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The policing community and local communities are now holding their breath to see whether the Government bring forward a Green Paper that responds to the wide consensus about what is holding back the police and local communities from forming the sort of bond and partnership that they want in order to address the issues that they face. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give the House some confidence in terms of a timetable to address that.

There were some other very insightful and detailed speeches, from which I learnt a great deal, for example about Crimestoppers from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and from the noble Lord, Lord Imbert. The noble Baroness touched on the role of the media, and it is critical. Apart from “Crimewatch”, which is a factual programme, there is “The Bill”, which everyone watches. That counteracts somewhat the effect of the red tops, which is often to make people unduly concerned

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about crimes, because they perpetuate the fear or perception of crime that the police are working so hard to overcome.

We have had a very valuable debate this afternoon, and I thank the noble Baroness for introducing it.

1.51 pm

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Trumpington for having introduced what has been a fascinating and wide-ranging debate; and for opening it with such stirring support for Crimestoppers.

She is correct in saying that it has made an immense contribution to the reporting, investigation and prosecution of crime, and that was completely underlined in the excellent speech by the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, who gave an absolute demonstration of the value of having an independent organisation to which people can turn. The fact that it is funded largely by charitable donations ensures that it has that independent element in the fight against crime. It is probably fortunate to have the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, as a trustee, and my noble friend Lady Trumpington as a board member. She is a particularly doughty fighter for any cause that she supports, and she is certain to do so for the interests of Crimestoppers. It is clear that it must continue, because people are very hesitant about reporting directly to the police, so something that has anonymity is clearly useful and must be maintained. I hope that the Government will find a way to make sure that the grant that it needs and the small grant that it gets carries on so that there is no danger or threat to it.

It is ironic in the face of the success of Crimestoppers that another arm to the reporting of crime has just been broken off; that is the non-emergency phone number 101. The pilots of this scheme had been very successful and had demonstrated that the police, local authorities and others could work together to tackle problems. I understand that the cost was about £45 million, which is probably a drop in the bucket of the money spent on the police service, so there must have been other reasons why it was stopped. Perhaps the Minister, in response, could tell us what they were. It was another way of people being able to report crime without getting too personally involved.

It is very difficult to wind up after such excellent speeches on such a variety of subjects. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for tackling some of the interesting aspects of Home Secretaries and the Home Office, and particularly for making sure that his fingerprints were planted all over the ideas about plastic bags, which the Prime Minister seems to have got involved in. His point about e-border control is very important, and I hope that we will have an opportunity to return to it. The question of e-border control and the Olympics was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and we will need to look at it again.

I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman for raising the very difficult question of cybercrime, which is something which we are all very aware of and probably pretty terrified about, particularly when more and more of us are using the internet for personal transactions and are putting quite a lot of personal information on to it. I am also grateful to him for

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questioning the retention of DNA by the police, which is another difficult subject with huge implications. The more that the retention of DNA can be seen to solve crime, the more pressure there will be to log everyone’s DNA. We already know that there are moves to share DNA information across Europe. We are going to begin to build up the arguments about the value of the collection and retention of DNA versus the civil liberties issues that are bound to be raised.

We will all have been interested in the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, with her practical experience about the leadership of the police. It is always worth hearing the noble Lord, Lord Dear, on policing. His knowledge of the police force is encyclopaedic. I hope that the Minister listened carefully to what he said, because it was germane to the report by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, which we hope that the forthcoming Green Paper will address.

The report has been with us now for several months, and there was an interim report before that, so what was being proposed has not been silent and the Home Office has not been unaware of it. It is taking a little too long for the Green Paper to arrive. I hope that when it does arrive it will pick up the issues and recommendations made in Sir Ronnie’s report, particularly to limit the bureaucratic impositions and targets, which are mostly government inspired, which are preventing the police from fulfilling their prime roles of keeping the public safe and apprehending crooks.

