policing has been created to set standards and guidance for police. I declare that I am an associate of that college and occasionally give lectures there.

The Home Secretary’s police reform agenda continues, including funding to encourage collaboration between forces, which is not a top-down model like that pursued under the last Government, but a bottom-up model. There are excellent examples of collaboration, such as that between West Mercia and Warwickshire police. There is also funding to encourage blue light collaboration, which not only saves money, but increases the efficiency and effectiveness of our blue light services.

My fourth and final point is about policing in London and in Kingston, which has the second lowest crime rate in London. We have an excellent borough commander in Glenn Tunstall, who leads a fantastic local police force, which is part of the fabric of the local community and does us in Kingston proud. Tomorrow I will host a public meeting with officers in Surbiton, to talk about the excellent work that they, led by Sergeant Trudy Hutchinson, do to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. I pay tribute to them.

In Kingston town centre, the Conservative council has made good on our campaign to increase the number of police officers by using the Police Act 1996 to buy extra police officers and making use of the Mayor of London’s “buy one, get one free” offer. That has had a fantastic impact on the rate of arrests and on safety in the town centre.

My constituents do not spend all their time in Kingston with its low crime rate; many of them also come into central London, where, of course, crime rates are higher, as is the threat of terrorism. That is why I got together with other London MPs, including my constituency neighbour—my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith)—and my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) to talk to the Policing Minister, the Home Secretary and the Chancellor, in order to ensure that police funding in London was protected. The right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) has claimed that it was Labour that forced a change in

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police funding, but I am afraid that that is simply not correct. Clear calls were made by Conservative Members, and the Chancellor, the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister listened to them and protected our budget. As a result, the number of police community support officers in London is not going to be cut, and the number of authorised firearms officers will be increased considerably. There will also be increased funding for counter-terrorism, and our capital city grant has been protected.

To return to the issue of flexibility, certain areas of crime have increased, despite the overall downward trend in the UK and in London, but I am sure that the Metropolitan police and the police in Kingston and the rest of the country will be flexible to meet the increased demand on their services and that they will meet those challenges.

I welcome the report. I am delighted that funding has been protected in London and that the Government are putting the protection of people at home and abroad first. I thank the Minister for what he has done for policing in London.

3.34 pm

Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): It is fitting that we are having this debate in the same week that the Prime Minister made a speech on his groundbreaking reforms in our prison system. One startling fact in his speech was that 70% of prisoners have at least seven previous convictions. If we can improve recidivism rates, it will inevitably have an impact on the resources available to police officers. These reforms to the prison system and to the police funding formula are compassionate and they are to be welcomed because they will also help to prevent crime.

My right hon. Friend the Policing Minister is to be congratulated on acting on the promise to review the police funding formula—something promised by others over the years but never actually done; it has now been done by the Minister and the Home Secretary. He is also to be congratulated on protecting the policing budget in the autumn statement and on making real blue-light reform possible, enabling the police, the ambulance and the fire services to work together. I shall deal quickly with each in turn.

On the police funding formula, Lincolnshire is the police constabulary in my constituency, which is a very rural part of the world that has been particularly badly affected by the old police funding formula, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). The Lincolnshire chief constable—and, indeed, some of his colleagues and other chief constables—has been very brave in challenging the funding formula. Not every chief constable has made the same progress as him on efficiency savings. He has written an excellent book, “The Structure of Police Finance—Informing the Debate”, which helped me when I needed to put various questions to chief constables in my work on the Home Affairs Select Committee. The Select Committee has found that some forces have extraordinarily generous reserves of savings. The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Committee Chairman, invited chief constables and police and crime commissioners to give evidence and we heard from some that they had reserves of up to £60 million. Since then, I have learned that the West Midlands force has a

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reserve of £153 million. Rather than have that money sitting in a bank account, we should surely spend it wisely to protect the public.

Jack Dromey: The hon. Lady mentions the money of the West Midlands police service, but it is overwhelmingly earmarked for the rationalisation of buildings in order to save money in the medium and longer term and for the recruitment of new police officers. I know Neil Rhodes well, and he is a fine chief constable. He was right to call for a review of the police funding formula, so does the hon. Lady share his dismay and my dismay that, as a consequence of the omnishambles within the Home Office before Christmas, we are stuck with the existing arrangements?

