Those who plan towards their retirement want to live the retirement they planned for. Following the 2011 changes, the Government passed an amendment to the legislation that provided £1.1 billion of transitional funding and delayed the equalisation of the state pension

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age, on top of bringing the new state pension forward by a full year. However, undoing the 2011 changes would cost £30 billion, in addition to a loss of £8 billion in tax revenue, and undoing the 1995 changes would cost several times that—£70 billion-plus. The new state pension, which has been brought forward by a year, will come into effect in April this year. It will see many woman significantly better off than they would have been under the old system, with £416 a year more than they would have had. Likewise, the introduction of the triple lock, which ensures that the state pension goes up by whichever is highest out of inflation, wages or 2.5% means that the basic state pension will be over £1,100 higher than it was at the start of the previous Parliament.

The lesson to be learned by Governments of all colours is that of effective communication. Pensions are complicated at the best of times, and I have a huge amount of sympathy with that. I believe that it is the fault of Governments of all colours, not just the Conservative Government. WASPI women will receive an improved pension before the men and women who will now retire at the age of 67. WASPI women will live longer, on average, than men. The Government’s pension reforms are fair for those who receive them and for the younger generation who will have to pay for them.

3.59 pm

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Usually, when somebody says to me, “So-and-so is being a bit waspy,” it is a signal to tread with some care, so when I was told that a load of women who were concerned about this issue were coming to see me at my surgery on Friday, I trod with sufficient care. I was able to tell them that I spoke on Second Reading of the 2011 Act to point out that the women who left Foxhills comprehensive in my constituency in 1970 were the very women who would be affected, that it was not fair and that, frankly, there needed to be a better deal than two months’ transitional mudge.

I am aware that we are short of time, so I will just give a voice to those women. Marie Spikings said to me:

“My personal story began when I was 15 years old, leaving school at Easter with no qualifications. From the start of my working life at 15 years I paid a full National Insurance stamp believing that I was entering into a contract.”

That is a common belief. She continued:

“I understand the need for equality, however the 2011 Act has given me no time to prepare for working until I am 66! Not only have I lost thousands of pounds but also the benefits that come with the state pension e.g. heating allowance and bus pass etc.”

That is a key point about the other allowances, from which those women are now debarred. She told me:

“I am a single parent through no fault of my own. Day to day life is a struggle as I have a dependent child, and a disabled dependent adult child. I am tired and the thought of having to work for another 5 years is daunting to say the least.”

Christine said to me: “I feel trapped.” Her choices have been taken away from her.

Annette said to me:

“I was born in May 1954 and my state pension date has been moved twice, the first time I was informed in writing that it was changing from my 60th birthday to my 64th year. Since then I had heard nothing until someone told me to check the website by entering my DOB. The date for my state pension then came up as January 2021 another 18 months on. I am sure you will agree this is completely unfair”.

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That is an example of the poor communication that we have heard about. Another woman pointed out to me that her older sister, who was born in April 1952, has already received her state pension. The woman who wrote to me is 22 months younger than her sister and has to wait an extra five years and five months—not fair and not reasonable. I could go on to give many similar examples.

Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab): There are 3,540 women affected by the changes in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend agree that the 1995 changes were reasonably well communicated, but the 2011 changes were badly communicated? Some women who are affected by the 1995 changes were also affected by the 2011 changes, which compounded the issue.

Nic Dakin: My hon. Friend has it spot on. Communication, as the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans) said, is one of the issues at the heart of the matter. What happened in 2011 compounded what had happened previously, and the situation is totally unfair.

The debate has been quite good since we got to the Back-Bench speeches, although my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) did a good job of kicking things off. I welcome the comments of the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), who drew attention to my hon. Friend’s six suggestions and said that they were a good starting point. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) said that there was a deal to be done, and I think he is right. The hon. Members for Salisbury (John Glen) and for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) encouraged Ministers to find a way to put right the injustices.

The women we are talking about are not asking for the world. They are not even asking for the things that some people have suggested that they are asking for. They are simply asking for a reasonable settlement and a reasonable deal, which is what they deserve.

4.4 pm

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab): Women of a certain age, of which I am one, from right across the United Kingdom are very angry about the position they find themselves in. If they were born in March 1953, like Jill in the Jack and Jill twins scenario, they will be absolutely livid, because Jack will get £155 a week under the single-tier state pension, while Jill will get £131, because she was born a woman. Where is the justice in Jack getting £20,000 more over 20 years than his sister Jill? That is just ridiculous.

We all know women who do not have access to a private pension and who find themselves being forced to look for work or—if they take the advice of the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara), who is no longer in his place—they can sign on for JSA. It is a slap in the face for every woman who has dedicated themselves to being the backbone of this country. The absence of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions—my eyes tell me he is loitering outside the Chamber, but he is obviously unwilling to come in to defend his Government’s policies—is an absolute insult to these women.

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I am aware of a 60-year-old woman who has had to find employment as a bus escort for a special needs school. That involves physically manoeuvring youngsters from the vehicle into the building. It is hard, heavy and demanding work. How do I know that? Because I did that job in my thirties; I could not do it now.

The changes to women’s pensions are categorically unfair and unjust. Everyone in the Chamber, and indeed everyone across the country, will have heard about the WASPI campaign. We have heard all the analogies about a sting in the tail and a buzz in the air, but did any of us really think that in three short months we would have debated this issue so many times? That is the power of this lobby. It has proved time and again that it is fighting on a platform that resonates right across this country.

Everyone will know at least one woman affected by this injustice. Such women are only asking for fairness. They have been betrayed, they have been discriminated against and they have been seen as a soft option by this Government. They were seen as the one group that could be pushed to one side to rush through the transition to equal retirement ages. The Government thought they would save money, but in reality they have lost credibility and respect, and they have been exposed by this wonderful group of strong women as petty, arrogant and, quite frankly, ridiculous.

4.7 pm

Julie Cooper (Burnley) (Lab): I am grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this important issue. I thank the women of the WASPI campaign for their tireless efforts in persisting in bringing this issue to the Government’s attention. I want to speak for the women in my constituency of Burnley, and for the thousands of women who will be affected. There has been much talk about the financial impact of the change and what the cost will be, but let us not forget that these women are taxpayers who have worked hard and paid in. They are asking not for a benefit, but for a right to which they are entitled.

I want to talk about the impact on people. I have talked to women in my constituency who are physically struggling every day to cope with their physical jobs. One lady I spoke to during my surgery at the weekend was in tears as she told me about her many years of working in an engineering foundry. She is staggering on towards her retirement age. She is in bed at 7.30 every night, having been barely able to make it to the bus station to get the bus home. She has spent long years working on the minimum wage, and the only light at the end of the tunnel was retirement at the age of 60. She thought that she might just be able to stagger on until then. However, not only have the goalposts been moved, but there just has not been any communication with her. Let us not get into the blame game of arguing about whose fault it was or was not that she did not know, but the fact is that she did not know.

There has been a lot of talk about what happened in 2011 and in 1995. I was not a Member of Parliament then. I would say that we are where we are. Let us tackle the problem we have in front of us now. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have made sensible suggestions about sitting down together with the WASPI women,

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around the table, on a cross-party basis and without scoring political points, to work out a solution to this terrible mess.

4.9 pm

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): I congratulate WASPI on its highly effective campaign, particularly all the women from my constituency who have contacted me or come to my surgeries. Women across the UK have been hit hard by the changes. To the surprise and dismay of many of them, the plans that they had made have been disrupted. Often, they face unemployment, with little hope of getting a job—a bleak life on benefits at a time when they should be enjoying the fruits of their long years of work.

Plaid Cymru supports the principle of equalising the pension age. Equalisation is another step towards recognising how radically circumstances have changed since the pension was brought in by my predecessor as the Member for Caernarfon, Lloyd George, when men worked for the money and generally supported women, and women worked at home for free. Those are not the circumstances now. It is not equalisation that is so unfair but the way in which the Government are bringing it in.

The Government say that they are making these changes in response to the increase in life expectancy. As one woman who contacted me said, “That’s all right then—it’s our fault for living longer.” Both life expectancy and life experience vary significantly depending on class and, crucially, on where one lives. Women in Wales will be hit particularly hard by the changes. Life expectancy is generally lower in Wales than in England—there is a difference of up to 11 years. Welsh women and Welsh men therefore have less opportunity to enjoy their retirement. Incomes in Wales are also low, so they have already suffered a disproportionate disadvantage. There are fewer job opportunities and jobs are more insecure, particularly in some constituencies.

On Monday, I asked the Prime Minister about the fate of the EU convergence funding that we in Wales won after a long and hard fight. He smiled sympathetically and went on to talk about Romania and Bulgaria. Disgracefully, that is where the incomes of women and men in Wales are—on a par with those in Romania and Bulgaria. Wales has the lowest income per head of all the UK nations and regions.

The equal treatment of women and men in respect of the state pension is good, but the way in which the Government have handled the matter is not. In fact, it is a disgrace.

4.11 pm

Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab): Mr Deputy Speaker, 1950s-born women are not usually seen as a militant group. They were born and raised in the era of “Hi honey, I’m home,” spotless perfection, domestic bliss and Formica, but the situation they now find themselves in is far from perfect.

I have only been an MP since May, but, as several Members have mentioned, including the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black), this feels a bit like groundhog day. This is the third time I have raised the matter, and at other times I could not even get into Westminster Hall because it was standing

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room only. The TV show “Desperate Housewives” comes to mind, although the valiant WASPI women are far from desperate.

The Government have to act. The public are making their voices heard, and the Government are on the wrong side of public opinion. It feels like groundhog day because not only is what we are saying falling on deaf ears, but there is a broken record routine in the way we are told that there is no money left. At the same time, we constantly hear that economic growth is returning and things are looking rosy. The two things cannot be reconciled with each other.

The people we are talking about have been hit twice, as everyone has said. “Double-whammy” is the phrase that keeps coming up in the emails that I receive. They were hit in 1995 and 2011. I have heard the rejoinder from Government Members that the 1997 Labour Government did not do anything about the 1995 changes, but surely the Conservative Government and civil service of that time should have put a work plan in place. We hear that not all people were notified, but there should have been some provision in place for that to keep happening. Presumably because that Government were saving money on their communications strategy or something, that did not happen. Anyway, as many people have said, we are where we are.

Like many Members here, I have received representations from many people, including Michele Carlile, who was born in 1954, and Linda Gregory, who was born in 1953. Some have pointed out that they started work at 15. One of them said to me, “That’s probably a good 10 years before you did, my dear.” The circumstances that these people faced was different from what happens today. We must remember that the Equal Pay Act 1970 did not come into force until a Labour Government made it happen in 1976. These people brought up children before the free childcare and nurseries and all the other things that Labour Governments have brought in. We should therefore be sympathetic to their plight.

I think that in this debate people have confused the WASPI petition and the wording of the motion. Nobody is arguing against equality. Nobody is saying that there should be compensation at the levels that these people would have received. All that is being asked for is transitional arrangements to soften the blow. Some of the people in the campaign have been neutral money people, such as Paul Lewis of the BBC’s “Money Box”, a former constituent of mine, and Martin Lewis of

I urge Government Members to vote with us tonight, simply for transitional arrangements, since this Government have found so much money down the back of the sofa for so many things. The former Pensions Minister in the coalition, Steve Webb, has admitted that people are hard done by, so in the 17 seconds that I have left, let me say that this great pensions swindle must end now.

4.15 pm

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP): I welcome the opportunity to make another contribution on this matter. I also want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the WASPI campaign for refusing to lie down and for continuing to fight for a transitional arrangement that will protect against the most damaging consequences of the rushed equalisation of the state pension.

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All these women are asking for is fairness, and I commend them for keeping the issue alive. This is the fourth time that it has been debated in the House, which shows the strength of feeling, exposes the injustice of the situation and highlights the struggles that many women face daily from the delay in receiving the state pension. I accept that a lot of the damage was done in the 1995 Act, but the coalition Government exacerbated the situation and this Government’s refusal to rectify the blunder is not only political folly but plain wrong.

These women have paid into the system all their lives, and it is only right that the Government should step in to right this wrong. Responding to the motion, the Minister shamefully chose to repeat the accusation that WASPI is against the equalisation of the pension age for men and women. No, it is not. The Minister knows that. To use that line of argument again does a disservice to today’s debate, to the women sitting in the Gallery right now and those watching the debate at home, and to the struggles that they face as a result of the rug being pulled from under their feet just when they needed the support most. Furthermore, I was hoping that the Minister would give Members and, more importantly, the WASPI women a better response to today’s debate than the quite frankly pitiful response given in the petition debate in Westminster Hall. Sadly, I was wrong.

I run 13 surgeries a month across Paisley and Renfrewshire North, and over the past two to three months the majority of people attending them have raised this very issue. On this occasion, I want to take a little more time to highlight some of the heartbreaking stories I have heard. Many women were looking forward to having some more time to themselves, only to find out with a couple of months’ notice that they were not retiring at 60 as they had thought.

There are two ladies whose stories I want to highlight. One, who did not want her name mentioned, recently came to see me at a surgery. She has worked all her life, from the age of 17, and built a career for herself that she had to give up to care for her husband. Even while she was caring she worked part time, and she has never been on benefits. She stopped working at 58 because of her health, thinking that she would get both her state pension and her small civil service pension at 60. She has never received any letters from the DWP and only found out about the changes to her pension age through word of mouth.

Another constituent, Ms Millar, also received no letter. The changes have had a devastating impact on her finances, forcing her to sell her car and her house to be able to cut down on her work in the future. She has suffered from ME since she was 30, which makes it difficult for her to continue working as a teacher. Is the Minister listening to this? No. I think that he owes Ms Millar the courtesy of listening to my speech. She will now have to work a lot longer than she had anticipated, and she also has caring responsibilities, caring for her mum three days a week. The fact that she now needs to work six years longer than expected means that she has six fewer years to spend full time with her mum.

I challenge the Minister to respond to my constituents and advise them what they should do to ease their financial worries, bearing in mind their poor health and

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personal circumstances. My constituents are watching the debate, WASPI campaigners are watching the debate and the women in the Public Gallery are watching the debate. We are all waiting for the Government finally to wake up to the situation, show some humility and respond appropriately.

4.19 pm

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP): Previous speakers have already said that pensions are not a benefit but a contract, and the Government have broken that contract. If that were done by a private company, it would be sued for mis-selling. When the terms of a contract change, there must be notification—actual notification, not Westminster politicians talking to each other—and mitigation when someone is disadvantaged. In this case, the Government must take responsibility and correct that.

What is the future for our pensions system if citizens cannot trust Government promises that when they pay in, they will receive their due amount at an agreed time? The situation reminds me and my constituents of someone who buys a car from a used-car salesman, but the car turns out to be dodgy. They bring it back, and the used-car salesman looks at it, scratches his head, and says, “I’d really like to help you out, but I just can’t.”

We are told that the Government will not move to put in appropriate transitional measures, but the greater cost of not acting is that of betraying all those women, many of whom spent a lifetime in low pay—we are literally picking their pockets and further alienating people from the cosy, Westminster establishment. We are told that money for transitional arrangements cannot be found, but I suspect that if companies such as Google paid their taxes, the Government would find that they had more money in the pot. Choices, choices—politics is nothing if it is not about choices. If the Government do not act on this issue, they have no alternative but to hang their head in shame.

The WASPI campaigners are calling for a review into the way that changes to the state pension age were implemented under the Pensions Acts of 1995 and 2011. What is wrong with that? Other European Governments have brought in pension equalisation arrangements without the distress, chaos and rammy created by this Government as they try to pick women’s pockets. Why is that? It is because other European Governments have not made a Horlicks of it. This is both cock-up and incompetence writ large.

I am sick to the back teeth of hearing Government Ministers boasting of a new flat-rate pension of £155.65 a week. Apart from the fact that that is utterly irrelevant to this debate, many people who reach pension age will receive much less than that because they will not have paid enough national insurance. Those in the private sector, the low-paid and those earning less than £15,000 a year will be hit hardest, and those people are much more likely to be female than male.

An independent commission is required to prevent further gender inequalities and ensure a fair universal pension system that looks at the looming injustices coming down the track in the form of the flat-rate pension, which will leave many low-paid people on lower pensions than they would otherwise have benefited from. So far, the Government have not listened to the

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WASPI campaigners or to votes taken in this House, but I urge them to do so. We require fairness and natural justice, and it is time that the Government held their head up and faced these women.

4.23 pm

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): This is the fourth WASPI campaign debate that I have spoken in, and it is hard to find something new to say. I note that the Minister had the same problem, because his earlier performance at the Dispatch Box was a disgrace. He said that he would talk about transitional arrangements, but he did not—he avoided the matter the whole time, took interventions and fudged the issue. Let me remind him of a suggestion that he made in a previous answer to an oral question, when he said that women could use the pension freedoms to help themselves bridge the gap and transition to state pension age. For me, that shows that he does not understand that women are less likely to have pensions, and that the pensions they do have are more likely to be low in value. To suggest that women should blow their savings as a remedial measure, instead of the Government helping out, is crazy and irresponsible.

I also want to make the Minister aware of another ongoing issue that could compound matters and affect people’s choice, namely the exit payment gap in the Enterprise Bill. The cap in its current format will further limit the choices for people considering early retirement or voluntary redundancy. The £95,000 cap will affect not the so-called fat cats but long-serving, lower paid workers. The cap in its current format covers the strain on pension funds that an employer requires to pay for early and ill-health retirement. That means that people taking ill-health retirement might have the money due to them capped because of this Government. That compounds matters. The exit cap prevents councils, such as the local authority I was a councillor for, from operating schemes such as Teacher Refresh, which allows higher paid experienced teachers to opt for early retirement. That allows younger teachers to be employed, saving the taxpayer money overall and creating jobs for younger teachers. Combine the cap with the increased retirement age and we have a bad deal for individuals—mainly women—a bad deal for local authorities, and a bad deal for the taxpayer overall.

Another impact of the increase in the state pension age in the 2011 Act is that it can make women more dependent on male partners. That is bad for personal esteem, bad for relationships and potentially damaging in cases of domestic abuse where women feel trapped financially. Women are concerned and are feeling stress due to the bombshell that has been dropped on them. Instead of ignoring what is going on and ignoring the four debates, the Government should think about the consequences and do something about them.

The Government hide behind the £30 billion estimate to fully reverse the 2011 Act. People today are asking for transitional arrangements, but the £30 billion to do a full reversal could be found. The Government found an extra £16 billion in the defence review for Trident, to add to the £167 billion that had already been committed. They have allocated £12 billion for the right to buy social housing. They could introduce a bank levy and a mansion tax. They could reverse the inheritance tax and stop adding more people to the other place. Those are all choices to spend more money or subsidise other policies, while introducing austerity in other ways.

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The Government have already lost court cases relating to the personal independence payment and the bedroom tax. There is a great chance they will lose another court case due to the unfairness of this measure and the lack of notice given to women. As has been said, this is a breach of contract. I ask the Minister to please take that into account and to put in place some transitional arrangements.

4.27 pm

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): I am pleased to finally be able to take part in this debate on transitional state pension arrangements. As many hon. Members have pointed out, we have had many debates recently on the subject of women’s state pension age inequality. Now, however, we are talking about practical solutions and considering seriously transitional arrangements. Remember, this is transition—it is not for ever and it will not cost £30 billion or £39 billion, or whatever other figure has been floating around the Chamber. Transitional payments will help all the women born in the 1950s who have suffered the double whammy of the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts. Those women have emailed, written, phoned, Facebooked and tweeted me, and many of my fellow MPs, on seeing their retirement plans disintegrate.

The basic issue here is fairness. All we are asking is for the women affected to be treated fairly. This group of women have not been communicated with properly. Many of them tell me that they either did not receive letters or that the letters they did receive were unclear. Contrary to the view held by some in this Chamber, the WASPI campaign is not asking to go back to receiving state pensions at 60. What they are asking for is simply fair treatment. These are women who work part time and who were not even eligible for their occupational pension schemes when they started work. These are women who gave up work to bring up children, which affected their personal occupational pension if they were lucky enough to have one. These are women who have worked in difficult conditions, many of whom have had to retire early because of ill health. These are women who, as well as bringing up children, are now shouldering the burden of caring for elderly relatives in their later lives. These women have all been through the doors of my surgeries in my constituency, and I am sure their story is familiar to all right hon. and hon. Members. My constituents frequently urge me to take this argument to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions—[Interruption.] I have extreme difficulty doing so, because he has not attended a single one of the many debates we have had on this subject.

Jackie, one of my constituents, introduced herself to me as “June ’54 and furious!” She made the valid point that denying her access to her state pension until she is 66 also denies her entitlement to concessionary travel and the winter fuel allowance. Jackie started work in 1971, but had to take early retirement from the police service in order to care for an elderly relative.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith), the shadow Secretary of State, has made six helpful suggestions about how fair transition could be put in place to help women such as Jackie. Let us stop prevaricating. I await the Minister’s response to those sensible and reasonable suggestions, which— I might add—have been supported by many

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Government Members. Let us help to turn Jackie from being “June ’54 and furious!” to “June ’54 and finally fairly transitioned”.

4.31 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): In common with others, I regret that much of the debate from the Dispatch Box was focused on fixing the blame rather than fixing the problem, but at least the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) put forward a six-pack of options, which he rightly asked the Government to consider. Let us remember that the salient point about the motion is that it

“calls on the Government to bring forward proposals for transitional arrangements for women adversely affected by the acceleration of the increase in the state pension age.”

That is logical, reasonable and compelling, which is why the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) is prepared to support it. I ask some of his hon. Friends to join him in supporting it, not least those who valiantly fought over Equitable Life and called on the taxpayer to restore Equitable Life members to some position of equivalence. If they were prepared to fight for the Equitable Members Action Group and were indignant over Equitable Life, they should not be indifferent to the WASPI women and what they face. We should respond to them with justice.

It is not just a matter of a breach of trust and a breach of contract, because there is also the question of moral hazard. If Parliament says, “We can be quite capricious with the state pension”, we send out a signal to all the private pension providers that they can do what they want, that politicians will be in no place to reprimand them and that the regulator will not be able to interfere. We send out a very dangerous signal, too, to those younger people who were encouraged to have confidence and show responsibility in their pension planning. We send out a signal to them that what happened to their mothers shows that even when provision for pensions is made, people do not get what they thought they were going to get. It says that the pensions rules can be changed, so younger people will ask why bother with them—just see what they get when they get there.

We should not offer the mixture of conceit and deceit that we heard from some Conservative Members. We were told by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) that the matter is settled and therefore cannot be touched. When was it settled? It was settled by Parliament in 2011, and he argued that it was the settled will of Parliament, which cannot be touched. These are the same people who tell us about parliamentary sovereignty and how one Parliament cannot bind another. They tell us that they want to stand up to the EU all over the place, but they are of course hiding behind a completely false explanation of EU rules and EU requirements in defence of this injustice.

This is an intentional injustice that has been visited on these women. It is not just, as the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) tried to tell us, that a line has to be drawn somewhere. These are not just haphazard victims of a drive-by cut in the name of austerity; they have been carefully selected and calculated as the victims. Why? These women have been used to inequality and

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injustice all their lives; they have been on the receiving end of inequality in respect of gender pay gaps and denial of access to second pensions at a time when their male colleagues were given access to them. The aim now seems to be, “Let’s give them one more twist of injustice in the name of equalisation as they come to the end of their working lives.” That is an absolutely travesty; it offers people stone for bread. This Parliament should be doing better than that.

As for the “settled will”, legislation that is currently going through Parliament will change legislation that was passed in the last Parliament. The Financial Services Act 2012 and the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 were passed in the last Parliament, and they are being changed by legislation that is going through the House now. The Enterprise Bill is changing legislation that was passed in the last Parliament. The Trade Union Bill is changing legislation that was passed in the last Parliament. Yesterday we debated the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which, of course, is also changing legislation that was passed in the last Parliament. The Government can change legislation to introduce cuts, but they cannot change legislation to bring justice to people.

We should compare the present position with the position in 2011. What we have now are pension freedoms, and a tax windfall for the Treasury. The Government should bear in mind the new fiscal ambit that comes with those pension freedoms, and use it to introduce pension justice—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I call the shadow Minister.

4.35 pm

Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab): It is absolutely great to follow the excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan).

Enormous interest has been expressed in this issue by Members on both sides of the House, not least thanks to the sterling work of the WASPI campaigners and the 154,000 people who signed their petition. As the Minister knows, there was standing room only during the Westminster Hall debate on the subject—it was the first Westminster Hall debate in which I took part as the shadow Minister—because the subject was of significance to all Members. We heard from many about the women who feel ill-prepared and short-changed by the failure to communicate and to deliver full transitional arrangements.

Members have made some excellent points today, illustrating the stark reality that is faced by the many women who are trying to plan for their retirement in the context of these changes. Members in all parts of the House made passionate speeches on behalf of their constituents. I particularly thank my hon. Friends the Members for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) and for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), and the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands). I also thank the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). There has been cross-party support for the WASPI women, and understanding of the difficulties that they face.

I know that it is sometimes difficult for Conservative Members to speak out against the Government, and I give particular credit to those who have done so: the hon.

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Members for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries), for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), for Salisbury (John Glen), and for East Worthing and Shoreham. I know that it is difficult to make passionate speeches of that kind, and I thank those Members for their contributions.

I would say this to the Tories—I am sorry, the Members opposite—[Hon. Members: “They are the Tories.”] That is what we call them locally. I am being nice when I call them the Members opposite. I am referring to the hon. Members for Gloucester (Richard Graham), for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans), and for Sherwood (Mark Spencer). This is not a question of racing back to the 1950s, and it is not about the 1995 changes. I say to Members, “Please read the motion.” We have offered options, and I have asked the Minister many times to give me costings for transitional arrangements. I urge Members to examine their consciences, to take account of the passionate debate that we have had, and to vote in favour of the motion.

Let me briefly mention my hon. Friends the Members for Warrington North (Helen Jones) and for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds)—who is apparently a great feminist, although not as much of one as I am—[Interruption.] All right, I am sorry: perhaps he is. Let me also mention my hon. Friends the Members for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), for Burnley (Julie Cooper), for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq), and for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes). Others who spoke in support of the motion were the hon. Members for Arfon (Hywel Williams), for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown). I am so relieved that I got all those constituencies right! That, not the Minister, kept me awake at night.

Despite the views that were expressed by Members in all parts of the House, however, the Secretary of State has still refused to consider transitional protections for these women. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it is crucial that we learn from the mistakes of the past and act accordingly. We know that the Minister’s predecessor had hoped that about a tenth of the direct savings of £3 billion would be put aside for transitional arrangements. The option that was eventually put forward as a concession—the 18-month cap—cost about a third of that. So we have a missing £2 billion, which has gone to the Treasury along with the rest of the savings. There are different options for transitional protection, and many Members on both sides of the House have suggested them today, but the Government have again failed to respond.

Sir Peter Bottomley: The hon. Lady has referred to the £1.1 billion, which brought the extension down from two years to 18 months and, we are told, dealt with 81% of the women affected. So only 20% roughly are left at 18 months and the cost would be up £200 million. Can we put it to Government that that £200 million would have bought the loyalty of the rest of us this evening, but it won’t if they don’t?

Angela Rayner: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I hope that the Minister will answer that question. Just over a £1 billion was put in. According to my research, over half of that was for men.

24 Feb 2016 : Column 372

This is not the first time that Labour Members have asked the Government to consider these changes. As I have said, I would like to see and hear what the Government have done to look at transitional arrangements. We have had many debates in the House on the matter and, as Members have rightly said, this issue crosses party lines.

People watching this debate today are incredibly proud of where I have come from. I was a home help and many women who pushed me into coming into the House of Commons will be watching the debate and are affected by the changes. When I stood for Parliament, I was asked, “What is your proudest moment?” I would say it is delivering equal pay and standing up for women’s rights. We have a choice today and we must do the right thing. Many Members have said that. I hope that the Minister has listened to the debate and that the Government do the right thing.

4.41 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People (Justin Tomlinson): I am sorry that the limited time available prevents me from paying credit to all the Members who have spoken today. There has been real passion, and well thought out and measured responses on both sides of the House, drawing on the challenges we face, the concerns raised directly by residents and the work of the WASPI campaign, to which many Members are paying close attention.

I pay credit to the hon. Members for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) and for Burnley (Julie Cooper), who made the shortest speech today and gave some people some extra time. I understand the challenge that my hon. Friends the Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) have found themselves in. It is a difficult decision, particularly to go against your own Government. My hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans), for Salisbury (John Glen) and for Gloucester (Richard Graham) set out in great detail the wider issues and challenges we face. The key to that was eloquently put by my hon. Friends the Members for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman).

The Opposition have set out six options, which are very attractive. How simple life would be if we could simply say yes to all six, or any number of those six options. However, the challenge is that not a single one has been costed. Not a single one has suggested what we should not be doing. There is occasionally vague guesswork on what could pay for something. I was in two debates yesterday in Westminster Hall. The same vague ideas were expressed on how things could be paid for.

Barbara Keeley: Will the Minister give way?

Justin Tomlinson: Because of the lack of time, I will not give way.

We have to look at the acceleration of state pension age equalisation, which is being introduced by this Government in order to achieve gender equality in state pension provision and to provide a sustainable system that can work for future generations. Often that is forgotten. It is always about now, not those future

24 Feb 2016 : Column 373

generations, our children and our children’s children, to whom all too often politicians have bequeathed yet more debt.

In recent years, because of higher life expectancy and the difference in state pension ages, women on average have been receiving considerably more state pension over their lifetime than men. Not only was equalisation necessary to meet the UK’s obligations under EU law, but it provides the foundations for a fairer state pension that treats men and women equally.

Ian Blackford: Will the Minister give way?

Justin Tomlinson: I apologise to those who want to intervene. Those who debated with me in Westminster Hall know that I will always try to answer as many questions and interventions as possible. We simply do not have time today.

Equalisation provides the foundations for a fairer state pension that treats men and women equally. That is something we can all agree on, on both sides of the House. The changes to state pension age were fully considered when the 2011 Act was passed. The Government listened to concerns at the time and adopted a concession worth over £1 billion, which benefited almost a quarter of a million women. Eighty-one per cent. of women affected will experience a delay of 12 months or less, compared with the previously legislated timetable.

The Government are also committed to helping older workers stay in the labour market and have extended the right of flexible working to all employees to help achieve this. We are now seeing record numbers of women in employment—over 1 million more since 2010. With the introduction of the national living wage, over two thirds of those who will directly benefit will be women. That is something we can all be proud of. For those who are having difficulties working, the Government provide the same support for women as for men of the same age—in work, out of work, and disability benefits.

I also appreciate the comments made about Government communication. My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans) made great play of this. All Governments of all political colours have always wrestled with the question of the best way to communicate. The DWP did write directly to all the individuals affected by the 2011 Act using the address details recorded by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs at the time. More than 5 million letters were sent at the time. A service has also been available for individuals to request their state pension estimates, and this service has been providing individuals with their state pension age since 1995. We have taken these lessons on board with the auto-enrolment scheme, with which we are seeing very successful engagement.

We must view these changes as part of the wider pension reforms. Those reaching state pension age from April of this year onwards will receive the new state pension, a reformed system that particularly benefits women who would have had poor outcomes under the current system. Over 3 million women stand to gain an average of £11 per week as a result of the changes by 2030.

24 Feb 2016 : Column 374

In conclusion, I remind the House of the reasons for the reform of our state pension system. To function effectively, it has to be fair, affordable and sustainable. These changes made to the state pension age under the Pensions Act 2011 make an important contribution to achieving these aims.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 265, Noes 289.

Division No. 199]


4.46 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Arkless, Richard

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bardell, Hannah

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Black, Mhairi

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Boswell, Philip

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brake, rh Tom

Brennan, Kevin

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

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

Cameron, Dr Lisa

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Chapman, Jenny

Cherry, Joanna

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cowan, Ronnie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Crawley, Angela

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

David, Wayne

Day, Martyn

De Piero, Gloria

Docherty-Hughes, Martin

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donaldson, Stuart Blair

Dorries, Nadine

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Elliott, Tom

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Fellows, Marion

Ferrier, Margaret

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gardiner, Barry

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Goodman, Helen

Grady, Patrick

Gray, Neil

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Healey, rh John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Drew

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Dame Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Kinahan, Danny

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Law, Chris

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Loughton, Tim

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

McCabe, Steve

McCaig, Callum

McCarthy, Kerry

McCartney, Jason

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonald, Stuart C.

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGarry, Natalie

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

McLaughlin, Anne

McMahon, Jim

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Monaghan, Carol

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mulholland, Greg

Mullin, Roger

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Newlands, Gavin

Nicolson, John

O'Hara, Brendan

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Oswald, Kirsten

Owen, Albert

Paterson, Steven

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, rh Angus

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shah, Naz

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheppard, Tommy

Sherriff, Paula

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stephens, Chris

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thewliss, Alison

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thompson, Owen

Thomson, Michelle

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

West, Catherine

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whitford, Dr Philippa

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Corri

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Jeff Smith


Sue Hayman


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

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

Cleverly, James

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

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

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

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

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

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

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

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

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, 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

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Newton, Sarah

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

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, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

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

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Jackie Doyle-Price


Guy Opperman

Question accordingly negatived.

24 Feb 2016 : Column 375

24 Feb 2016 : Column 376

24 Feb 2016 : Column 377

24 Feb 2016 : Column 378

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I have now to announce the result of two deferred Divisions. In respect of the Question relating to road traffic, the Ayes were 299 and the Noes were 226, so the Question was agreed to. In respect of the Question relating to estimates, the Ayes were 301 and the Noes were 60, so the Question was agreed to.

[The Division lists are published at the end of today’s debates.]

24 Feb 2016 : Column 379

Police Funding, Crime and Community Safety

5 pm

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

That this House recalls that the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement 2015 that there would be real-terms protection for police funding; notes that, based on the scale of cuts proposed, police budgets will fall by between nine and ten per cent over four years in real terms; further notes that the failure to provide real-terms protection for the police budget will lead to further cuts in police numbers in addition to the 18,357 police officers already lost since 2010; notes that the inclusion of cybercrime in crime statistics will show that crime has doubled; notes the heightened threat of a terrorist attack in the UK and the operational role of neighbourhood police in preventing such an attack; and calls on the Government to honour the Chancellor’s statement to the House and provide real-terms protection for the police budget.

We called this debate for one simple reason: the public have not been told the truth about police funding or crime figures. With the second police and crime commissioner elections just weeks away, people need the facts so this evening we set the record straight.

A matter of weeks ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer stood at the Dispatch Box and made this explicit promise to the police and to the public:

“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.]

I am sure Conservative Members remember that because they waved their Order Papers. It could not have been clearer—“real-terms protection”. That was not an off-the-cuff remark or a slip of the tongue. It was the centrepiece announcement of the Chancellor’s autumn spending review statement, made with the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister at his side; it was the traditional rabbit out of the hat that we have come to expect on such occasions, designed to produce mass waving of Order Papers.

There was once a time when, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement of that kind in that way to this House, it would have meant something more than just a grab for the next day’s headlines. People could trust it to be true, because it had been said by a Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Dispatch Box in the House of Commons, but it seems that we live in different times. Ministers these days, from the Prime Minister downwards, are decidedly less attentive than they used to be to the veracity of what they say at the Dispatch Box. Every Member of this House should worry, because in the end it goes to the heart of trust in this place and what we all do.

Surely, of all public services, the police should be able to trust the word of Ministers of the Crown when commitments are given here. Would it not be a sign of disrespect to people who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf day in, day out if the Chancellor was writing cheques that he knew he would not be able to cash? You would think so, wouldn’t you, but in today’s politics Ministers think they can say what they like and get away with it.

This evening I will present to the House new analysis which shows that the Chancellor has broken his promise to the police and to the public. He has failed to provide real-terms protection for police budgets in 2016-17. In fact, he is about to cut those police budgets yet again,

24 Feb 2016 : Column 380

for the sixth year in a row. For the six years that he has been Chancellor and the six years that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) has been Home Secretary, we have had six years of cuts to the police. What a record! And to think that the Conservatives used to call themselves the party of law and order.

The issue before the House tonight is this: are we prepared to let the Government think that they can get away with making promises to this House and then breaking them within days, or are we going to do something about it? Are we going to hold them to account and make them honour the promise they made to our local police forces?

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I do not want to go too far back in history, but if my right hon. Friend looks at 3 February 2010 he will see that there were 18,000 more police officers under the Labour Government, but the increase in the budget for 2010-11 was 2.7%, and the Conservative party felt that it was not enough at the time.

Andy Burnham: I was just about to make that very point. The cuts that we are now facing come on top of the loss of 18,000 police officers over the previous Parliament, as my right hon. Friend has just said, and 12,000 of them were front-line officers. Thousands of police community support officers and civilian staff have lost their jobs. We have begun to see the break-up of neighbourhood policing, which was a great achievement of the previous Labour Government, bringing police out of their stations and cars and back into communities, restoring trust and bringing down crime. That is a record that Labour should be proud of.

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend also aware that commitments were given that the sale of police stations and other buildings would help to ensure that there were additional police officers on the frontline? In my constituency we have lost St John’s Wood police station and Harrow Road police station, and I understand that Paddington Green police station has now been sold, yet our police numbers are still nearly 30% down on where they were in 2011.

Andy Burnham: The same story is repeated all over the country. I ask my hon. Friend to think about the cuts that have been made to other services alongside the police, such as those to councils, mental health services, social care, disability benefits, ambulance services and fire services. All those cuts pile extra pressure on our overstretched police forces. That is what we are seeing. The cuts now being planned come at a time when this country is facing multiple challenges on many fronts, and when the threat level has never been higher, so something has to give.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a stark contrast with the approach that the Welsh Labour Government are taking, with funding for hundreds of extra PCSOs in Wales making up for the shortfall they have seen as a result of cuts elsewhere?

Andy Burnham: I think that people will hear what my hon. Friend has said and make their own judgment. Who protects community safety? Who stands up for the

24 Feb 2016 : Column 381

police? When people come to vote this May, there is the evidence that when Labour is in government, when we run councils and when we have Labour police and crime commissioners, we protect front-line and neighbourhood policing and we improve community safety. My hon. Friend makes that point very well.

The question we have to ask the Home Secretary today is this: how many more consecutive years of cuts can police forces take before public safety is seriously compromised? England and Wales already have far fewer police officers per head of population compared with international counterparts. If the ratio drops even lower, there are real fears that were a Paris-style attack to happen here, and, importantly, were it to happen outside London, there would simply not be the ability to surge enough police officers—specifically, fire arms officers and specialist units—on to the streets quickly enough to protect the public.

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is giving this a bit of welly as part of his rehabilitation, but I am confused about two things. First, I have yet to hear him acknowledge that over the past seven years crime has continued to fall quite significantly. Secondly, I have yet to hear him refer to his own recommendation of 10% cuts in police funding, which he made not six months ago. Would he care to enlighten the House on both points?

Andy Burnham: I will come on to both points. I am doing fine, thanks. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can see that I will be standing up for police forces, even if he is not. I will come on to both points he raises, because I do not think that his Government are telling the correct story about what they are doing to the police. They are not providing real-terms protection; they are cutting the police. Ministers also stand at the Dispatch Box and say crime is falling; the Policing Minister said it just days ago—complacently. They fail to point out that the crime figures they quote do not include online crime, which is about to come into the crime statistics for the first time. In the last six years, crime has changed—it has moved online—but the relevant figures have not been counted, so I would not be so complacent if I were him.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned what was said at the autumn statement about what I was meant to have said. What I would say to him is that there is far too much spin coming from the Government Dispatch Box. He should look at what I actually said. I am about to come straight to that issue.

I have talked about the specialist and firearms units we need to protect the public. However, neighbourhood policing is crucial, is it not, if we are to collect the intelligence to combat the terror threat. My worry is that if the Government proceed in this Parliament with year-on-year cuts, they will break up the neighbourhood teams. Let me take the House in detail through what I am saying and through the figures we are presenting.

Analysis by the House of Commons Library of next year’s police grant settlement to individual forces shows that they will not be protected in real terms; in fact, they will not even be cash-protected. In 2015-16, the overall allocation to individual forces, excluding special payments

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to London, was £7,452 million. In 2016-17, it will be £7,421 million—a £30 million cash reduction, or £160 million in real terms.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): A few moments ago, the right hon. Gentleman rightly said that the level of threat is severe, and we are all aware of that. May I make the same invitation to him that I made to his Front-Bench colleague, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), in the previous policing debate? The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the importance of armed police officers. The Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that, in his vision of policing, even if those officers are armed, they will not be allowed to use their weapons. Will the shadow Home Secretary admit that that is a dereliction of duty? Will he take this opportunity, while he is speaking from the Dispatch Box, to clarify the Opposition’s position?

Andy Burnham: I can tell the hon. Gentleman now that the Leader of the Opposition said that that was simply not the case. There is no change whatever to long-established policy when it comes to the police keeping the public safe.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the cuts, the 4.6% police precept rise in the west midlands, which was apparently negotiated by the hon. Members for Solihull (Julian Knight) and for Dudley South (Mike Wood), amounts to nothing more than local people paying more money for less police?

Andy Burnham: The Government are cutting the police at national level, making local people in the west midlands—and in Greater Manchester too—pick up the bill, but people are getting less in terms of police on their streets. We know, do we not, that the Government are very good at making cuts in urban areas such as Greater Manchester and the west midlands and at taking money elsewhere. That is the reality: our constituents will be paying more for less. The Chancellor and the Home Secretary have broken their police promise to our constituents.

Dawn Butler (Brent Central) (Lab): Talking about cuts, we have lost 108 police officers and 104 PCSOs in my constituency since 2010. The only increase we have seen has been in voluntary special constables—and that was 98. The Government are trying to police using volunteers, not police officers.

Andy Burnham: I will come to that as well. The Bill we will debate in a week or so is all about having a part-time police force to deal with the growing threat we face from online crime and fraud and from terror. That is simply not an answer to the challenges of the future, and I will come to that before I finish.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Andy Burnham: I will make a little more progress, and then I will give way to my hon. Friend.

Let us just get the facts on the record: 36 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales have now received their grant allocations from the Home Office, and these

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show a cut in cash terms. How does that deliver the Chancellor’s pledge of real-terms protection? Worse, all police forces in England face real-terms cuts next year. If the same level of cuts is sustained over the spending review period, as we suspect it will be, that will equate to overall real-terms cuts in the police budget of between 9% and 10%.

The House will recall that right up until the spending review—[Interruption.] I am coming to the point. Right up until the spending review, the police had been told to expect cuts of over 20%. Senior police officers say that they were still expecting cuts of over 20% the day before the spending review settlement. The hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) nods because he knows I am right about that. It was sustained pressure from Labour Members that forced a rethink from the Government.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May) rose

Andy Burnham: I will give way to the Home Secretary in a moment.

After the Paris attacks, the whole question of police funding had to be looked at in a new light. I wrote to the Home Secretary and said that while of course efficiencies could be made, anything over 5% cuts in real terms over the course of this Parliament would be dangerous. That was completely misrepresented by the Chancellor in his autumn statement, and I am pleased to correct the record today.

Mrs May: When my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), who was a distinguished deputy Mayor for policing here in London, referred to the 10% figure that the right hon. Gentleman had quoted, the right hon. Gentleman said that there was far too much spin from the Government side of the House. The figure actually came from a Labour party press release where he said:

“Of course, savings can be found. The police say five to ten per cent over the Parliament is just about do-able”.

He accepted 10%, so why is he now so worried about cuts in funding?

Andy Burnham: When that press release was issued I said that up to 5% would be do-able—[Interruption.] No, I have said this consistently, if the Home Secretary will just listen. I said that up to 5% cuts would be doable, and we stand by that; that up to 10% would be difficult; and that over 10% would be dangerous. She was threatening to cut the police by over 20%, so let us get the facts straight. She will recall that she asked Cobra to review police funding in the light of the Paris attacks. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey)—the shadow Policing Minister—and I also consulted the police in the light of the Paris attacks. We listened to what they had to say, as the Home Secretary will have done. They said that over 5% would be difficult, if not dangerous, and I put that in a letter to her before the autumn statement. Let us get this right so that the public are not misinformed and there is no spin from the Government Dispatch Box.

In his desperation to play politics in the autumn statement, the Chancellor tried to misrepresent my position, but he outdid himself, because he misrepresented not

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just my position but the Government’s position. He dressed up a 10% cut as budget protection, and we now know that it is nothing of the sort. No doubt the Government’s defence will rest on the claim that they gave councils extra freedom to increase the police precept to make up the shortfall, but that does not hold water. For the Chancellor to give the guarantee in this House as he did, he would have needed firm agreements from local councils and PCCs that they would raise the extra cash locally, but he did not have those agreements—not even from Conservative PCCs. The Devon and Cornwall and Cambridgeshire forces will not be raising their precepts by the full amount recommended by the Government, and Hertfordshire is actually shown to have lowered its precept.




The Home Secretary says, “It’s their decision”, but let me tell her again: she promised real-terms protection for police budgets, and she is not delivering real-terms protection for police budgets. She has broken her promise to the police. I am afraid that she cannot just shrug that fact off. The Conservative PCC for Devon and Cornwall, Tony Hogg, says this about the implications of the spending review for his force:

“While I completely welcome the Government’s changed position on Police funding, it remains a fact that central Government funding to Devon and Cornwall Police in 2020 is estimated to be 19% less in cash terms (real terms 32% less) than it was when I commenced office in November 2012.”

A 32% cut in real terms, with 43 officers going next year and 28 police staff going too, is not on, and the Government cannot just shrug it off.

The next claim that the Government will no doubt make is that authorities that have used the precept freedoms to the full will have been able to protect their budgets, but that is not true either. The Hampshire independent PCC, Simon Hayes, said:

“The Medium Term Financial Strategy...shows an estimated budget shortfall of £6m by 2019/20 assuming 1.99% council tax precept increases from 2016/17 onwards.”

He cannot make up the shortfall from his precept.

Let me apply the same test to the Home Secretary’s police force and my own. Next year, Thames Valley police will see a real-terms cut in central Government funding of £5 million. The income raised by the full use of the precept does not cover that shortfall. Forces such as Thames Valley also have to contend with other cost burdens loaded on to them by the Chancellor, including the apprenticeship levy and the extra national insurance contributions. In the case of Thames Valley, those amount to more than £6 million. That is money out of front-line policing. What is the net effect of that in the Home Secretary’s police force? She should listen to this: 95 officers going next year, as well as 51 police community support officers and 161 staff. There we have it. The Home Secretary has broken her own police pledge to her constituents.

Let us look at my force, Greater Manchester police. According to figures from the Library, central Government funding will be down by £8 million in real terms next year. The force has made full use of the freedoms from the precept, but that will not make up the shortfall. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) said, the force will be paying more for less. As the PCC for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, puts it:

“Contrary to the Chancellor’s rhetoric, this is a cuts budget.”

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Catherine McKinnell: My right hon. Friend is making a powerful speech and highlighting the differential impacts, as well as the impact across the board. I want to give the House the example of Northumbria police. Just 12% of its revenue comes from the council tax precept. That is far below the national average of 25%, and that hampers its ability to make up for the shortfall. Northumbria is the worst hit of all forces, with local residents paying more for less.

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The more deprived parts of the country have less ability to raise money from their council tax base, so they cannot make up for the Government’s cuts. I am sorry to tell her that the situation could be about to get even worse. The Guardian reported yesterday that the Home Secretary is about to bring forward a new police funding formula—after the mess that the Policing Minister made of the last one—which will divert funding away from urban forces towards rural ones.

Mrs May indicated dissent.

Andy Burnham: The Home Secretary is shaking her head, and I am glad; I hope that she will tell me that that is not true. Recently, £300 million was miraculously made available for local government in England at the last minute, but—surprise, surprise—barely a penny went to any council represented by Labour. It all went to councils represented by the Conservatives. If the police funding formula did the same, it would add insult to injury and make a complete and utter mockery of the Government’s already dubious commitment to creating a northern powerhouse.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I have listened carefully to the shadow Home Secretary for 22 minutes, and his entire assessment of how the police are doing is based on the amount of money that the Government have given them. There has been absolutely no mention of smarter policing, better procurement or better use of technology. We heard yesterday in the Home Affairs Committee from a former Labour Member of this House and former Minister who is now the PCC for Merseyside. She has managed to halve the budget for her office compared with that of the former police authority, and all that money has gone into front-line policing. There is more to policing than the amount of money that the police receive from central office.

Andy Burnham: I could not have put it better myself. Vote Labour. Vote for a Labour PCC. Labour PCCs will work cleverly to protect front-line policing, and they will drive innovation and reform. Protect our police by voting Labour in May. I thank the hon. Gentleman for making my point better than I could have done.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): On the point about additional funding for policing to plug some of the gaps that the right hon. Gentleman has talked about, as he knows, the reductions are over five years, during which time some PCCs may take control of their fire authorities. Does he believe that it would be right or wrong for PCCs to use fire budgets to plug perceived gaps in their police budgets?

Andy Burnham: I think it would be wrong, and I am very worried about the proposal to put fire under the control of the PCCs, because fire will be the poor

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relation. Already, thousands of firefighters, fire pumps and fire stations are at risk from the local government settlement. I put it to the hon. Gentleman and all Conservative Members that considering the cuts to the police, and to the fire service as well, we must all ask ourselves the question: is there adequate emergency cover in all parts of the country? I believe we are getting to the point at which some people will say that that is no longer the case. We need to look at those two things together. Putting two underfunded services together will not necessarily create a financially viable or safe service.

I want to move on to the crime figures, because I am conscious of the time. The Government’s alibi for their police cuts so far has been that it is okay to cut the police because crime is falling. That is basically the argument made by the hon. Member for North West Hampshire, who formerly had responsibility for policing in London— but is it true? The latest recorded crime statistics in January showed large increases in violent crime, knife crime, hate crime and sexual offences.

As ever, Ministers will say, “Look at the British crime survey,” but as I have said, crime has changed: it has migrated online. We might see a downward trend in the traditional volume crimes such as burglary and theft in the British crime survey, but when we ask the British public whether they have been the victim of online crime, they will probably say, “Yes, I have been.” If those figures are not included in the British crime survey, it is no wonder that we do not have an accurate picture of crime.

Kit Malthouse rose

Andy Burnham: I will give way one final time.

Kit Malthouse: I recognise the issue that the right hon. Gentleman raises, but will he accept that we cannot patrol to prevent online crime? The solution to online crime is not throwing bodies at it but about throwing technology at it, which can be done either relatively cheaply or much more efficiently.

Andy Burnham: What we should not do is to throw volunteers at it, which is the Home Secretary’s idea. [Interruption.] I will come on to explain that. This is about both technology and people. We need sophisticated teams to deal with it. It is fair to say that most police forces do not have such a capability at the moment, and they will not get that capability by having their numbers and their budgets cut. We need a sophisticated response to online crime.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): The hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) is trying to suggest that there is no link between crime and the reduction in support and funding for police services. In Greater Manchester, £8.5 million and 1,600 staff have been cut, and we know that there has been an increase in crime. In my constituency, the number of burglaries has doubled year on year. Is that not the effect of what the Government are doing?

Andy Burnham: That is directly the effect of what the Government have done, compared with what they inherited. How on earth can that police force now develop the

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capability to deal with the threats we will face in the future? The argument that crime is falling so we can cut the police will not work any more. Ministers are going to have to get a new script. It is not safe to cut the police, because crime is becoming more complex.

Mrs May: I am grateful to the shadow Home Secretary for giving way to me a second time. He is making an argument about the importance of accuracy in reporting figures. May I therefore ask him why, in relation to a Labour party press release on crime statistics issued in January, under the heading “crime up 6 per cent, the biggest increase”, the UK Statistics Authority wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) to say that

“by focusing on police recorded crime without appropriate caveats, and omitting evidence from the more complete and reliable source (for most violent crimes) of the Crime Survey for England and Wales, it may have given, in parts, a misleading impression”?

Will the right hon. Gentleman now apologise?

Andy Burnham: No, I will not, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington said, the figures were accurately reported. The challenge today is for the Home Secretary to explain her claim that crime is falling, because I am afraid the recorded crime figures do not show that, and some experts say that the British crime survey is about to show that crime has in fact doubled. That is the issue that she has to explain, and she will have to work hard to do so.

Tackling online crime is one of the biggest challenges we face, but as I have said, forces do not have the capability. The question is, how are they going to do that with these further cuts? To be fair, the Home Secretary has floated one idea, which I have just mentioned. She told the BBC website in January that she was planning to recruit a new army of volunteers to help solve cybercrimes. She said that

“volunteers who specialise in accountancy or computing”,

as well as IT professionals,

“could work alongside police officers to investigate cyber or financial crime”.

I ask in all honesty, is that really the best the Government can come up with to crack the complex crime challenges of the future—Theresa’s temps, a Dad’s Army of retired accountants to take on and defeat the sophisticated international organised crime and fraud networks?

The week after next, we will debate the Home Secretary’s Bill, which will propose that powers be given to volunteers without their becoming special constables. Is that really the answer—a part-time police force? It does not equate to a vision for policing in England and Wales that is up to the challenges of the future. A part-time police force is no answer to the growing threats we face from cybercrime and terrorism. When it is the only answer that the Government can come up with, it is a sure sign that their cuts have gone way too far.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): It was suggested by the former deputy Mayor that these things can be done by sophisticated algorithms that can filter out such crimes. Actually, the victims of such crimes still feel that they need a police officer to come

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round and speak to them. That is the problem, especially when 1,000 front-line police officers in Merseyside are being cut.

Andy Burnham: We have seen this cost cutting and privatisation elsewhere, haven’t we? Take NHS 111, which was going to solve everything because of the algorithms that the call handlers would use. Has the service to the public been better than under NHS Direct? In no way. My hon. Friend has got it absolutely right. The Government suggest that it can all be done on the cheap, but people know it cannot.

In conclusion, the official line from the Government has been, “We’re protecting the police and crime is falling,” but that claim is something that should be added to the growing fraud statistics. The truth is the opposite: the police are being cut while crime is rising. They are cutting the fire service and the Border Force even more deeply—Tory cuts that are putting people’s safety at risk. That is the message that we will take into the PCC elections. Our police do a difficult job in a dangerous world. They deserve our thanks and respect, particularly those of the Government of the day. If promises are made to them, they should be kept. As we have shown, Labour is prepared to stand up for the police and protect community safety. That is what we are asking the House to do tonight by making this arrogant Government honour their commitment to the police. Real-terms protection should mean just that. What better way is there for Members on both sides of the House to show their appreciation for their local police forces than by voting for the Opposition motion tonight?

5.32 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Let me start by paying tribute to the police, the fire and rescue services and all those who attended the incident at Didcot power station yesterday. In doing so, they showed the courage and professionalism that police officers and firefighters show day in and day out.

The right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) called for a debate on police funding, crime and community safety. I am delighted that he did so and I will set out the steps the Government are taking to continue cutting crime, keep people safe from terrorism and reform our police and emergency services in a moment, but before I do, I would like to address the motion before us. He said that he called this debate to expose “Tory lies”, but the truth is that the motion contains nothing but inaccuracies and misleading statements. I will address each in turn.

The right hon. Gentleman says in the motion that

“police budgets will fall by between nine and ten per cent over four years in real terms”.

That is, frankly, not true. As the Chancellor set out in the autumn statement, overall police spending will increase from nearly £11.4 billion this year to £12.3 billion at the end of the spending review period—an increase of just under 8% or £900 million in cash terms. There will be protection in real terms over the course of this Parliament if police and crime commissioners maximise their precept. The funding for individual PCC budgets, which includes funding from central Government and local taxpayers through the precept, will be protected in cash terms.

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We will provide substantial additional investment over the period in transformation funding to improve police capabilities to deal with modern threats such as terrorist firearms attacks, cybercrime and other emerging threats.

When the right hon. Gentleman calls on the Government to provide real-terms protection for the policing budget, I can happily tell Members that we have done just that. That is in stark contrast to the right hon. Gentleman himself. Earlier, I referred to a Labour party press release, but addressing the Labour party conference last year the shadow Home Secretary made it clear that he would support cutting the police by

“5 per cent to 10 per cent over the Parliament”.

It is one thing to criticise the Government for imaginary spending cuts, but it is quite another to do so after arguing for significant spending reductions.

The right hon. Gentleman also argues that police forces might make further reductions to the number of police officers and staff. Notwithstanding the point that police budgets have been protected for the spending review period, decisions on the size and composition of a police force’s workforce are for individual chief officers working closely with their police and crime commissioners. The lesson of the past five years is that what matters is how officers are deployed, not how many of them there are.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I have heard the Home Secretary comment that she is not particularly concerned about the numbers, but I wonder whether she is concerned about the fact that Humberside police force has the lowest level of police officers since the 1970s. Does that not concern her at all?

Mrs May: The point that I am making is very simple and I am happy to repeat it to the hon. Lady. The Labour party consistently looks at the amount of money that is spent and at the number of police officers, but what we need to look at is how money is being spent and how the officers are being deployed. It is not just me who is saying that. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has made it clear that there is no simple link between officer numbers and crime levels, between numbers and the visibility of police in the community or between numbers and the quality of service provided.

Andy Burnham: I am listening carefully to what the Home Secretary is saying and she has repeated the claim that she is protecting the police in real terms. Is she therefore denying the figures from the House of Commons Library that show 36 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales receiving cash cuts in their allocation from the Home Office for 2016-17?

Mrs May: When the right hon. Gentleman looks at figures for overall police spending he needs to look at figures for overall police spending, because they include the money being spent. He was very careful. He said when he looked at his figures that he was not looking, for example, at the extra grants for London through the capital city grant. He was not looking at the money being spent on the emergency services mobile

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scheme that we are introducing to replace Airwave. He needs to look more carefully at the figures that he is citing.

Richard Fuller: The Home Secretary makes a very good point; this is not just about the total money but about how money is spent. The problems on the Labour side also come down to a local level, not just a national level. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that although we understand the problems with financing policing in Bedfordshire, it undermines the case when the PCC for Bedfordshire has one of the highest proportions of commissioned police officers in staff roles rather than on the frontline and when he does not spend the budget allocated to him, for example, on counter-terrorism?

Mrs May: I agree with my hon. Friend, and it is very striking when we look at the figures for Bedfordshire how many officers are not on the frontline but in the back office. That is one of the things that most police forces have changed over the years, but there is clearly more scope for that to take place in Bedfordshire. Under a different police and crime commissioner—a Conservative police and crime commissioner—I am sure that it would.

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I want to pick up on that point about the financial management of Labour police and crime commissioners. In the West Midlands, for instance, the Labour PCC, David Jamieson, has reported £100 million in reserves, yet he chose before the spending review to fire huge swathes of vital PCSOs in a highly politicised move and then had to reverse the decision after the spending review. The message is, “If you want to play politics with the police, vote Labour.”

Mrs May: I have to say that I agree with my hon. Friend. If we look at the figures, we see that the cash change in resource reserves since March 2014 in the West Midlands is £27 million. The choice has been made to put that money in reserve—into the bank balance—rather than into officers on the frontline.

Andy Burnham: I thank the Home Secretary for giving way one more time, because this is an important debate and people need the truth. They will have heard that she did not answer my last question about Home Office cash cuts to 36 police forces, so let me ask another question. She loves to read out what I said—5%, 10%—but I have already gone through what I said and the letter I wrote to her. Let us get the facts straight. Why did David Jamieson put forward those plans? It was because until the day before the spending review, the Home Secretary was telling the police that they could expect 25% cuts. That is what she was telling them; that is what they were planning for. What happened to make her change her mind the day before the spending review, and back down on the 25% cuts that she was planning?

Mrs May: The right hon. Gentleman is trying to make an argument where there is none, because he knows full well the processes of determining the comprehensive spending review, and the discussions that take place between Departments and the Treasury that result in the final figures that the Chancellor announces. In truth, the Labour party decided what its line was going to be on police funding, and when the Chancellor

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stood up and protected police budgets, instead of sensibly changing that line, it decided to carry on with it anyway because one should never let the facts get in the way of an argument.

The right hon. Gentleman argues that the inclusion of cybercrime in the crime statistics will show that crime has doubled, but the uncomfortable truth for the Opposition is that crime has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010, according to the independent crime survey for England and Wales. That is one of the most authoritative surveys of victims of crime in the world. It is administered by the independent Office for National Statistics, which captures the experience of more than 30,000 households. The survey dates back to the 1980s and shows that crime is at historic lows. People in this country are as safe as they have ever been.

The ONS has been clear: its preliminary estimate on fraud and cybercrime does not mean that crime is rising, and certainly not that it has doubled. In fact, it confirms what we have long known, which is that such crimes have for too long gone unreported and unrecorded. That is why the Government welcome the work of the ONS to capture those crimes.

The right hon. Gentleman notes the heightened threat of a terrorist attack and the important role of the police in preventing such attacks, and I will go on to speak about that.

Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab): The Chancellor is not present, but will the right hon. Lady confirm that his pledge to protect the police relies on an assumed increase of £369 million in local taxes?

Mrs May: I described accurately in my speech what was said about real-terms figures and maximising the precept, and that in cash terms there will be virtually a £900 million increase in funding for police budgets.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): Is my right hon. Friend surprised, as I am, that on the one hand Labour Members seem to be arguing that the Chancellor protected funding because of their campaign, and on the other hand that funding is going down?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is absolutely right—they cannot have it all ways, and that is exactly what the shadow Home Secretary is trying to argue. He is saying, “Isn’t it great? It is all because of us that police funding is protected—ooh, whoops, no, we think it’s going down.” He really needs to get his own lines straight before he stands up and speaks in this Chamber.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab) rose

Mrs May: I want to speak about terrorism so I hope the hon. Gentleman will excuse me. The threat from terrorism is real and growing. As I said when I was in Washington last week, the threat from Daesh requires us to act with greater urgency and joint resolve, both at home and internationally, more than ever before. An effective counter-terrorism response relies on the police and agencies working together with the right tools, capabilities and powers. That is precisely why the Government took the decision to protect overall police spending in real terms last autumn, why they have always supported neighbourhood policing as part of that joint effort, and why they protected counter-terrorism policing budgets and increased funding for the security

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and intelligence agencies. We are introducing vital legislation to ensure that the police and agencies continue to investigate crime and protect our national security in the digital age.

Stephen Doughty: I have spoken to the Home Secretary previously about this, and the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice was good enough to meet me recently to discuss the specific concerns facing Cardiff— as a capital city—and its neighbouring regions, particularly when dealing with the threat from terrorism. Will she look closely and generously at the specific needs facing Cardiff when she considers the resources that she is speaking about?

Mrs May: There are two aspects to this. There is the request that Cardiff has made for capital city grant, in the same way that London receives capital city grant. This has been looked at very carefully on a number of occasions. In overall policing terms, London has specific responsibilities and issues to address that are not reflected in Cardiff as a capital city. Separately, there is the whole question of counter-terrorism policing. The counter-terrorism policing budget is separate. We have been able to not just protect it but increase it for such issues as the provision of firearms officers. I recognise the points the hon. Gentleman has made to me and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice about ensuring that proper counter-terrorism resource is available in the Cardiff area for policing.

Dawn Butler (Brent Central) (Lab): I agree with the Home Secretary about the fight to combat terrorism. Safer neighbourhood teams have a pivotal role. In my constituency, the most diverse in the UK, we have lost 104 PCSOs. They cannot be replaced by volunteers. Does that concern the Home Secretary as much as it concerns me?

Mrs May: I will make two points to the hon. Lady. First, the percentage of officers in front-line duties has actually increased, I think from 89% to 92%, under this Government. Secondly, if we compare the actions of Labour police and crime commissioners with Conservative police and crime commissioners, Conservative PCCs have largely protected their local police officers, whereas Labour PCCs have been cutting them more significantly. I therefore suggest she looks at that.

Clive Efford: Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mrs May: I am going to make some more progress, because we have limited time for this debate.

I cannot agree with many of the contentions put forward in today’s motion, but I welcome the opportunity to set out the reforms that the Government have pursued since 2010 to improve policing, deliver better value for money for taxpayers, and better protect people and communities from crime. When we came to power in 2010, it was not only the country’s finances that the Labour party had left in a mess. The financial crisis made public spending cuts across the board necessary. We had just been through the worst financial crisis since the second world war and had the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history—bigger than that in Portugal and bigger, even, than the one in Greece.

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Even without the pressing financial imperative, however, the problems in policing were glaring. Police forces were bloated with bureaucracy. Officers’ productivity was held back by targets and red tape. Local policing priorities were dictated from Whitehall. Police pay and conditions were hopelessly out of date, and, while police forces were supposedly held to account by police authorities, in reality only 7% of the public knew that those unelected committees even existed.

We brought in a radical programme of police reform to transform inadequate structures and institutions, bringing much-needed changes to open up the workforce, reform pay and conditions, overhaul outdated systems and technology, and make policing properly accountable. We cut red tape and freed up about 4.5 million hours of police time, the equivalent of 2,100 full-time police officers. We took steps to root out the waste and inefficiency that existed in police procurement and IT. We set up the College of Policing to improve police standards and training. We established the National Crime Agency to co-ordinate the response to serious and organised crime.

In 2011, we introduced police and crime commissioners to bring real local accountability to policing in a way that was never possible under invisible and faceless police authorities. In just a few months’ time, the public will have the opportunity to hold policing in their area to account in the strongest way possible—at the ballot box. For those pioneering PCCs standing for re-election, they will be defending their record and will be judged on their record over the last three-and-a-half years. Those standing for the first time will be judged on their ideas to improve policing in their areas. All will have a direct, democratic mandate to hold their local police force to account, to cut crime and to keep people safe.

When I introduced my programme of reform, those on the Opposition Benches claimed it would lead to a perfect storm of more crime, lower confidence and less visible policing. However, thanks to the hard work of police officers and police staff, and thanks to the leadership of chief constables and police and crime commissioners up and down the country, none of those predictions has come true. As I said earlier, crime is down by more than a quarter since 2010, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales. Labour Members can shake their heads, but this Government have done more than any other to ensure that crime statistics are accurate and can be trusted by the public. In 2012, I transferred responsibility for crime statistics from the Home Office to the Office for National Statistics to ensure that they are properly independent. In 2013, I commissioned Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to inspect crime recording practices in all forces in England and Wales. In 2014, it published a report on each force, as well as an overview of its findings. As a result of its scrutiny, we are already seeing more accurate crime recording.

I have made previously hidden and under-reported crimes a priority, and I hope Members of all parties will welcome the fact that today we see more victims of sexual and violent offences having the confidence to come forward and report those crimes. While crime has fallen, public confidence has been maintained and the proportion of police officers on the front line has increased.

Debbie Abrahams rose—

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Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab) rose

Mrs May: I give way to the hon. Lady.

Debbie Abrahams: Unfortunately, my constituents are not at all happy. Burglary has increased by 100% over the last year, according to police recorded crime figures. What is the Home Secretary doing to monitor the potential increase in vigilantism?

Mrs May: I am sorry, but I thought the hon. Lady said “invigilantism”. It is very clear—HMIC is very clear about it—that the police have the resources they need to do the job they need to keep people safe and secure. They are doing that on a day-to-day basis across the country. Public perceptions of crime are improving nationally and locally. Fewer people are worried about burglary, and more people believe the criminal justice system is effective.

Neil Coyle rose

Mrs May: I am sorry, but I am conscious that there is only limited time for this debate, and I am coming to the end of my remarks.

As I said earlier, the proportion of officers on the front line has increased from 89% to 92% since March 2010. That has been achieved at the same time as we have set about the urgent task of repairing the country’s finances, reducing the deficit and ensuring the long-term health of our economy. That task is not yet finished. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor made clear in the autumn statement, over the course of the last Parliament, we made huge progress in rescuing the economy. Now we must rebuild it and we must protect our economic security in an uncertain world. We must also ensure that we have the resources to respond to the growing and emerging threats that we face. We have done that by protecting police funding in real terms, once the local precept is taken into account.

This is not the first time that the right hon. Member for Leigh and his party have made tall claims about crime and public safety. In 2011, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) argued in this House that our reforms would lead to “a perfect storm” of higher crime, lower confidence and less visible policing. None of those predictions came true.

In 2012, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) said that the model of community policing was being denigrated by the Government. In fact, we have always supported a model of community policing, and we put PCCs in place to ensure that local priorities were taken into account. As I have just indicated, Conservative PCCs are doing a better job in that area than Labour PCCs are.

In 2013, the Labour party’s review of policing, led by Lord Stevens, warned of

“a danger of the police being forced to retreat to a discredited model of reactive policing”.

As I have said, however, a greater proportion of officers are now on the front line. In 2014, the then Leader of the Opposition claimed that abolishing direct democracy through police and crime commissioners was a “sensible” saving. Yet in three months’ time, the Labour Party will stand candidates in elections for every single police force area in the country.

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In 2015, the Labour crime and justice manifesto suggested that

“a further 30,000 police officers could be lost after the election under the Conservatives”.

HMIC has been clear, however, that every force has the resources it needs to deliver effective policing and to continue cutting crime.

Andy Burnham rose

Mrs May: Given that it is the right hon. Gentleman, I will give way one last time, but I am virtually at the end.

Andy Burnham: I am very grateful to the Home Secretary. She has just said something that goes to the heart of our debate today. She said that the Government had protected police budgets in real terms, once the police precept is taken into account—she said something along those lines. Will she accept that that caveat was not in the Chancellor’s autumn statement?

Mrs May: No. I am sorry, but we have been through this, and I am not going to go over it again for the right hon. Gentleman.

At every release of the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales, the Labour party has ignored the most authoritative measure for crime in this country, because it does not show what it wants it to show. As I said earlier, Labour decided what its campaign would be six years ago, and they have doggedly stuck to it ever since. They operate on the basis that if you say something enough times, people will believe it, regardless of the facts—[Interruption.] They ignore the evidence that points to lower crime, safer communities and police reform that is working. [Interruption.]

Neil Coyle rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Members must allow the Home Secretary to conclude her speech.

Mrs May: The hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) may well be able to catch the eye of the Chair if he wishes to speak later.

There is an important debate to be had on policing in this country. It is a debate on how best to keep individuals, communities and businesses safe from crime, how best to ensure that the police can adapt to changing crime and emerging threats, and how best to drive better collaboration, joint working and local accountability in law enforcement and wider public services. I urge the shadow Home Secretary to focus on those issues, rather than repeating the same discredited claims that his predecessors repeated throughout the last Parliament. Keeping communities safe from crime, and ensuring that the police can adapt to that changing crime and those emerging threats, are what the public care about and what this Government will deliver.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. It will be obvious to the House that a great many Members wish to speak, and we have only an hour left. After the spokesman for the Scottish National party has made his contribution, there will be a three-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

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5.56 pm

Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) (SNP): I assure Members that I have no intention of taking up any more time than is absolutely necessary.

Let me begin by echoing the words of the Home Secretary, and making it clear that my hon. Friends and I are forever thankful for the tireless work that our police services do on our behalf to keep our streets safe. They are indeed indispensable. Since my election, I have been hugely impressed by the officers whom I have met. They are all completely dedicated to protecting the public, which is how it should be. I think we need to make it clear in this debate that all police staff on both sides of the border have our full and unequivocal support as they go about their very important duties.

The motion is predicated on the Chancellor’s announcement in the autumn statement that police budgets in England and Wales would be fully protected. I well remember the waving of Order Papers and the near-hysteria of Conservative Members, who presumably thought that full protection was the right course of action; it certainly seemed to be their view. The occasion followed a Back-Bench police debate in which I led for the SNP. During that debate, Labour called for cuts to be restricted to 10%—or 5%; it depends on whom we believe today. The Government made no commitment that day, although, somewhat predictably, they outflanked the Labour party in the autumn statement.

As always with this Government, the devil may well be in the detail. We now learn—from a response to a written question, no less—that this much-celebrated protection may not extend to the transport, defence and nuclear police. I remember the Chancellor’s words clearly, and if the response to the written question is correct—and there seems to be some debate about that today—his statement could be described as disingenuous. Given that policing is devolved, it is not for me, or the SNP, to argue the points that are made in the motion. I merely point out that I witnessed the Chancellor’s assurances, and that in any area of policy, devolved or not, it is imperative that the public can rely on clear statements in this place.

The motion does not stipulate Scotland specifically, which is a pleasant surprise. Perhaps the Labour party is learning that bashing Scotland and her democratically elected Government does its electoral chances in Scotland no good whatsoever. My party will therefore abstain in the vote, and will leave the debate to the MPs from England and Wales. Accordingly, my comments will not take up too much time. I do not wish to restrict the right of England and Wales Members to a say.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when it comes to policing, it is not just a question of money but a question of structure? Will he acknowledge that the SNP Government made a mistake in reducing their police to a single force?

Richard Arkless: I remind the hon. Gentleman that the proposal was in the SNP manifesto, the Conservative manifesto, and the Labour manifesto at the last Scottish parliamentary election. It seems a bit rich to claim after the event that making the move was the wrong thing to do, given that all the parties were advocating such a move.

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I am a Member of this House and my party is the third party in it. In that context, it is worth while briefly highlighting the approach that Scotland has taken to budget police cuts. I express my pride that the Scottish Government have done what is necessary to protect a commitment for 1,000 additional officers since 2007. That commitment has been delivered in full. We have delivered savings and maintained an impressive reduction in crime figures. We did it all in the face of the harsh austerity agenda against us. Most importantly, we kept officers on the streets, protecting communities effectively. Sure there have been challenges but all organisational upheaval of that extent will have those teething problems.

Since 2007 in Scotland, we have increased the number of officers by 6.3%, while in England and Wales in the same period the number has dropped by 10.8%. It is dangerous to risk security in that way, yet the Government insist on pursuing the line that they are making the UK safer. How you spend what you have and your spending priorities are often as important as the underlying spend. It is about time that the rest of the UK caught up with the standards set by the Scottish Government in achieving the lowest crime rate in four decades. We have driven savings and upheld the priority of combating new and more sophisticated forms of crime, including cybercrime, financial crime and terrorism. Having said that, I believe it is fundamentally unfair that the Scottish Police Authority has yet to be awarded the VAT status that every other police force in the UK enjoys. That alone would be enough to ease the burden on the force to the tune of £23 million.

Jake Berry: I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would confirm that the Scottish Government were advised, before they made the changes to the Scottish policing structure, that they would lose their special status on VAT. If so, why did they still proceed to make the change?

Richard Arkless: I can confirm that that was the case, but we made our protestations abundantly clear at that time, and we also made it clear that we would campaign on the issue. There is an old saying: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the chances are it is a duck. That looks unfair, it feels unfair and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is unfair. Surely that cannot be right.

Mr Speaker: I discern that the hon. Gentleman has finished his speech. We are very obliged to him.

6.2 pm

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): I am pleased to see your happy countenance, Mr Speaker, for I rise depressed. I thought coming to this place that I would avoid tedious arguments about inputs and instead participate in a debate about results, policy and methods. In 2008, when I became deputy mayor for policing in London, I inherited a police force that had lost its way but was awash with cash. At that time in the capital, significant crime types were rising, not least teenage murder. During my four years, I helped, cajoled, bullied and persuaded the police to refocus at the same time as

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cutting significant amounts of money from the police budget. During that entire period crime fell, particularly some important crime types such as teenage murder. In my first year, there were 29. In my final year there were eight. It convinced me there and then that there is little connection between resource and output and results in policing. It is much more about focus.

What is depressing about the argument that the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) has made today is that it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of modern policing and modern crime. Government and many police and crime commissioners throughout the country are trying to refocus the police on some of the challenges that they face.

Andy Burnham: The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the Met he inherited in 2008. I would not argue that it was perfect, but does he accept that the Metropolitan police of 2008 were a universe away from the Metropolitan police of 1997, who failed properly to investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence?

Kit Malthouse: I will accept that there have been significant changes in the Metropolitan police—that is absolutely right—but I think it is universally accepted that, when we got into office in 2008, under the then commissioner the force had lost focus. The point I am making is that it was not delivering while at the same time it was receiving significant budget increases. It was literally awash with cash. That position had to be corrected. That has to happen across the whole country.

In my entire time in the policing community, I never came across a police force that had adopted what are in many ways the four pillars needed for modern policing. The first of them is investment in intelligence. About 80% of the time the police know just about where, when and by whom a crime is going to be committed, yet they never invest as much as they should in intelligence. Technology is changing the face of crime fighting. Automatic number plate recognition, data analysis, facial recognition, advanced forensics: no police force in the UK invests enough in them.

I have yet to find a police force that measures the efficiency of investigation. Murder in London fell from a high of 211 back in 2005 to just 101 in my final year. Should we still be investing the same number of police officers in murder? Of course not. There has to be some kind of peace dividend and efficiency saving.

There is also innovation. If police forces are really going to grasp the challenge of the future, they have to invest in innovation. There is not a single police force in the country that has an innovation officer spreading new methods and techniques across the force.

Finally, I want to say a word on cybercrime. The right hon. Member for Leigh made much of that. It is a prime example of where technology is going to solve the problem. When I was a kid, anyone could open my grandad’s Mk2 Escort by thumping the door with their thigh. Now car crime is negligible in police terms because of changes in technology. Cars got better. The truth is that banks and financial services organisations invest in technology to prevent and detect crime, and the police have to do the same. One programmer—one smart programme—will solve more cybercrime than 1,000 police officers ever could; that is what I call efficiency.

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6.6 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Mr Speaker, you are known as the Back Bencher’s champion, and I hope the shadow Home Secretary will not feel I am criticising him too much, but I think that for him to have spent 35 minutes—over a quarter of the entire allocated time for this debate—on his speech is a discourtesy to Members on both sides who have come here to talk about this important issue.

I want just to say the following. My concern, and that of the Home Affairs Committee, is not so much about the settlement, because we said in our last report, published on 11 December, that the Chancellor was right to have done what he did, but that is only half the story. Our concern is over the funding formula. Of course the Policing Minister was right to look again at the formula and re-evaluate it, and we have noted the fact that that whole process ended in a shambles because of the Home Office’s failure to properly calculate the data, and it took an official in Devon and Cornwall to assess that something had gone wrong.

We published our report on 11 December. The Government’s response to this very important issue is now 13 days late. Chief constables and police and crime commissioners up and down the country have been waiting for this response, and for the consultation to begin. The fact is that unless we have the new formula, even the decisions made on the settlement will not give certainty to the various police forces in this country.

We had a letter from the Policing Minister in the middle of the last debate in which he said he was going to respond very swiftly, but there is a debate on Tuesday about the Committee’s report, by which time I hope we will have begun the consultation. Yesterday in our deliberations, five PCCs as well as Lord Wasserman gave evidence on PCCs, and they all said that none of them had been contacted by the Home Office about this critical issue. This has been mirrored in the emails we have received at the Committee office from other chief constables.

I ask the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister to ensure that when the Minister comes to wind up—I assume another half hour of this debate will be taken up with wind-ups—he should please tell us when the consultation process will begin. I hope he will use the examples we have given in our report so that there is an independent element to the consultation process. If that happens, we will get a formula that can be accepted by all the police forces in this country, and a formula that can remain in place for many years to come.

6.9 pm

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): Robert Peel’s vision for the police was that

“the police are the public and the public are the police”.

That could not be embodied any better than in the enormous contribution made by special constables to police forces across the country. The latest statistics show that 18,000 special constables were working alongside police officers and saving an estimated £75 million last year in man hours. It is impossible for anyone to speak in this debate without acknowledging the huge challenges that police forces have faced in relation to their budgets. In that environment, we are clearly going to place increasing reliance on special constables. They are volunteers

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who come from all walks of life and all backgrounds. If we were having a conversation with a special constable on the street, we probably could not tell him from any other officer. He is a warranted officer, he has had the same training and he stands shoulder to shoulder with other officers. Special constables are invaluable and they give up their free time to keep us safe on our streets.

With that in mind, I wanted to discuss the case of Andrew Blades, a constituent who was a special constable in Lancashire. He worked as a special for six years, giving more than 2,500 hours to the people in Rossendale, Darwen, Burnley and beyond in east Lancashire, keeping us safe. He moved an unmarked police car across a road to block the way of an oncoming unlicensed, un-MOTed, uninsured scrambler motorbike that had been terrorising the neighbourhood. We should be lauding him as a hero, because not only did he stop a crime being committed, but he protected a fellow officer. Unfortunately, however, his payment for that—for taking those brave, split-second decisions on our behalf as a volunteer—was to be prosecuted for dangerous driving, a case he admitted and for which he has been sentenced to a year’s ban.

The case was well covered in the newspapers and I wish to read out a comment from someone in an online newspaper. This person had probably come home from work and was looking at the online newspapers, and they said:

“It really isn’t often I feel outrage but tonight reading this story has left me outraged and speechless”.

Guess what, I agree with him and so do 1,500 readers of the newspaper. When the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box, I would be grateful if he would take the opportunity to inform the House of what further steps he will take to protect special constables, particularly bearing in mind the unanimous resolution of the Police Federation to extend its protection to special constables? I also ask him to see what the Government can do about paying their Police Federation subs for them.

6.12 pm

Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab): Let me start by paying tribute to my local police, particularly Inspector Tom Horner. He works tirelessly, along with his team, to keep my community and my constituents safe, as does the regional police force. West Yorkshire’s force has lost a considerable amount of funding and more than 20% of its officers, and it is now likely to be asked to find savings, despite having a “protected budget”.

Bradford is not like the leafy suburbs of some southern counties where funding has increased over the past six years. We deal with complex issues that create vulnerability. In the past few weeks, we saw the conviction of 12 people from a grooming gang in Keighley, and such cases affect the wider budget of a local police force. In our area, we have to deal with terrorism and with women who have fled with their children to Syria.

What I want from the Home Secretary today is an explanation of how she and the Chancellor will ensure that he will take all these complexities into account, including terrorism, alcohol, domestic violence and mental health issues. On the one hand, cuts mean austerity, which has an impact on people’s lives within their homes, while on the other there is an increase in poverty and crime: there is a correlation. We cannot deny that.

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I would really like to understand how this Government are going to ensure that they take into account places like my constituency, where the issues are complex: we need extra funding to tackle terrorism and we have extra vulnerabilities. We are also looking at integration, as just a few weeks ago Britain First came to my area, and the English Defence League has also been. I worked closely with the police on both occasions. I am not convinced that the police funding formula will address all the issues, and that is my real concern. I would like to see some understanding of constituencies such as Bradford West. Ultimately, we need to be cutting crime, not cutting costs.