It is certainly true that the general perception of the public that the police are not visible in the places where they are wanted in and around the local patch remains. I hope that the Home Secretary’s undertaking to pursue Sir Ronnie’s recommendations about reducing paperwork is already being implemented. I recall that Sir Ronnie was going to oversee the reduction in bureaucracy and report back at six months and then give a one-year review on the progress. How that is effected depends on when the six months starts. Has it started? Or is it to start once everyone has had a chance to trawl through the Green Paper and wait for legislation? I hope it is the former, and I hope very much that the effort to reduce the great burden of bureaucracy has been started and that Sir Ronnie will be able to report within the timescale—which will really be by the end of this year—that something significant has been done.

My local authority—I declare an interest as a councillor—and the local police have embraced the benefits of police community support officers, and I want to say something about that. The council has provided funding to ensure that there is now a PCSO presence in all the wards in the borough, and the police co-ordinate PCSO activities with their own officers. Neighbourhood policing, which was very much the thrust of Sir Ronnie’s proposals, is proving to be very successful. The PCSOs are a very obvious presence in the borough. On many occasions, they are accompanied by their police colleagues, but on others they work on their own. Less serious crime is being contained as a result, and the police community support officers are becoming a welcome part of the local communities where they are based. The main

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thing is that the turnover is not great, so the support officers get an opportunity to get to know the local people and are welcomed to their streets. As a result, residents feel more confident. If we can now ensure that the red tape for the police is reduced, we could see a real improvement in the numbers of police on our streets.

My area of London is relatively small. It is governed by a very enlightened local authority, which is able to co-ordinate with the police to make this system work. However, in general, the Government’s manifesto commitment to provide 24,000 police community support officers has not been met, and it is now unclear whether even the new commitment to 16,000 such officers will be met. It would be interesting to be told by the noble Lord the Government’s current view of PCSOs and their future within the Government’s thinking.

As I have made clear, I am in favour of the concept of police community support officers not as a substitute for the police, but as an adjunct to them and as a real opportunity to provide the neighbourhood security that everyone wants. I do not say that the idea cannot be improved upon. For example, PCSOs have only a citizen’s right to hold someone they have stopped; they do not have powers of arrest, but their presence is proving to be very beneficial.

Finally, I want to touch on the vexed question of drugs. My noble friend Lady Chalker spoke on the international counterfeiting of drugs; but internationally the counterfeiting and the trafficking of drugs have a horrendous effect on people who take them in this country. If there is an area of crime that brings with it degradation, this is it. Our courts are full of petty criminals who are lured into taking drugs for a number of reasons, thereby filling the pockets of the drug pushers, but destroying their own lives. On a rough rule of thumb, I would say that some 30 to 35 per cent of cases in magistrates’ courts involve shoplifting or petty theft, and all of those are based on drugs. It would also be fair to say that a considerable percentage of cases where local authorities have to intervene to protect children, because of an inability of a parent or parents to provide even moderately reasonable care for their children, are the result of drug use. I should mention that I am a magistrate involved in the adult and family courts.

Whatever courts do, the prognosis for those caught up in this terrible addiction is dire, and the future, without professional care, is bleak. Each person needs a full-time treatment programme to bring control of their addiction and to provide support while total abstinence is achieved. If it is not achieved at the end of the day, their addiction starts all over again. Addicts need help to push them towards a more useful life. These days, the courts try not to send people to prison. Prison has one of two effects on them—either they get more drugs and the sentence has no effect at all, or they come out of prison having been treated, but there is no proper handover to community services to maintain and support the treatment. It is incontrovertible that the best form of treatment for drug users is residential care. There are residential units, but not enough of them—and often the units that are there are not being used. A government-led initiative on that could help

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enormously. There is nothing to be gained by any of us if a large number of minor felons are high on drugs and never get off them. That is bad for our country and it is a problem that we need to resolve.

All speakers have rightly paid warm tributes to the police. There may have been slightly fewer warm tributes to the Home Office, but I associate myself with the tributes to the police in recognition of the service that they provide and the complexity and difficulty of their work. People in this country are conscious of their police force and we should be grateful for the support that people get from them in tackling all levels of crime.

2.05 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, I join in the general thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for raising this useful debate. Indeed, it was daunting for an admiral to look at the expertise among the speakers on this subject. I have learnt a great deal today and I am sure that all of us have found the debate very useful. I hope that I will be able to answer the bulk of the questions but, if not, I will come back to try to answer them.

