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Lord McNally: My Lords, I withdraw that remark.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for withdrawing his remark.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I inform my noble friend Lord Cope that the situation was the other way round: I tried to set Conservative Central Office in action.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, exactly so.

My noble friend Lord Tebbit warned at the start of this debate of the problems of interpreting crime statistics. I agree. Whichever way one examines the statistics, particularly those relating to violent crime, they are of massive concern. That is a matter for, and the responsibility of, the police and society more generally, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth and others reminded us.

We live in a rapidly changing society. There is much greater acceptance of violence on television, as my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew and others mentioned. There has been a decline in respect and in family life. That was illustrated by the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.

We also need to consider the different way in which the police are portrayed almost every night on television and in all sorts of other media. They are not presented as an ideal to look up to, as PC George Dixon was many years ago; they are much less inspiring. Sometimes they are bent, and sometimes the hero is an eccentric who is out of sympathy with the bosses and the ethos of the police service in which he serves. In those fast-changing circumstances, the police do an extremely difficult job. I join every noble Lord who has spoken in paying tribute to the police.

Throughout the debate, noble Lords have expressed concern about reduced numbers and low morale in the police force. Morale is extremely important. I have accompanied police on their duties, and I appreciated the guts that are required in some situations, although they may become routine to police constables. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred to the hostility to which his nephew in Blackpool was subject. All of us at times have probably wondered whether we would be willing to "have a go" in various situations. That again shows the guts that are required by police officers.

How can we measure morale? Charles Clarke, the Home Office Minister, said:

That is one way to measure morale. Resignations from the police force have gone up enormously during the past few years, which is worrying. Even if every policeman who resigns is replaced by a new recruit who has come through training, an experienced

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policeman is much more valuable than a brand-new policeman. To lose policemen because of low morale is extremely serious.

Another indication of the state of police morale is the fact that the Police Federation has withdrawn from consultations with Home Office Ministers because it is concerned about the direction in which police reform is leading. That is of concern to us all.

It has been said that there are more than 2,500 fewer officers than there were. The Government promised, by 2002, to return to the figure that applied in 1997. They have given a string of promises while they have been in power: they promised us greater numbers of recruits and more policemen. Let us hope that that promise at least will be delivered.

Several noble Lords referred to the fall in the number of special constables. When I was a Member in another place, I became aware of the huge reliance that my local police force placed on special constables. They police special events and extra car parking at a "big do", but they also work every Saturday night in police stations. However, there are more than 6,000 fewer special constables now than there were a few years ago. I hope that the Minister will comment on the possibility of paying special constables and of keeping them on a retainer basis; similar arrangements apply in other parts of the public service.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, drew attention to the worrying number of assaults and acts of violence against police officers. I have much sympathy with his call for more custodial sentences in such cases. I believe that the Home Secretary today called for tougher sentences to be dished out, not specifically for that crime, but generally. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice asked more or less simultaneously for fewer people to be sent to prison. We shall have to sort out those two contributions on the matter when we see their comments in full.

Assaults on police increased by around 12 per cent last year. The trouble is that 200 of those convicted of assaulting police officers were released from prison under the special early release scheme. That does not help the process. Indeed, around 30,000 convicted criminals in total have been released under that scheme.

Another point running through the debate has been the differences in policing--and the similarities--throughout the country. It is in the nature of British policing that it has always consisted of local forces, typically covering a county, although nowadays often more; and that is the way it should remain. It is not something shared in many cases by other countries. In France the gendarmerie come directly under central government, as do the police in the Republic of Ireland. The Minister of Justice in the Republic is concerned with the appointments of quite low-level policemen throughout the country and with the actions they take.

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It is important that our police retain their local forces. There is sometimes talk of regionalisation and of the amalgamation of forces. I am all for co-operation; but the local nature of the organisation of the police is important. In any case, no service can work well during huge upheavals.

