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Youth Offending

Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2003

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3.

What recent representations he has received on measures to address youth offending in Wales. [109787]

I have received representations from a number of sources.

I thank the Secretary of State for his usual enlightening reply. Will he comment on the statement made by Edwina Hart that has come to light during the recent campaign in Wales? She said:

"The public sector in Wales does not provide any drug and alcohol rehabilitation places".
In light of the fact that drug-related crime has increased by 13 per cent. in Wales during the past year and given that youth offending is unfortunately part of that culture, what will he do to ensure that drug rehabilitation places that are funded by the public sector will be available in every part of Wales?

I was with the Home Secretary in Cynon Valley a few months ago to take forward an extra investment of several hundreds of thousands of pounds precisely to deal with the drug programme: not only clamping down on drug traffickers but dealing with rehabilitation. There is record investment throughout Wales as a result of the extra investment and spending that the Labour Government are putting into Wales.

While I strongly endorse what the Government are doing to prioritise the tackling of antisocial behaviour, may I ask them through my right hon. Friend to ensure that resources are available to enable the police to provide more uniformed foot patrols in areas that are especially afflicted by antisocial behaviour and that antisocial behaviour orders may be speedily made and, once made, upheld?

I agree with my right hon. Friend. Wales has one of the first pilots on antisocial behaviour, which is taking the agenda forward. The Government are determined to clamp down on antisocial behaviour. It is a real plague in many of our communities in Wales: on estates and elsewhere in many of our valley communities and throughout the nation. That is why our anti-crime and antisocial behaviour strategies are being implemented, and we should receive more support from Opposition parties for our work to clamp down on the problem.

The Secretary of State for Wales knows that persistent youth offending has shot up by 58 per cent. and that more young people are the victims of crime themselves. Only proper funding will sort out the problem. The chief of Dyfed-Powys police force has complained about the switching of funds from rural parts of Wales to large urban areas in England. Was he not right to say that the inane, reassuring Home Office press releases stating that funding is sufficient should be entered for the Booker prize for fiction? If the Government ever capture the Iraqi information Minister, perhaps they can employ him to read out some of those press releases. When will they ensure that proper funding for our rural areas of Wales is achieved?

That was very well rehearsed, was it not? The charge comes from a Conservative party that would cut spending by 20 per cent. right across the board.

The hon. Gentleman says rubbish, but let me quote the Leader of the Opposition from 30 December 2002:

"20 per cent. savings across the board in Government spending …That's what we're looking at".
What would that mean for crime in Wales? Nearly 1,400 police officers would be sacked. There would be 20 per cent. cuts to the police force at a time when our Labour Government have been responsible for the recruitment of 600 extra police officers. The Leader of the Opposition visited Cardiff and south Wales last week to campaign for the Conservative party. A passer-by—

Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that one of the most effective ways in which to deal with youth offending is to empower young people in their communities? Will he join me in congratulating the community first programme in my constituency which has several young people-led projects that are reaping dividends and giving ownership to young people in their communities? Does he agree that only the return of a Labour Government in Wales on Thursday will ensure that we have the sustainable financing for such programmes?

Yes. I was in Holyhead in my hon. Friend's constituency on Monday morning, and there are many excellent projects to tackle antisocial behaviour. I was also in the constituency of my Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), yesterday where an important project involving community safety wardens is taking place as a result of record investment from the Labour Government in partnership with the Labour-led Welsh Assembly. After 1 May, majority Labour control of the Assembly will allow us to take that programme forward.