It is worth saying that during the past 11 years the Government have revolutionised the crime-fighting and policing landscape. As a Government, we have provided record levels of funding—as my noble friend Lord Judd articulated—delivered record numbers of police officers and introduced police community support officers. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said how useful they are. We have created new powers and new partnerships, delivered against challenging targets—to which I shall return—and invested in new technology; all of which have seen crime fall by a third since 1997.

We have transformed policing by introducing neighbourhood policing teams as a means whereby people become engaged in setting local priorities and making their communities safer. A number of speakers touched on that. It is an important area and an important route to go down. In April 2008 we will mark the real start of this new approach, whereby every person in England and Wales is able to contact a dedicated team for their area. Again, my noble friend Lord Judd raised that point, but neighbourhood policing was raised by almost everyone.

However, we must not delude ourselves. We look ahead to some real challenges. Not only must we continue to cut crime and make communities safer, but we need to secure the confidence of communities in doing so. A number of speakers alluded to the fact that that confidence is not necessarily there. We are serving a public that, quite rightly, expect and deserve better information, improved accountability and timely and effective solutions across all of our public services. In tackling crime, one of our greatest challenges is meeting the needs and expectations of the public, winning their confidence and bringing them in as part of the solution. A number of speakers touched on that issue.

Although crime has fallen by a third during the past 11 years, there is no doubt that the general perception is that it is rising, as a number of speakers

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have said. It is remarkable, but that is the perception. This matters because when crime falls, but people do not believe it, it means that they do not recognise the action that has been taken or the progress that has been made. This means that they are less likely to work with us by reporting and preventing crime. I shall consider the importance of Crimestoppers in a moment. There is no doubt that this frightfully important perception matters. It does not matter whether it is real or not; somehow we have to change that perception. We have to change the perception that the police are not visible enough.

That is why we have put public confidence at the heart of the Home Secretary’s strategic priorities for policing and the new Make Communities Safer PSA. This new PSA places a stronger focus on more serious violence and provides greater flexibility for local partners to deliver local priorities, with an emphasis on increasing public confidence through improved quality of service from the police.

That was an important initial burst on where we have come from and I shall now deal with some of the specifics. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, touched particularly on neighbourhood policing and I hope that my comments have shown that we are focusing on that. We will roll out neighbourhood policing teams in every area by the end of this year. This marks three years of hard work by forces and the rollout is only the start of this story. The next phase is to ensure that such teams are embedded into core policing activities and that effective partnerships are developed with other community safety agencies to tackle local priorities. It may be worth mentioning that I am going to Cambridge, and a number of Ministers are going to various other areas, as part of a nationwide rollout of neighbourhood policing to meet those involved, together with PCSOs, and to talk about the safer neighbourhood strategy. I hope to learn a lot more about it because I think that it is absolutely the right way to go.

The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, spoke about the third sector and Crimestoppers, and the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, gave a compelling speech about the things that have been achieved. The noble Baronesses, Lady Chalker and Lady Hanham, also talked about that. I know Mick Laurie, the director, very well. He is an ex-Army general, who worked for me for a number of years and he is a very good man. Indeed, shortly after coming to this post, I talked to him about this specific issue because I was interested in knowing whether there was some roll-on in terms of counterterrorism that might be of use, and whether people were phoning up about other people whom they suspected of being involved with extremists, and so on. I know that Mr Laurie recently spoke to the Home Secretary, who strongly supports, and recognises the quality of, the work done by the third sector in general and Crimestoppers in particular.

We are committed to creating conditions to make the third sector thrive. It is crucial and people are getting involved in it. We are trying to develop funding arrangements that will give security—a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. In the current year, as noble Lords know, the funding for

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Crimestoppers is over £1 million, £900,000 of which is core funding, and £50,000 has recently been given to the Metropolitan Police to pilot a new service aimed at allowing young people to contact Crimestoppers anonymously. Therefore, we are trying to develop some of these issues.