We have been reminded that every Bill we pass creates new offences. For that matter, almost every initiative--this applies particularly to financial initiatives--by the Government seems to lead to more ear-marked money going to police forces as opposed to money which the Chief Constable and the police authority can decide how to spend. Every time that happens, it reduces local control over the way in which money can be spent and the way in which a police force can operate. It also increases the complexity of the finances. We are reaching the stage where that is quite serious.

I have no doubt we shall hear about the 10 per cent funding increase announced in November. But over half of that is sidelined for all sorts of different worthy purposes--the Crime Fighting Fund, rural policing and so forth. The actual increase in the money given to police forces is more like 5 or 10 per cent, and that is not even enough to keep the general police force expenditure standing still. Taking account of pay and inflation, pensions, capital finance and costs and levies from the various national crime-fighting agencies, police forces face increased costs of 5.6 per cent simply in order to stay where they are.

That brings me on to pensions. There is no doubt that we need to settle the question of pensions for the future. It is partly a question of allowing police forces and the authorities to manage their budgets more satisfactorily; but it is also partly to do with retaining officers. The more officers who retire, even if they are replaced by new ones, the greater the pension bill becomes and therefore the greater its importance.

Concern has been raised about the capital budget, particularly in relation to police radios. If the Minister has the time, I hope that he will say something about that. Concern was also expressed about bureaucracy. The police now have to comply with 58 performance criteria as well as a "best-value" regime. It must be extremely difficult to hit 58 targets at once. They are all worthy and good. One of the instant reactions when something goes wrong is to introduce new criteria, as well as another sum of money to be added to the budget specifically devoted to the problem. All that makes life extremely difficult, particularly when it comes on top of the fact, as my noble friend said, that the police comprise one of the most examined sectors one can imagine.

My noble friend Lord Marlesford referred to DNA. I sympathise with what he said, especially because of the appalling murder case which happened four years ago in what was then my constituency. The case was eventually solved, I am glad to say, by the use of DNA, and a conviction was obtained. Around 4,500 men had given DNA samples in the course of those police inquiries, and virtually all of those had to be destroyed afterwards. So if another incident should happen,

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those samples would have to be taken all over again, and it was an extremely expensive operation to carry out.

I support the extension of CCTV. As my noble friend Lady Hanham said, it is remarkable that there is so much acceptance of CCTV, by comparison with 1984, as it were; and it is valuable. It was installed in a shopping centre near where I live and the first thing that happened was that hooligans attacked the camera on the following Saturday night. Unfortunately, they did not realise that they had attacked the dummy camera. They were filmed on the real camera and, I am glad to say, were convicted. It was a great success.

I hope also to hear that crack houses will be brought into line with cannabis and opium houses--something about which we exchanged views across these Dispatch Boxes at Questions a day or two ago. That issue has been under consideration for a long time; not just for 12 months, but for at least 12 Bills. We have debated at least a dozen Home Office Bills since it first came under consideration.

My final point concerns policing in Northern Ireland. It is different in many respects from policing in this country because of the history. But morale there is an extremely difficult problem at the present time. From tomorrow, the difficulty will be that the police are obliged to recruit 50:50 from the communities, yet they cannot recruit Catholics as long as the nationalist and republican Churches continue to oppose it so strongly, as the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said. Yet they are short of manpower and the terrorist threat is rising from both republican and loyalist terrorists, backed by drug racketeers. The terrorists are re-arming on both sides and that is a worrying situation.

The most consistent message expressed throughout this debate has been support and admiration for the job that the police do, and a recognition of their problems about which we are all concerned.

7.9 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I want to put on record my praise and support for the police. During the time in which I have held this brief I have visited many police stations, met many police officers and had many discussions with people from the police service. As ever, on those visits--they are usually happy occasions--I have been tremendously impressed by the dedication, the strength of view and the commitment to the difficult job that police officers carry out throughout the country.

I also want to place on record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for originating the debate and, in his usual way, focusing on the issues that go to the heart of the matter: police numbers, morale and violent crime. All those issues are at the forefront of the public mind and they are ones about which we are all concerned.

There has been much praise for the nature and tone of the debate. I, too, want to reflect on that. This has been an extremely good debate. I would argue that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was at his most thoughtful.

