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Departmental Achievements

Volume 205: debated on Friday 13 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the principal achievements of his Department since June 1987.

Determined efforts have been maintained and developed to counter crime. The number of police posts in England and Wales has increased by 4,257, bringing the total to 127,127. The number of civilians supporting the police has increased by 6,242 to 46,948 and since 1986–87 expenditure on the police has increased by 24·9 per cent. in real terms. Action has been put in place to develop the most efficient use of resources, to enhance the police capacity to deal with crime and the other demands on them and to improve the quality of service to the public.Twenty safer cities projects have been set up in inner-city areas supporting over 2,300 initiatives with the objectives of reducing crime, lessening the fear of crime and creating conditions in which economic enterprise and community life can flourish. Crime prevention has been taken forward rigorously with the establishment of "Crime Concern" and initiatives, including on car crime, have been taken.Legislation has been passed to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the United Nations convention against the illicit traffic in drugs; to enhance the control of firearms; to strengthen the country's defences against terrorism; to increase the powers available to the courts for dealing with football hooligans; to improve our ability to give effect to our policy of firm but fair immigration control; to create a new and more open and competitive framework for the licensing and regulation of independent radio and television services, leading to greater choice for viewers and listeners while maintaining proper safeguards for programme quality and standards; to remove outdated restrictions on licensing laws; to enable the United Kingdom to participate more effectively an international co-operation against crime, including a major reform of the extradition law; to make provision for courts to order the confiscation of the proceeds of profitable crime; to provide for unduly lenient sentences to be reviewed; to tighten the law on possession of knives and to ban the sale of offensive weapons which have no legitimate use; to strengthen the jury system; to reform the law on official secrets by replacing section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 with provisions protecting just six classes of official information; and to put the Security Service on a statutory basis, with the appointment of a commissioner and provision for complaints to be made to an independent tribunal.Legislation has been passed to encourage key Hong Kong personnel and their families to remain there by giving them the assurance of British citizenship in order to help them maintain the future stability and prosperity of the territory. The Criminal Justice Act 1991 strengthened the range and effectiveness of community penalties and provides a new and more coherent legislative framework for sentencing.Legislation has also been enacted for England and Wales to create an offence of prison mutiny and to increase the maximum penalty for aiding prisoners to escape and to ensure that anyone guilty of taking a vehicle without consent is liable to a more severe sentence in aggravated circumstances. A Bill was introduced to enable applications for asylum in the United Kingdom to be dealt with quickly and effectively.A Royal Commission has been established to examine the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in securing the convictions of those guilty of criminal offences and the acquittal of the innocent.In addition to a major programme to impose existing prisons, since the beginning of 1987 10 new prisons have been opened, providing over 5,500 places. A further three prisons are due to open in the next three months, giving another 1,600 places, and five are under construction providing over 3,000 more places. Arrangements are being made so that from the end of December 1994 all prisoners in Prison Service establishments will have access to sanitation at all times.The White Paper "Custody, Care and Justice", presented to Parliament last September, charts a course for the Prison Service in England and Wales into the next century and plans have been announced for the management of the Prison Service, including a move to agency status for the service. My Department launched two other "next steps" agencies in 1991— the Forensic Science Service and the United Kingdom Passport Agency —and the Fire Service college will become an agency next month.