We are implementing a new third sector skills strategy and investing more than £85 million of new resources in developing third sector infrastructure. As I said, I hope that we will be able to develop a funding line that will give Crimestoppers some security in the future. However, I can say that there is no danger of that stopping at the moment because we accept that Crimestoppers is extremely valuable and very important. As I said, the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, mentioned some cases that showed exactly the sort of thing that can be achieved. People’s involvement in this is very important. It is not just a matter for the police, the security services and the public sector; it is important to get people involved. The link to SOCA is also very important. As I said, it would be nice if there were some spin-off in the area of counterterrorism, but that is not the driver for this; the driver has to be within the crime sector.

My noble friend Lord Simon rightly raised the issue of traffic police and said how vital policing on the roads is. I agree entirely. Of course, decisions on the allocation of resources, including for roads policing, are matters for chief constables and police authorities. If we articulated too strongly exactly how things should be done, that would run counter to what we want in terms of what, in the military sense, I call “mission command”—that is, allowing people to get on with what they see as the issues within their own areas. However, my noble friend is absolutely right that these things are crucial.

My noble friend mentioned automatic number plate reading technology, which has been a huge step forward. It was originally developed in Northern Ireland and its use is now spreading here. It allows police officers to focus more effectively on criminals using the roads. The fixed site and mobile units are reporting significant successes in this area, which I think we all welcome.

My noble friend Lord Simon also mentioned police fleet management. This is not an area in which I am deeply involved but I share his concerns. With 43 police forces, we are talking about not just cars but a whole raft of issues—for example, communications and the very few helicopters that we can afford. It is not very clever if there is not always cohesion in moving forward on procurement so that we achieve the best value for money across all 43 forces, taking into account issues of compatibility and so on. However, it is good to see cohesion where we have been pushing for best-value reviews with police authorities. Thames Valley and Bedfordshire police are a classic example of where the forces successfully converged their fleet management. I think that this needs to be expanded, and my noble friend is absolutely right that this is something that we need to move forward on more.

We must never be complacent about deaths on the roads, which are an appalling and dreadful waste. The fact that the statistics for this country are better than

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those in a lot of places in Europe does not mean that we can sit back and say that that is fine. Such deaths are appalling. Over the past years, we have put a lot of effort into the problem of drink-driving, but it is dreadful to see that its incidence creeps up slightly. I think all of us in this House would say that we have to keep the pressure on that because of the devastation that it causes.

The issue of targets was raised, as were the problems that they cause. The new government targets announced on 9 October give much more prominence to tackling more serious crime, particularly the most serious violent crime and acquisitive crime. However, as was set out in our new crime strategy, launched last year, overall we are reducing the number of central targets and trying to give much greater flexibility to those at the front line to respond to local priorities. While government targets set the strategic direction for police services, it is for forces to exercise discretion in balancing those targets against local priorities. The Flanagan report stated that targets had achieved considerable successes and had moved things forward. From my experience in the Navy, I can say that, although it is sometimes very uncomfortable to have targets set for you—and they have to be cleverly worded—good leaders use them to ensure better delivery and do not use them as an excuse to say, “This is why we are doing something else”. I think that we have to be very careful in forming a view on targets because before we had them there was no way of measuring certain things. They can be irksome at times when you think that someone is monitoring you and that that person does not necessarily trust you and feels that you have to deliver something, but I am afraid that that is what a Government and a service have to demand to ensure that we get the right sort of delivery.

The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Dear, asked why Flanagan had not addressed things more widely in his review. We were very grateful to Sir Ronnie Flanagan for both his reports and, as I said, we will respond to the recommendations shortly. There has been an interim response but there will be a much more detailed one in due course. A number of speakers asked exactly when that would be available. I hope that the detailed response will be out very soon. Easter and other things will delay it but it will be issued very shortly.

A number of noble Lords talked about the Green Paper on policing. I will come back to that later but I very much hope that we will issue it before the Summer Recess. No doubt, my team in the Box are now shrieking with horror and are about to sprint out of the Chamber, but that is certainly what I hope will happen because it is a crucial piece of work. As a number of speakers said, it will have to address an awful lot of issues and we need to get it right.

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