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Although he was partisan, as one would expect--one would be disappointed if he was not--he was not above casting criticism retrospectively on previous governments, including his own, where he felt that they had in some way fallen down. I pay credit to him for that. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, made a good point when he said that because of the comments from contributors and the way in which they addressed the issues, it was, at times, almost possible to forget which political party they came from.

There have been many notable contributions. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, with his insight and knowledge, and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, with his particular range of interests and critical analysis of the criminal justice system. I enjoyed especially the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, with her observations and thoughts about London policing, and the comments and reflections from the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, on rural matters. The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, with her clear and well thought out approach to rural policing matters made some telling points. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, for his reflections on some of the difficulties facing the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, for his "lobster" story, which was possibly the best story of the afternoon. I was only disappointed that he failed to tell us that the lobster had been arrested for wasting police time. I hoped that he would. As ever, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, spoke acres of good sense.

The Government are determined to support the right of every law-abiding individual to go about his or her daily life without fear of falling victim to crime. Likewise, they recognise their responsibility in supporting the police to protect the community and to deter those who are pre-disposed to crime or other antisocial behaviour. That is why we are increasing police funding significantly and in real terms.

In July 2000 we announced our spending plans for policing for the next three years. Details of police grants are being considered today in another place. The overall financial provision is for total spending on the police to rise from 7.7 billion this year to 8.5 billion next year, an increase of 10 per cent, or 7.4 per cent in real terms. The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, commented that that was a good settlement. There will be further increases in 2002-03 when spending will rise to 9 billion and a further 6 per cent in cash terms, or 3.5 per cent in real terms. Spending in 2003-04 will rise an additional 3 per cent to 9.3 billion. In 2003-04, total spending on policing will be over 20 per cent higher in cash terms, or 11.8 per cent in real terms, than in 2000-01.

Why are we spending that money, and what are we trying to achieve? These matters obviously relate to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. It has to be said that our spending increases follow a number of years when any real increases have been modest. I believe that the settlement offers a real incentive to improve the policing service on the ground; which is what we all want.

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For 2001-02 the total amount of police authority general expenditure to which the Government are prepared to contribute their share of funding will be 7,732 million. That is an increase of 377 million, 5.1 per cent over the 2000-01 settlement. That amount is known as the total standard spending. Grant on total standard spending is paid direct to police authorities. It is for them and the chief officers to determine how best to allocate their resources taking into account local operational needs and priorities.

In addition to funding for total standard spending, police authorities will also receive funds, as has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for targeted initiatives. The four main ones are to increase officer numbers; to tackle the problems of policing sparsely populated areas; to invest in new communications technology and to expand the DNA programme. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised the issue of rural policing and funding and did so very well. It is the case that following grants of 15 million this year, 30 million is being allocated in each of the next three years to enhance policing in rural areas. That money will be allocated to forces in less densely populated areas. The fund is a response to widespread expressions of concern at the perception of a reduced policing presence in rural areas and communities. Chief officers are expected to deploy their resources to the maximum effectiveness and efficiency. But, as many have noted, that can involve reducing police presence in areas of lower population. Most of us regret the passing of many hundreds of rural police stations; some 630 over the past decade or so. We recognise those tensions.

The 31 police authorities receiving funding under the scheme will need to show in their best value performance plans how they will use the money to improve policing in rural areas. We heard a number of valuable initiatives from the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. When I met with North Yorkshire police officers recently, they greatly welcomed the extra 180,000 for the mobile police station, which they thought was a valuable initiative.

The Crime Fighting Fund will provide finance for recruitment, training and pay for up to 9,000 recruits over and above the number forces planned to engage. Provision has been made for 3,000 this year, 3,000 in 2001-02 and 3,000 in 2002-03. We expect the Crime Fighting Fund recruits to have a major impact on police numbers, to which I shall turn shortly. There is one point I need to correct. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, said that the Prime Minister had said that there will be 5,000 extra police officers by the time of the general election. I do not think that was the commitment we made. I certainly recognise the 5,000 figure. I believe it was Michael Howard who, in 1995, said that he expected to have 5,000 extra police officers as a result of what he then thought was a generous settlement. That turned out not to be the case. We followed those financial plans through. They did not deliver an additional 5,000 officers. I believe that they produced some 256 extra officers in the last year of the outgoing Conservative Government.