Victoria Atkins: It is certainly true that the chief constable was excited at the prospect of the new funding formula and how it might help his constabulary. It is as it is, but I received a letter from the chief constable last month saying that the constabulary has made further bold bids for transformational funding, which it is excited about in connection with blue-light funding. I shall come on to that later.

As we have heard, the overall police budget is going to be protected—up to £900 million by 2019-20—and there is going to be a real-terms increase to £670 million for policing and counter-terrorism next year. There is also to be an increase in transformation funding to help with issues such as cybercrime.

I see in their places three members of the Joint Committee that has scrutinised the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which is going to report tomorrow. During our work on that Committee we have heard about the changing nature of the threats facing our country and local policing, whether it be in respect of counter-terrorism or the challenges faced by police officers investigating missing persons. That, however, is for another debate and another time.

My final point is about making blue-light collaboration possible. In a village in my constituency, Woodhall Spa, fire officers are trained to step in as ambulance workers, because they will be on the scene before the ambulances arrive. That is a great improvement, and the more we see of it the better. When I had the pleasure of visiting police stations in both Louth and Horncastle before Christmas to thank the officers for their work, I was interested to see that Louth police station was next door to the fire station. There must be room for the services to work together in helping to protect the public.

There have been suggestions from the Opposition that Members do not appreciate the work of police officers. That is simply wrong. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with excellent police and law enforcement officers in my previous career, and I am delighted that Lincolnshire constabulary will be hosting its annual awards in March to celebrate the bravery and commitment of officers in our county. I have been invited to the ceremony. Sadly, I shall probably not be able to go because I shall be here, but I wish them well. I am sure that the whole House wishes each and every police officer in our country well for the future, and is grateful for the work that they have done already.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): If the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) stands up, he will be called.

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3.41 pm

Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is very kind.

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, the police protect us, and the Government have indeed protected the police. I believe that the settlement strikes the right balance between ensuring that police forces are properly funded and can plan for the future, and maintaining the impetus and the tempo of reforms.

When I was listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), it struck me that it would be helpful to put the settlement in context. Back in 2010, this country was truly staring into the abyss. Youth unemployment had doubled, and Britain was the basket case of Europe. [Interruption.] I hear the scoffing of Opposition Members, but the important point is this: the impact on public services would have been felt if the Government had not introduced some degree of order. Let us remember what the position was like back then. People were talking not just about trimming the police force, but about the wholesale meltdown of some of our key public services, and that is precisely what has not happened.

On 25 November the Chancellor announced that police spending would be protected in real terms over the spending review period, when the precept was taken into account. No police and crime commissioner will face a reduction in cash funding next year, and funding will have increased by up to £900 million in cash terms by 2019-20. As has already been pointed out, counter-terrorism funding will increase in real terms to £670 million in 2016-17. We have moved from a time when the country and policing faced disaster to a time when we have a strong funding settlement that will give proper funding to our most important services.

Mr Kevan Jones: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Alex Chalk: Very briefly.

Mr Jones: I think that the hon. Gentleman has to sit down when I stand up.

Alex Chalk: Sorry.

Mr Jones: I know that the present Government find it difficult to distinguish between revenue and capital, among other concepts, but the hon. Gentleman has said that no one will lose cash. Durham, for instance, has an “outstanding” force—the only one in the country—but that force must take £3 million out of its budget this year because of wage increases and other pressures. “Flat cash” does not constitute an increase.

Alex Chalk: As I have said, it is important to put the settlement in context. Back in 2010—[Interruption.] May I deal with the point? In 2010, the country was bringing in about £600 million in tax revenue and spending £750 million. If that had not been addressed, the country and policing would be facing meltdown, but policing is now on a sound footing to protect the people of our country.

Speeches are sometimes as interesting for what is not said as for what is said. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington did not mention, even as one of his own apocalyptic scenarios, the kind of cut that he would himself have countenanced. At the Labour party conference

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in Brighton, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) declared that savings of up to 10% could be found. He said that that would be doable. That is not what is happening under this Government. Funding is now on a sustainable footing and capability is being enhanced.