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The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, drew attention, I thought valuably, to what is the fourth major development in our programme; that is, the expansion of DNA. We are investing heavily in expanding DNA and the database to hold the DNA profiles of the whole active criminal population by 2004. Support will also be provided to enable forces to visit more scenes of crime and collect and process evidence from the increasing number of DNA matches to offenders. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, gave a good example of how that can work. Taken together, that is an impressive programme of work which will do much for the efficiency and effectiveness of the police, and will greatly improve the quality of service to the public, which is of paramount importance.

A number of Members of your Lordships' House drew attention not just to the numbers issue and the numbers game--that is how many see it and describe it--but to the quality of officers who are being recruited. That point was made by the noble Lords, Lord Tebbit and Lord Burnham. The quality of officers, how they are deployed, what they do and what they bring to policing in our communities is at the backbone of our policing. Much is being done to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service. A direct comparison of numbers alone over long periods of time is not a reliable measure of relative performance. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, made that point in his opening remarks about the interpretation of statistics. I thought that a valid point.

Nevertheless, the number of officers is a vital component of high-quality policing in the 21st century. As has been said many times today--and it is a key issue--overall police numbers across England and Wales started to fall under the previous government back in 1993-94, except, as I said earlier, for a small temporary increase in 1996-97. Numbers declined in every year under the previous Government and in total by 1,132 between March 1993 and March 1997. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said that Metropolitan Police numbers had been falling for seven years. Perhaps I may correct the record. They were falling for 10 years. We see it as important to reverse that number and the latest figures are encouraging in that regard.

From 1994 there was a sustained under-investment in the police service. Government spending rose by an average of only one half of 1 per cent in real terms over the next four years. The housing allowance was removed from all new recruits, severely hampering recruitment in London and the south east in recent years, and central controls over police numbers were removed in the 1994 Police and Magistrates Courts Act. In reply to the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, I do not see that as an excuse but as an explanation. It is an explanation that deserves to be heard.

The present Government committed themselves at the 1997 general election to sticking to the previous Government's spending plans for the first two years of the administration. That was not from choice but because we judged that the public finances were in too fragile a state to support major spending increases. As

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a result, police officer numbers fell. Our promise now is a long-term sustained investment that is already boosting police recruitment and technology. We are increasing police expenditure by 21 per cent in cash terms over the next three years--an average annual increase in real terms of 4 per cent.

We have already made provision for recruitment under the Crime Fighting Fund in the current year--59 million for recruitment, training and pay of the first 3,000 officers from the total three-year programme. We are now beginning to see results. Most forces are recruiting successfully, helped by the national recruitment campaign. By 14th January, there had been 78,000 responses to the campaign advertisements; 34,000 people had rung the call centre; and more than 44,000 had visited the website. Seventeen thousands expressions of interest have been passed directly to police forces.

This is the first-ever national advertising campaign aimed at supporting local police recruitment. It is a three-year campaign which is designed to be self-selecting in order to attract quality applicants into the police service, encouraging people to ask themselves whether they are the right person for the job and reject the idea if they are not. The campaign underlines that the police service is a progressive, modern, high-tech and rewarding career choice. We agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about the importance of graduate recruitment and shall be focusing on that issue. Furthermore, we, too, see the importance of tackling high-tech crime and we need to recruit high-quality entrants to the service in order to ensure that we can deal with those precise issues.

Information provided by the police training colleges shows that 5,268 recruits started training in the first nine months of the current financial year, compared with just over 3,000 during the same period of the previous financial year. For the first time since March 1997, the number of officers joining police forces exceeds those leaving. Police numbers between March and September 2000 rose by 444 to 124,614. If current police projections for recruitment and wastage holds good, police numbers should reach 126,000 by the end of March 2001, 128,000 by March 2002 and record numbers by 2003-04. There may be some slippage but the aim is to ensure a significant change in the number.