Jack Dromey: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Alex Chalk: I will not take any more interventions.

Let us look at how that capability is being enhanced. Specialist capabilities in cybercrime are being improved, as is firearms capability. Modernisation and reform are also taking place because, as Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has set out, there are further efficiencies to be made. Whether in respect of decent funding or improving our capability, this settlement will enable us, even in difficult times, to protect our police, build capacity, drive reform and deliver for the people of this country.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 310, Noes 212.

Votes cast by Members for constituencies in England and Wales:

Ayes 305, Noes 208.

Division No. 191]


3.45 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shannon, Jim

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, David

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Guy Opperman


Jackie Doyle-Price


Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Elliott, Tom

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Gardiner, Barry

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Dame Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hunt, Tristram

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinahan, Danny

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lynch, Holly

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

McMahon, Jim

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shah, Naz

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Vicky Foxcroft


Sue Hayman

Question accordingly agreed to.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1632

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1633

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That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) for 2016–17 (HC 753), which was laid before this House on 4 February, be approved.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): I have now to announce the result of the deferred Division on the Question relating to the draft Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2016. The Ayes were 313 and the Noes were 67, so the Question was agreed to.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1636

Local Government Finance (England)

[Relevant Documents: Oral evidence taken before the Communities and Local Government Committee on 13 January 2016, on the Financial Settlement 2015, HC 530, and written evidence to the Committee on Adult social care, reported to the House on 8 February 2016.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): We come now to the three motions on local government finance in England, which will be debated together. I remind the House that these motions will be subject to double majority voting. If Divisions are called on these motions, all Members of the House are able to vote in the Divisions. The motions will be agreed only if, of those voting, a majority of all Members and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England vote in support of the motions. At the end, the Tellers will report the results, first, for all Members and, secondly, for those representing constituencies in England.

4.5 pm

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): I beg to move,

That the Report on Local Government Finance (England) 2016–17 (HC 789), which was laid before this House on 8 February, be approved.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this we shall discuss the following motions:

That the Report on the Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Principles) (England) 2016–17 (HC 790), which was laid before this House on 8 February, be approved.

That the Report on Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Alternative Notional Amounts) (England) 2016–17 (HC 791), which was laid before this House on 8 February, be approved.

Greg Clark: I am pleased to open the debate on this year’s report on local government finance in England. I would like to start by thanking all colleagues in the House, and council leaders and officials, who contributed to the consultation after I made a provisional statement shortly before Christmas. Nearly 280 groups or individuals contributed to the consultation. All responses have been carefully considered, and sensible suggestions have been incorporated into the final settlement that is before the House today.

I have always been frank with local councils that they will need to continue to make savings. Local government accounts for nearly one quarter of public spending, so it is inevitable and appropriate that councils should play their part in helping to reduce the national deficit. Council tax payers are also national tax payers; they are the same people—our constituents—and everyone suffers if we run a permanent, untamed deficit.

Councils have accepted their part in this responsibility. During the last Parliament, all parts of local government delivered the savings that have helped reduce the deficit by half. At the same time, satisfaction with the services provided by local councils has been maintained—a remarkable reflection on the professionalism and the resourcefulness of local government.

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Secretary of State understand the frustration of my constituents at the settlement for Harrow Council? We

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1637

have one of the lowest per capita settlements in London. The council is having to make £80 million of cuts over four years, leading among other things to the closure of the popular Bridge mental health day centre.

Greg Clark: What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that London Councils welcomed many of the changes we have made in this settlement, including the provision of a four-year settlement. One of the concerns councils have had for many years is that, with annual funding, they were not able to plan ahead and reap some of the economies.

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Greg Clark: The hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) will also know that, in terms of the response to the provisional settlement, I have made extra resources available to Harrow, which I think has gone down well in his borough.

Paul Maynard: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Greg Clark: I will give way to my vigorous hon. Friend.

Paul Maynard: I thank my right hon. Friend not only for finding extra money for Lancashire, but for listening to me and not taking that money out of Blackpool’s budget. Blackpool is another urban area facing high levels of need. He has performed a balancing trick very adroitly.