Even in the Metropolitan Police Service, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, which has had severe problems, numbers of recruits are rising. The latest increase in London allowance is intended to help address difficulties in recruiting officers to work in London. The Metropolitan Police Service has also been reviewing its recruitment procedures and is making changes. That should help to make the recruitment processes more effective.

In June last year, the Home Secretary accepted the recommendation of the Police Negotiating Board for a rise in London allowance from 1st July 2000 for new recruits and for officers recruited on or after 1st September 1994--post-Sheehy officers--who were not in receipt of housing allowance. The purpose of that was to help the Metropolitan Police Service to

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deal with its recruitment problems. Officers recruited before 1st September 1994 who are in receipt of either rent or housing allowance receive a total London weighting and London allowance of up to 2,724. Officers in the Metropolitan Police Service recruited on or after 1st September 1994 and not in receipt of housing allowance receive a total London weighting and London allowance of 6,051. We have had to correct what I believe was one of Michael Howard's biggest blunders in implementing Sheehy, a point with which the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, probably agrees.

In recognition of the particular recruitment difficulties, the Metropolitan Police Service has suffered and as a result of working with it to overcome them we have introduced free rail travel for Metropolitan Police officers. That initiative, which comes into effect on 14th February, provides free standard-class rail travel to serving officers within a 70-mile radius of London upon production of a warrant card. It has a crime-fighting benefit and the annual cost of 2.5 million will be met from central funds. I believe that to be a good and sound investment. In addition to improving recruitment and retention in the Metropolitan Police area, free travel will, I am sure, encourage more officers to use the railways and have an impact on reducing the fear of crime experienced among passengers.

Many noble Lords referred rightly to the decline in police morale. There is no single measure, no indicator, of police morale. In any service one will find some people who are happy about their work and others who are less happy. It happens in politics so it must happen in the police service. The number of people leaving an occupation can be taken as an indicator of morale. Total wastage from the police service compared with other organisations is very low: 5.2 per cent, 4.8 per cent and 4.7 per cent in the past three years. It is lower than at the outset of our administration. The 2000 labour turnover survey of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported a wastage rate of 18.3 per cent for all employees in 1999. The number of resignations from the police service--0.8 per cent, 0.9 per cent and 1 per cent in the past three years--remains very small. Days lost to sickness may also be an indicator of morale. In 1996-97, the average number of days of sickness per police officer was 12.8. That declined to 11.55, or by 1.25 days per officer by 1999-2000. That is a valid indicator.

As regards morale over time, in 1994 screaming headlines appeared in the Police Review:

    "Low morale over reform, says survey",

with leading members of the federation and the service saying that they thought morale was going through the floor. A survey then showed that 80 per cent of officers said morale had been adversely affected by the Sheehy proposals and more than half of the officers expected crime in their areas to get worse over the next 12 months.

I could spin out before the House a whole range of quotes made at that time about the deterioration in support for the police and the negative reaction to the

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plans which were then being forced on the service by Mr Howard as a consequence of the Sheehy report. However, one powerful recollection clearly stuck in my mind; that is, the Metropolitan Police Federation meeting which had to be moved from its original venue at a London hotel to Central Methodist Hall because an unusually large attendance was expected. That attendance was expected because its members were so dissatisfied with the actions of the government of the day. I believe that morale is an issue and will continue to be so. But we are putting in place measures which are directed to reversing any decline in morale which has taken place perhaps over a longer period.

I want to spend some time examining violent crime in our society because that is important. Lessons will be learnt from the tragic murder of Damilola Taylor which shocked the nation. As a government we have for a number of years taken forward a range of initiatives to tackle violent crime. Probably the best picture of the trend in violent crime is the British Crime Survey (BCS) which was instigated in the early 1980s by the Conservative government. That survey measures crimes against people who live in private households. Although the 2000 BCS showed a recent encouraging fall in people's experience of crime, there is no room for complacency. Over the past 20 years, both the BCS and crime figures recorded by the police show a rising trend in violent crime. According to the BCS, violent crime has risen by 50 per cent since 1981. Figures reveal that violent crime reached its peak in 1995. Since then the survey has shown a 17 per cent drop in violent crime between 1995 and 1997 and a further decline of 4 per cent between 1997 and 1999.

Although the latest recorded crime figures for the 12 months to September 2000 show an 8 per cent increase in violent crime--they are measured differently--encouragingly, the rate of increase has been reduced from 16 per cent in the first quarter to 2 per cent in the last quarter of that timeframe. The reasons for the long-term increases are complex, but are likely to include, quite rightly, changes in public attitudes, particularly in terms of reporting matters such as hate crimes, domestic violence and so on, and police recording practices.

It is simplistic to say that society is more violent now than 20 years ago. In April 1998, there was a change in the practice of recording crime. Harassment, assault on a constable and common assault were introduced as recorded crime categories. The figures for reported crime for September 2000 include an increase of 11 per cent in cases of harassment, including racially aggravated harassment. They now represent 14.4 per cent of the total of 716,500 cases of all violent offences reported in the past 12 months. There is a determined effort to encourage the reporting of racial harassment, homophobic offences and domestic violence. Furthermore, the BCS 2000 noted that part of the increase in violent incidents might be due to increased willingness by respondents to mention those incidents to interviewers; in other words, the sensitisation of people to crime. Although there is still likely to be under-reporting of domestic violence, attitudes are changing.

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The latest published crime statistics for the 12 months to September 2000 show a fall in overall recorded crime of 12,800 offences, or 0.2 per cent, compared with the previous 12 months. Against that overall drop, the number of violent crimes (comprising violence against the person, sexual offences and robberies) has increased by 8 per cent. That is half the previously published rate of increase. The largest percentage increases within the category of violence against the person related to harassment, assault on a constable--on which the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, commented--and common assault. The most recent figures (until September 2000) show a rise of nearly 21 per cent in recorded cases of robbery, following a much smaller increase of 6 per cent in 1998-99, and, interestingly, a 13 per cent fall the previous year. It may be that those crimes are being reported to the police to a greater extent than previously, especially by 16 year-olds, and that a rise in the number of mobile phone thefts accounts for some of that increase. Perhaps that is one of the disbenefits of the expansion in the mobile phone market.

In October 2000 the Met reported that 17 per cent of robberies were mobile phones only. Mobile phones were targeted in snatch offences (44 per cent), pick-pocketing (22 per cent) and other theft (33 per cent). Suspects and victims of street crime where only a phone is stolen are also younger than in the case of other street crime. In cases where only phones are stolen, 14 and 15 year-olds account for over 20 per cent of victims. That is a very worrying feature of that crime.

Analysis of Metropolitan Police crime statistics reveals that a large surge in mobile phone thefts occurs during the period between 3.45 p.m. and 5.15 p.m. when children get out of school. We are taking action with the mobile phone industry to tackle that specific problem. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary only recently met senior representatives of the mobile phone industry to develop practical strategies to combat the problem.

The recorded crime figures have shown an increase during the 1980s and 1990s in sexual offences, although there is a welcome but very slight fall in the latest figures. In the past two decades, homicide offences, which account for less than 0.1 per cent of all violent crime, have been at a lower level, but the cost of violent crime is now estimated to be about 21 billion, or two-thirds of the total cost of all crimes against individuals.

There is much more that we could say on the subject. As a government we are determined to cut the level of violent crime as much as possible, to reduce the fear of violent crime and to ensure that individuals and communities are protected and safe. That was why on 10th January 2001 we set out a comprehensive strategy and action plan to combat violent crime together, which no government have previously done. I believe that we are to be congratulated on approaching it in that coherent, cohesive way and on providing a strategy which has real long-term benefits.

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We are improving support for victims and witnesses of violent crime and helping to mitigate fears of crime and to reduce the further risk of it. As we have made clear in the past, we are committed to ensuring that violent offenders are punished effectively. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, made great play of that point. We have new measures which are designed to speed up the criminal justice system--we believe that justice delayed is justice denied--and to tackle persistent young offenders, ensuring that they are brought to justice more rapidly.

Tackling the causes of violent crime is a key element in our strategy, and in that regard the comment of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about poor parenting is apposite. Therefore, we have a strategy to deal with economic hardship, family disruption, truancy and school exclusion, alcohol misuse and mental illness. I believe that in the longer term all these measures will make an important contribution to reducing crime and ensuring that we live in a happier and more contented society.

It would be remiss of me if I did not say something about Macpherson. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, suggested that that was one of the largest contributory factors to the decline in police morale. I believe that Macpherson was a watershed; and it certainly provided a challenge to the police service. The 70 recommendations of the report will be long-term challenges to the police and many other public services, but they are ones which they should rightly work through. Some members of the police service may have found a number of those recommendations difficult to live with, but I believe that in the longer term they will help us to create a police service that reflects our multi-racial society and responds to the concerns of many people who believe that they do not enjoy an equal and fair police service because they come from ethnic minorities. Although Macpherson, quite rightly, focused on the incompetence of the investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence, the report is a challenge in the right direction.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this debate. I regret that I have not had the opportunity to deal with all of the many points raised during the debate. I have tried to pick up some of the points during my speech which I hope noble Lords have found helpful.

The Government came into office at a time when many had given up on crime. The previous administration had seen a doubling of crime. Crime here was rising faster than in any other western country; the number of convictions had fallen by one-third; violent crime had risen by 166 per cent; and the chances of being a victim of burglary had risen from 1 in 32 to 1 in 13. We are addressing all of those issues. I believe that we have made consistent progress and have been successful in tackling crime. Crime is down and will continue to decline if we attack it with the co-operation and support of the police service, the public and crime and disorder partnerships.

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There have been difficulties with police numbers, not least within the Metropolitan Police area. But they are now going in the right direction--444 extra police officers over and above those in place between March and September 2000. I believe the figures will continue to rise. With that increase in police numbers and all the other important and supportive measures we have put in place to deal with hi-tech crime--DNA and introducing and supporting CCTV screens--the public will be encouraged to the view that the Government are determined to tackle crime not just now but for the future. For all those reasons, while I thank the noble Lord Tebbit for introducing the debate, I believe our Government should be supported in their crime and law and disorder programme.

7.41 p.m.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I shall not detain the House long from the pleasures of hearing my noble friend Lord Campbell on the subject of the Parliamentary Referendum Bill. I thank all those who took part in the debate this afternoon and, most notably, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. He sat through the afternoon ever still in his seat, even at the risk of deep-vein thrombosis, although he seemed to get over that in the past half hour or so.

We have enjoyed a good-natured and well-informed debate. All my noble friends made excellent speeches. I have not heard quite so much common sense from the Lib Dem Benches ever in my life before. There have not been too many wild claims made, other than that of the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, who tried to indict me as a staunch supporter of the government of my right honourable friend John Major. I plead not guilty. There were no wild calls for throwing money at the problems; and we had few recriminations.

There were a few exchanges of dubious statistics. The Minister got the numbers of police slightly wrong. My figures show that during the time of the government of my right honourable friend John Major they actually fell by 469. He had a somewhat larger figure. I hope he will check his statistics. He was also a little wrong with another figure, although the figures were changed recently in an amended Answer from his department. In the first three years of his government the numbers fell by 2,500.

The Minister glossed over the current attitudes towards morale, going back a decade or so to find some incidents of bad morale. I direct him towards the House Magazine of 18th December last year in which the chairman of the Police Federation said:

    "Morale is the worst I have ever seen it".

We had some notable speeches, not least from my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Portsmouth. All spoke of the causes of crime. My noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew rightly said that there has been, through the agency of television, a numbing down of our ability to be shocked by violence. I say to the right reverend Prelate that perhaps there is some kind of inverse relationship

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between--the happy-clappy tendency call it--the number of bums on pews on Sundays and our need for the numbers of police officers on Fridays and the rest of the week.

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