Greg Clark: I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. Blackpool has important pressures that need to be met, and he has made representations, as indeed have his local authorities. It is true that some advised that some transitional relief should come at the expense of places such as Blackpool. However, I have been able to find a way for us to provide some relief for the years in which the reductions in grant are sharpest, without making the situation worse for places such as Blackpool, which have benefited from the settlement.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): This is actually a very progressive and good settlement for the long-term future of local government, because it is genuinely devolutionist. In that context, does my right hon. Friend recognise and accept that it is important not only that he has given transitional relief, which helps outer London boroughs such as Bromley, but that London boroughs and other authorities help themselves by reducing their unit costs in the same way as, for example, Bromley, which has the lowest unit costs in outer London?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I had the pleasure of spending some time with the cabinet of Bromley Council, which is one of the most efficient in London and shows the way for all London boroughs to deliver services that are very much valued by their residents, very cost-effectively.

Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): On 26 January, the leader of Blackpool Council wrote to the Secretary of State to remind him that we face cuts

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1638

for 2016-17 of 4.9% compared with an England average of 2.8%. Despite that—and despite the Secretary of State’s welcome comments yesterday about looking at the way in which demographics in certain areas, particularly those with large numbers of older people, might be dealt with—under this formula Blackpool gets absolutely no transitional relief at all. Is there any logic or justice in that?

Greg Clark: Of course there is, because the transitional relief is for the authorities that had a sharper reduction in the grant than others. Blackpool benefited to the tune of £3 million from the improvement of the grant. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) was wise enough to recognise that, and to recognise the difference it will make to the people of Blackpool, and the hon. Gentleman should do likewise.

Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): One of the most progressive things that the Secretary of State has done is to give local councils a four-year settlement, so that they can now view what their settlements will be into the future and not live from day to day not knowing what their budget settlement would be in the next year.

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is right. This is one of the key requests that local government has made of central Government for many years, and it has constantly fallen on deaf ears. Councils right across the country, with all different kinds of party political control, have welcomed the fact that they will have the chance to look ahead and plan for the future.

Several hon. Members rose

Greg Clark: Let me make a bit of progress, and then I will of course give way to more colleagues.

As the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out, over the course of this Parliament the required savings that, as I made clear, councils will need to continue to make will be less than those required in the previous Parliament. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that the required savings of

“around 7% in real terms over the next four years...is a substantially slower pace of cuts than councils had to deliver between 2009-10 and 2015-16, when councils’ spending power was cut on average by 25% in real terms.”

John Howell (Henley) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that within this process councils are still required to do things in a fundamentally different way, such as setting up trading joint ventures, as one county council told me it had done on Monday, or looking at Uber-type services for buses?

Greg Clark: Yes, councils should take the opportunities to be innovative. My hon. Friend and I served on the Committee on the Bill that became the Localism Act 2011, which introduced a general power of competence for local councils precisely so that they could take decisions in the interests of their residents and contribute effectively.

Several hon. Members rose

Greg Clark: I will give way to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), and then to—

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1639

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Before the Secretary of State gives way—he has been perfectly polite and courteous in giving way a great many times—let me point out that this is a short debate. Twenty-four people have indicated to me that they would like to make speeches, and they intend to sit here all afternoon awaiting their turn to do so. Many people are making interventions, which the Secretary of State is dealing with most courteously. They are taking part in the debate, and they must be aware that they are taking up the time of other people who will be waiting to speak later on. If you make an intervention in this debate, you must remain for most of the debate and certainly be here for the wind-ups.

Greg Clark: Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given those numbers, I will be brief in taking interventions, but I will take the point from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I thank the Secretary of State. Does he recognise the problems of Liverpool, which faces a 9% cut in funding next year, coming on top of a 58% cut since 2010?

Greg Clark: I have been very clear that all councils need to continue to make savings. As I think the hon. Lady will know, the way in which we have conducted the settlements has been fair across the country, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out. In fact, a council that she knows very well that is close to her area, Sefton Council, said in its response to the consultation: