The Secretary of State was asked—
I have written again to the hon. Gentleman on 8 June to provide an update on this case.
Will the Minister reconsider his position on this case? Mr. Mudada is a minister of religion and an opposition activist working for the Movement for Democratic Change. He has applied twice, and he has been in this country for five years.
I want to appeal to the Minister on urgent compassionate grounds. Mrs. Mudada, who has been to my surgery twice, has not seen her four children, the youngest of whom is nine years old, for almost five years. They were being looked after by their grandmother in Harare, but she is now dead. This is surely an urgent, compassionate case. The Minister said to me in his letter that the children can apply for entry clearance, but until Mr. Mudada’s status is cleared up, they cannot. Whatever the Minister’s views about whether Mr. Mudada is a genuine asylum seeker, he should clear the matter up so that that mother can see her children.
I have made it my policy not to discuss individual cases on the Floor of the House, but I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the case if he would find it convenient. Generally, it is the policy of the Border and Immigration Agency to enforce decisions when an independent judicial process has concluded that somebody does not have the right to be in this country, and that it is safe for them to go home. Obviously, I look with particular care at cases from Zimbabwe, given the despicable nature of the regime there.
Foreign Prisoners (Deportation)
Discussions are going on all the time.
Last year the Prime Minister told the House that
“it is now time that anybody who is convicted of an imprisonable offence and who is a foreign national is deported.”—[Official Report, 3 May 2006; Vol. 445, c. 960.]
However, the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 explicitly rule out deporting people with criminal convictions to the European economic area. Will the Government stop talking tough about deporting criminals while exporting the powers to do so? Or will the Government retrieve those powers to deport criminals and enable the Prime Minister to fulfil the pledge that he made to the House?
I know that the right hon. Gentleman will have looked very closely at those immigration regulations, referred to as statutory instrument No. 1003; however, if he looks at them again he will notice that they say no such thing. The Government are still able to consider all deportation cases, whether the individual is from the European Union or not.
May I take the right hon. Gentleman’s mind back to the free movement of people directive, which was laid before the House? I do not think that any party prayed against it, and therefore I assume that it has all-party support, if not the support of all Members. That directive sets out our policy for deporting people from the EU. We will consider people from the EU for deportation if their offences are serious, and I anticipate that we will deport a good 300-plus this year alone.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for keeping the promise that he made to the House on Report of the UK Borders Bill to review the Home Office policy on informing the victims of crime of the deportation of foreign nationals from prison. When does he anticipate the new policy being in place?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for the time that he has taken to brief me on the troubling circumstances of the individual case about which he addressed the House at some length earlier this year. If we are to rebalance the criminal justice system and the immigration system in favour of the victim, it is important that we disclose information when we are able to do so. I hope to put in place a new policy to do so on request from right hon. and hon. Members within the next month.
The Prison Officers Association is on record as saying that it is very concerned that when foreign nationals have completed their sentences, that is the point at which people consider what to do with them. Frequently, they remain in custody for two or three months, which is absolutely wrong on human rights grounds and everything else. Will the Minister assure the House that the planning of what to do with them is started well before their sentences expire?
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told the House last year that we would bring forward considerably the point at which we consider a foreign national prisoner’s case for deportation. We now routinely consider cases six months before the sentence comes to an end. It is because we now consider cases much earlier in the process that we have almost doubled the rate at which we send foreign national prisoners back to where they came from.
I have raised the case of James Bishop with the Minister before. The person who killed my constituent was removed from this country before the trial took place. Will my hon. Friend confirm that he is having discussions with the Foreign Office as well as with the Ministry of Justice so that those who are removed will not be able to reapply for entry clearance, and that if they reapply it will be clear to entry clearance managers and entry clearance officers why they were removed from the UK, so they will not be allowed to return?
My right hon. Friend has previously raised the case with me; I have such discussions with my colleagues in the Foreign Office every fortnight. Crucial to making the progress he wants is the introduction of biometric visas in every visa post around the world. We have now introduced them in 67 countries and we already find that thousands of people are reapplying whom we know about through our records. That is why it would be such an error to shut down the biometric identification system in which the Government are investing.
I sit in the London courts and an increasing number of serious crimes are being committed by people who come to the UK from the new EU states. Does the court have the power to order their deportation? Should it not have the power to do so?
In the case of EU nationals, the free movement directive sets the framework for the policy we have to adopt, but for foreign nationals more generally the provisions in the UK Borders Bill are exactly right and mean that people who commit a serious offence in this country will face the prospect of automatic deportation, and if they want to appeal against it they can do so from the country they came from.
Can my hon. Friend assure the House that if foreign prisoners are held in any devolved part of the UK the devolved body will be consulted when they are being deported?
There are close arrangements for dealing with matters between devolved Administrations. Obviously the detention estate available in Scotland is run by the Border and Immigration Agency, but colleagues in the BIA in Scotland are in close day-to-day contact with officials from the Scottish Executive and the Scotland Office.
The Minister’s attempts to reassure the House about the deportation of foreign prisoners are pointless unless he can give us accurate figures about how many former foreign prisoners are still at large in the UK and how many are still under lock and key. He may be aware that when I asked how many former foreign prisoners were in young offender institutions, the former prisons Minister, now the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, replied that the data are
“not available without disproportionate cost”.—[Official Report, 8 February 2007; Vol. 456, c. 1093W.]
If Ministers cannot say how many former prisoners are still locked up, the Minister needs to clarify whether the Government really do not know, which would be alarming, or know but will not tell us—which would be disgraceful. Which is it?
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was clear about the seven or eight key failings in the criminal justice system that resulted in the crisis of foreign national prisoners not being considered for deportation appropriately last year. One issue was the difficulty of identifying whether people in the criminal justice system are foreign nationals. To remedy that, we have set in train work with the police; pilots are under way and the lessons from them will be applied across the criminal justice system. Our determination to deport those who have no right to be in this country is clear, which is why we have invested extra resources and doubled the rate at which we are sending foreign national prisoners home.
Detention without Charge
First, with your permission Mr. Speaker, I am deeply saddened to report to the House the death today of PC Jon Henry while on duty in Luton with Bedfordshire police. Tragic events such as his death highlight the dangers that police officers face day to day in their task of protecting the public. I have spoken with the chief constable of Bedfordshire police, Gillian Parker, and passed on my sympathies and those of the whole House to the friends, family and loved ones and colleagues in the police service of PC Jon Henry.
I believe that events in the past 12 months have strengthened the case for extending pre-charge detention. However, I believe that we ought to seek broad agreement, if possible, on the way forward and have therefore opened consultations on the matter to see if a consensus can be reached.
I associate myself with the Home Secretary’s very proper expressions of condolence with regard to Constable Henry and his family.
When the Home Secretary consults on detention without charge, will he bear in mind the need to consult police and prosecutors in all parts of the United Kingdom? He may recall that his predecessor did not feel it necessary to speak to the Lord Advocate about that, and given the widespread concern in Scotland about the Prime Minister’s dealings with Libya last week, will the Home Secretary promise me that this will not be another free gift to the Scottish National party?
Yes, I will try to ensure that all those proprieties are observed, in the spirit as well as in the letter. I do not accept that there is anything improper about the proceedings over the past week or two, which was the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s question. I agree with those elements of the Scottish press that say that this was more spin than substance, however effective the spin side might have been from the point of view of the First Minister. Nevertheless, it is right to remember that with such important issues we should carry out the fullest and widest possible consultation.
In the Home Secretary’s consultations over the period of detention without trial for terror suspects, will he bear in mind the fact that many of us feel that 28 days is already rather too long for detention without trial, and that the idea of extending the period to as long as 90 days could be counter-productive in gaining the co-operation and support of many in the country who wish to be part of the community rather than alienated from it? Detention for 90 days will not bring about the peace and justice that the Home Secretary wants, but will probably drive some people into the arms of those whose arms he would rather they were not driven into.
It is always a difficult balance. I do not disguise my recognition that it is difficult for Members to balance the requirements to counter terrorism effectively, to fight it and to ensure national security with the need to ensure that when we strengthen powers we strengthen scrutiny appropriately, too. My hon. Friend says that people may have had misgivings last time we debated the matter, and that is true, but there was a majority view that given the new circumstances, a period of 28 days was justified. The events of the past 12 months have shown that to be correct. The consideration of one or two cases last August took 27 or 28 days—right up to the limit. There are about six examples of cases that took that long over the past 12 months. The case for the extension is strengthened. I remain persuaded of the case, but I recognise that others are not. That is why I am trying to consult as widely as possible to see whether we can reach a compromise and consensus.
The hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) referred to the counter-productiveness of extending detention without trial, especially in certain areas of the community, which could concern the ability to recruit sources. Has the Home Secretary received any representations from agencies involved in counter-terrorism that might be worried that it is already hard to recruit informers in the communities that pose a threat to us? If he has, does he recognise that that might be a result of the proposed legislation or the legislation that has already been implemented?
It is always difficult to recruit people in the midst of a sharp struggle. That was the case in fighting republican terrorism and I have no doubt that it is difficult at present. On the other hand, we receive a lot of support from across the community. That is essential, because I have continually expressed the view from the Dispatch Box and outside the House that ultimately we will not defeat terrorism through the security apparatus. It is a necessary but insufficient means. The way to defeat terrorism is by bringing the community of this country together. It is at the grass roots, in the communities, in the streets, in the mosques and outside them, and in our universities that we will fight out the battle for values and ideas. The security apparatus is one dimension—but only one.
Acts of terrorism and the threat of terrorist attacks affect everyone in this country, not only those who sadly suffer the immediate effects of terrorism. Some of my constituents have said that they are concerned about travelling to London and other cities because they are afraid of terrorist attacks. Such attacks are an attack on our freedom. What plans does the Secretary of State have to consult members of the public, organisations, and the victims of terror? Does he believe that the balance should lie with the safety of the public or the individual freedoms of the terrorists?
The ultimate right is the right to the preservation of one’s life, because if we cannot protect individuals’ lives, we cannot, by definition, extend to them the opportunity to exercise any other rights, given that they all depend on an individual’s existence. I would have thought that that was self-evident. That is why, when balancing the rights of the 60 million individuals who make up the community, we must have a degree of proportionality. However, that is not reflected in at least one of the judgments of the European Court, the so-called Chahal judgment, which is why we will continue to contest and appeal against it.
The key thing is to involve the whole community. Two groups of people on both extremes wish to divide the community. There are apologists for al-Qaeda who argue that this is essentially a war by everyone else on Islam, which is untrue. There are those on the extreme right of politics who argue that this is a war by Muslims on everyone else, which is equally untrue. Both those groups ought to be pushed to the fringes as we unite everyone in this country across communities and ethnic and religious backgrounds.
On behalf of the official Opposition, I join the Home Secretary in paying condolences to the family and friends of PC Jon Henry. I am afraid that today’s tragic events are a salutary reminder of the risks that policemen and women take on our behalf.
May I crave your indulgence for a second, Mr. Speaker? I think that this will be the last Home Office questions that the Home Secretary will face. May I take this opportunity to wish him well? We have had our differences a number of times over the years, but at every turn I have always accepted that he has done what was in the national interest, in his judgment.
The idea of allowing the police to interview terrorist suspects after they have been charged is put forward to allow a suspect to be charged earlier and to maximise the chance of conviction. That is less controversial than increasing the time of detention without charge and will represent a major increase in police effectiveness. Will the Home Secretary tell us why it has taken two years to implement the idea?
Ideas such as post-charge questioning, the pre-charge extension of detention facilities and the question of intercept have a political, social and legal dimension and often require a great deal of thought and consultation. As it happens, in this case, the right hon. Gentleman has supported the measure for a considerable time. I took the decision that it could be introduced a while back, but I wanted that to take place alongside the introduction of a package of measures. I thought that some of those measures might be more controversial, which is why there has been a delay in bringing this forward.
The right hon. Gentleman would be the first to urge me not to have knee-jerk reactions to events. When I came into my post, I did not want to bring in yet another series of new laws, because that would have been another ground for criticism. I hope that we will be given credit for delaying and thinking things through, after some scrutiny.
I agree with the Home Secretary about wanting to avoid knee-jerk reactions. Reference has already been made to the attitude of some senior policemen to the effectiveness of gathering intelligence. Let me quote one:
“the trust that exists between police and public is critical to all we do, and is absolutely vital in counter terrorism. It fundamentally affects the level of support, and of course intelligence that we receive from communities.”
As has already been said, the greatest risk of extending detention without charge is that it will act as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism and cause the flow of intelligence from the community to dry up. What has the Home Secretary done to assess the effect of the proposed increase in detention on the attitude of the minority communities?
I guessed that it was Peter Clarke. If I remember correctly, those words were part of his comments in the Colin Cramphorn memorial lecture. I agree that when we consider every single measure, we must balance its short and longer-term effects on countering terrorism and its effects on keeping the community on side. That is a difficult job. For instance, I have said continually that I believe that members of the Muslim community in this country are the victims of terrorism twice over, first because they suffer like the rest of us when bombs go off, and when there are explosions and terrorist attacks, and secondly because they are at the front line of counter-terrorist measures. Of course we must always consider that. What I have relied on is a degree of scrutiny and judgment—that has taken some time—and the view of the police, as expressed officially. That view is not that the extension is inevitable or an absolute requirement; it is that the police can envisage circumstances in which it may become necessary to go beyond 28 days, and they therefore believe that I should raise the matter for consideration, inside and outside Government. I am therefore weighing in the balance the immediate effects and the possible consequences, and I lay great stress on the view of the police.
The information is not held centrally in the form requested, as arrests statistics are collected on a recorded crime basis only. Our focus is on police activity that tackles crime and brings offenders to justice. Since 2003, crime has fallen by 10 per cent. Since 2002, the rate of offences brought to justice has increased by 39.6 per cent., and sanction detection rates have increased from 19 per cent. in 2003-04 to 24 per cent. in 2005-06.
In common with the majority of the British people, my experience has been very different from the position that the Minister sets out. After great effort on my part, I received a letter from the Metropolitan police telling me that the person who burgled my mother’s home—she is in her 96th year—asked for 1,396 offences to be taken into account when he was brought to justice at the age of 19, under Operation Wipeout. Does the Minister think that the 19-year-old who burgled my mother’s house is the cleverest thief who ever existed, or would he agree that it is an absolute disgrace that those offences went undetected for so long?
We are all appalled by cases such as that involving the hon. Gentleman’s mother, and we all want people who burgle—particularly those who burgle an elderly, frail, vulnerable woman in her own home—to be brought to justice. That is why we have undertaken a whole range of measures to ensure that more people are brought to justice, and to make sure that when people burgle homes, they are brought before the courts and sentenced appropriately. As regards people who commit less serious offences, we have introduced fixed penalty notices and sanction detection rates to try to encourage police officers to bring more people to justice, and to ensure that more offenders are brought before the courts, both for the kind of serious crime that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, and for less serious offences.
Crime in my constituency of Bridgend is at a four-year low. Auto crime, violent crime and criminal damage are down, but as the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) says, there is a problem with burglary. My local police force has found that the hot weather increases the problem, as people leave windows open and doors unlocked. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a responsibility on the public to protect themselves from crime, especially during the current heat wave, by ensuring that windows and doors are locked?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Of course people have a responsibility to protect their own property, and of course they should lock doors and windows and take all the other sensible measures that we should all take; but alongside that, we need to send out a clear message that burglary is a serious crime, and that we expect burglars who are caught to be charged, put before the courts, and dealt with appropriately. Although it is of course sensible for people to protect their homes and do what they can, we need to send out the clear message that burglary will not be tolerated.
Last Monday, a reply by the Under-Secretary to a question I had tabled showed that the number of traffic officers declined from 7,525 in 1998 to 6,511 in 2005, which is a drop of more than 1,000 in seven years. Does he consider, as many criminals use vehicles, that that will help or hinder the arrest rate?
The hon. Gentleman will know that the figures he quoted are last year’s figures. The latest figures show an increase in the number of road police. He will know, too, that we take road policing very seriously, which is why, for the first time, we included it in the national community safety plan, which is an important step forward. Automatic number plate recognition systems are being used successfully by a large number of forces, so the message on roads policing is: policing the roads is important, because it helps to disrupt criminals who have to travel. I agree with him on that, and we have taken steps to deal with the problem.
My hon. Friend will know that many hon. Members, myself included, would like the arrest rate in our constituencies to go down. We would like the crime rate, too, to fall rather faster. What is the correlation between the arrest rate and the crime rate? Has he done any work on that, and which police force has the highest correlation?
On the question of the individual police force, I will have to write to my hon. Friend, but he has raised an important issue. The fact of the matter is that where the number of arrests goes up, there is a correlation with the crime rate. Obviously, we want to drive the crime rate down, and crime reduction correlates with increased police activity on the streets. Alongside the number of arrests in an area, it is important to have a visible police presence on the street, which is why the roll-out of neighbourhood policing is significant. The additional measures that we have introduced such as fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder give the police another option apart from arrest when dealing with crime on the streets. As I said, there is a range of options available to the police, which they can use as appropriate on the street when dealing with criminals and crime.
May I endorse the expressions of condolence to the family, friends and colleagues of PC Jon Henry, following his terrible death today?
Just as important as arrest rates is what happens after arrest. Is the Minister aware that figures revealed by the BBC today show that 8,000 sexual offenders have been released on caution. That is only the tip of the iceberg, however, as there was a 160 per cent. increase in the number of cautions issued for violent offences in the same period. Does the Minister agree that that is a grave affront to the basic principle that justice needs not only to be done but to be seen to be done, and that it is a direct consequence of the Government’s reckless expansion of so-called summary justice and the bombardment of the police with endless illogical targets?
May I begin by joining the hon. Gentleman in his expression of condolence? With respect to cautions, whether they concern sex offenders or anyone else who has offended, that is a matter for the police to determine according to the individual circumstances of the case. The police have available to them a menu or range of options to deal with offenders. They make a professional judgment in liaison and consultation with colleagues about the best way forward, and cautions are part of that. If the hon. Gentleman looked at the individual circumstances of each case in which a caution was used, I bet that he would find that he agreed with a significant number. If he looked at those individual circumstances, rather making a grand political point and adding them all together, he would find that the truth is much more complicated than he has portrayed it.
One of the factors affecting arrest rates is the increased pressure on police officers to issue penalty notices to satisfy Government targets. Given that half those notices are paid and do not carry a criminal conviction, what confidence can the public have that issuing what are little more than glorified parking tickets is really bringing crime to justice?
The hon. Gentleman knows that crime has fallen. Before the introduction of fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder, a large number of those offences went unpunished. We need to ensure that the system of fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder works effectively and efficiently. In many respects it does and it has enabled the police to deal with an offence on the street in a community, which they would not have been able to do before.
With reference to burglary, the Crimestoppers page in last week’s Lowestoft Journal showed that there were no burglaries at all in Lowestoft the previous week, in line with the trend. We still have a problem with criminal damage, but recently one of our safer neighbourhood teams, with the local council, blitzed an area of town, clearing away piles of fly-tipped rubbish, returning 16 children to school and seizing or reporting 20 cars. Will my hon. Friend congratulate all the people involved in that and encourage other safer neighbourhood teams throughout the country to get stuck in and deal with criminal damage?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on drawing to the attention of the House the excellent work of the Lowestoft Journal and its Crimestoppers page, which seems to be having a dramatic impact on Lowestoft, especially the report of no burglaries that he highlighted. The important point made my hon. Friend—we should draw attention to it because of its relevance to the rest of the country—is the fact that successful neighbourhood policing, as he mentioned, involves not only the police but the council, schools and health services. Effective neighbourhood management, alongside effective neighbourhood policing, means that we get not only the sort of results in Lowestoft that my hon. Friend described, but similar results across the country.
Fourteen per cent. of officer time was spent on patrol. The figure is not broken down by rank. Some 63.1 per cent. of officer time was spent on broader front-line activities. All the figures are for 2005-06. Other front-line activities not captured by the definition of “patrol” include arrests, dealing with incidents, gathering intelligence, responding to 999 calls, carrying out searches, dealing with informants, and interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses.
Is not the fact that 14 per cent. of police constables’ time is spent on patrol a national disgrace? The fact that at any one time only one in 58 police officers is out on patrol is also shameful. Is it not the case that under the present Government pre-emptive patrolling by police constables on foot in most of our towns and cities effectively has come to an end?
No, I do not perceive it in those terms, precisely because of what I said. Patrol means visible, yes, and available. To define patrol alongside policing generally is wrong. That is why we prefer the front-line figure, which encompasses all those active elements to which I referred, including arrests, dealing with incidents and gathering intelligence—all elements that go to meeting what our communities would expect from policing. That, together with the figure for officers on patrol or ready for patrol, comes to some 75 per cent. I accept the implied point that of the remaining 25 per cent., some 20 per cent. is incident-related and other paperwork. We need to drive down the amount of police time spent on paperwork, but I do not regard what I have said about front-line policing and patrol as shameful in any way. It is a matter of great celebration for our communities that our police are doing such a good job.
Police constables on patrol put themselves at serious risk every day of their lives on behalf of us and every citizen. That was tragically illustrated in Luton town centre this morning. As a Luton Member, may I add my condolences to those of other Members on behalf my constituents, who depend upon people such as Jonathan Henry and others? I pay tribute to him and convey my sympathy to his family. Will my hon. Friend, and indeed my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, look again at how we can deal with knife crime, which is still too prevalent and at how we can protect police officers in the future?
First, I join my hon. Friend in passing on condolences to the family of Jonathan Henry and, indeed, to anyone associated with policing in Bedfordshire, not least in my hon. Friend’s home town of Luton. As he says, it was an appalling incident and we all pass on our sympathies.
On my hon. Friend’s broader point, we are doing much on knife crime, but it would be wrong, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at the last summit held in Downing street, to assume that it can be dealt with only by legislation by the Government. Yes, it is about legislation, but it is also about culture, awareness and education and some of the responsibility must go to parenting and families. Only by tackling all three of those elements, which we are trying to do, will we get rid of the scourge of knife crime. However, I broadly agree with all the sentiments that my hon. Friend expressed.
The issue is not simply red tape. About half the time that the hon. Gentleman refers to is spent on incident-related paperwork. There must be proper due process in relation to audit trails and paperwork, not least in preparation for the matter being dealt with in the criminal justice system. I am with the hon. Gentleman on the other half of the equation: some 7.98 per cent. of the figure relates to non-incident-related paperwork. Through work force modernisation, considering who is doing what job in the police force and greater use of technology such as handheld personal digital assistants, we are working closely with the Association of Chief Police Officers and assorted forces to drive that figure down. I am with the hon. Gentleman on that figure, but the notion that somehow we will get rid of all paperwork is not correct because of, quite rightly, due process in relation to the criminal justice system.
In the light of that answer, does my hon. Friend agree that a truer estimate of time spent on the streets would involve the increase in neighbourhood policing? That is the cornerstone of Sussex police’s approach; they have introduced 53 new specialist neighbourhood teams, ensuring that every neighbourhood has its own dedicated group. Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will support the extra funding that has gone into those areas and, indeed, increase it, so that such measures can reflect what is necessary for local people and what they feel is important?
I broadly agree with my hon. Friend and will certainly agree to support the existing funding levels and the overall policy of neighbourhood policing, which is making a profound difference to communities up and down the country, as I see when I go out and about on my travels. She also can be assured that the sustainability of the neighbourhood policing fund and policy will be an important cornerstone of our bid in the comprehensive spending review, but it is not for me to pre-empt or prejudge the outcome of that review.
The definition of front-line policing that the Minister said that he preferred includes time filling in forms. Officers involved in that are not on the front line; they are in a back office. Four years after a previous Home Secretary promised a “bonfire of the paperwork” to free up more police time, the Police Federation says that bureaucracy has got worse, and the Government’s own figures show that police officers spend more time on paperwork than on patrol. Instead of waiting 10 years to set up another review, when will the Government act to cut red tape and get police officers back on the beat, where the public want to see them?
As I said to the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone), it is fundamentally mendacious to assume that the 14 per cent. figure relates only to the time when the police are available and carrying out policing. That is simply not the case. Yes, of course we need to drive down paperwork, and we will be saying to the Flanagan review that we need to do more on targets and wider bureaucracy, but it is not right for the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) to dismiss as blithely as he does the figure of 63.1 per cent. that I quoted, which I repeat relates to arrests, dealing with incidents, gathering intelligence, responding to 999 calls, carrying out searches, dealing with informants and interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses. I do not doubt that paperwork may be involved, but one does not have to be a genius to work out that any such paperwork probably contributes to affording our citizens due process under the criminal justice system. I would be happy to find out which part of the criminal justice system the hon. Gentleman wants to get rid of.
Policing of major events is the responsibility of the relevant local police forces from their normal budget. In exceptional cases, in which particular strain would be placed on a police authority’s budget, additional Government support may be provided.
Is not it absurd that Merseyside police should be refused extra resources for policing the many events during the European capital of culture year of 2008, especially given that Liverpool represents the whole United Kingdom that year and in light of precedent for other events elsewhere? Does my hon. Friend agree with the statement in another place that the people of Merseyside should be so pleased that Liverpool has been honoured in such a way that they should be prepared to forgo adequate policing for the duration?
May I take the opportunity to congratulate Liverpool on being awarded the status of European capital of culture? It is a fantastic opportunity for Liverpool to show not only Europe but the world what a great city it is.
I am sure that my hon. Friend knows that all police forces in England and Wales have received sustained increases in finding under the Government. For Merseyside, the increase in total grants is £98 million—a 45.5 per cent. increase—since 1997. Merseyside also has 123 more police officers than in March 1997 and the number of police community support officers has doubled in the past six months to 466. The increases have put Merseyside police in a strong position to cope with the additional demands arising from Liverpool’s year as European capital of culture. I hope that local authorities and businesses will consider contributing to policing costs, as they stand to reap significant benefits from such investment.
Although I understand the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Ben Chapman) made about his constituents’ concerns about suffering a lower level of policing through management of the events in 2008, will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary bear it in mind that the Liberal Democrat administration of Liverpool has had five years to plan for those events but has signally failed to provide the funding, thus taking Liverpool into £20 million of debt? By notifying the chief constable too late to allow him to plan properly, the administration is left asking taxpayers throughout Britain to fund Liverpool’s year of culture. Are not all of us who wish Liverpool well in that year in danger of being let down by its administration?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point. The policing costs are not a sudden or unexpected pressure. Liverpool opted to bid to be the European capital of culture; it was a voluntary decision. One would presume that those responsible chose to bid on the basis that the benefits would exceed the costs. They should factor in the cost of security when they decide to bid. As my right hon. Friend said, the administration has known since 2003 that Liverpool would be the European capital of culture. The local police have had plenty of time to prepare and plan, and that is certainly true of the local authority.
My right hon. Friend knows that the chief constable and the assistant chief constable have already briefed my hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter Terrorism and Police on the policing aspects of the year. He also visited Merseyside—
Acceptable Behaviour Orders
None. There is no such proposal.
Will the Minister therefore account for the fact that there have been very credible newspaper reports that the Government are planning to introduce antisocial behaviour orders or acceptable behaviour contracts for first-time offenders of burglary? Will the Government now take this opportunity to restore the balance in favour of the victims of burglary, such as the mother of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), because the law has moved too far in favour of the offender rather than the victim?
The hon. Lady makes a reasonable point, but it is precisely the Government’s position that we expect people caught and charged with burglary to be put before the courts. That is what we expect. We do not expect behavioural interventions to happen for burglary, though it may be that, on conviction, a criminal sentence is given by the court, with an antisocial behaviour order applied as well as the criminal sentence. Intervention before, however, is not appropriate. As far as the Home Office is concerned, we believe that any burglar should be arrested, charged and put before the courts.
In relation to antisocial behaviour, will my hon. Friend consider having discussions with police forces up and down the country with a view to introducing a knives amnesty? Some years ago, the Coventry Evening Telegraph, together with the police, introduced a voluntary amnesty, which was very successful.
Acceptable behaviour orders may or may not be effective against some burglars, but what is beyond doubt is that many burglaries and other crimes are drug related. The Home Office has rightly taken up concerns about rising crime rates in my area, but at the same time has cut funding to the drug intervention programme by 11.5 per cent. in this financial year—with very little warning to the drug action team or other local drug and alcohol advisory teams. Is that not a bad example of joined-up government?
Before 2003, there was no such thing as a drug intervention programme. Furthermore, the £149 million that I believe we are spending on drug intervention programmes means that, for the first time, people arrested for drug-related offences now have an intervention programme that not only treats their drug-related addiction, but punishes them for the criminal activity that they have undertaken.
East Midlands Special Operations Unit
First, I believe that I may have inadvertently accused the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) of being mendacious, which I am sure is unparliamentary. I meant, of course, that he was totally misguided, but I was not referring in any way to his veracity or honesty. I apologise for that.
As to the east midlands special operations unit, Home Office funding totalling some £6 million for last year and this year has been provided. Continuing funding from 2008-09 will, of course, be a matter for the comprehensive spending review.
I am sure that the Minister agrees with me that the east midlands special operations unit is doing some exceptionally valuable work in dealing with high levels of organised crime. May I remind my hon. Friend that he made a statement on the police grant earlier this year, in which he accepted that Derbyshire was, shall I say, not the most generously funded police authority? Clearly, if there is no guarantee of ongoing funding for this special operations unit, there may be some doubt about its future—hence my question.
I hear what my hon. Friend says. Not just for the benefit of Derbyshire, but for the other four forces involved in the east midlands, may I explain that since the discussions on merged forces, east midlands as a region above all others has made considerable progress in terms of closing the gap on protective services? I realise that that is, at least in part, because of the work done by the east midlands special operations unit. That will be a factor when we come to consider the east midlands generally under the comprehensive spending review and policing therein.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I should like to ask a question on behalf of Northamptonshire police, which is one of the forces in the east midlands. The Minister has just said that everything they were doing was correct and exactly what the Government wanted, including closer co-operation on serious crime such as human trafficking. However, the Government will not give a guarantee of funding for the future. Surely that is a mistake. Should not the Minister give such a guarantee?
One of the few positive outcomes of the abject and abortive attempt to amalgamate the five forces of the east midlands, including Leicestershire, was a renewed focus on the performance of those forces in the areas in which they have amalgamated and co-operated in an effective way. The east midlands special operations unit is a classic example of this. It is a beacon grouping which could give lessons to those in other parts of the country who wish to avoid having a regional force. I endorse the call from my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Laxton) for an extended funding commitment in the public spending review, and I hope that the Minister will back that call when the matter is under review later this year.
As I have said, this is a matter for the comprehensive spending review, but I agree with my hon. Friend and all colleagues from the east midlands, including Northamptonshire, that there has been considerable progress on the protective and level 2 services agenda. That can be—and, I hope, will be—recognised in the next CSR, but I cannot pre-empt the review.
We are constantly reviewing and updating our counter-terrorism strategy. As part of this, I am pleased to announce that, tomorrow, we are launching the security and counter-terrorism science and innovation strategy. This strategy has been developed across government, led by the new Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office, and is a practical example of how we are developing a more strategic and integrated response to the threat. Science and innovation will be critical in driving forward these changes and delivering new counter-terrorism capabilities.
I thank the Home Secretary for his answer. In July last year, the Government published a document on countering terrorism, which was a review of the 12-point plan set out by the Prime Minister after 7/7. Will the Home Secretary give us an update on which of the points have not yet been fulfilled, and tell us what actions he plans to take to fulfil them?
From memory, I think that all but one of them have been either started or completed. On the overall picture, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we have increased the annual spending on counter-terrorism and resilience to £2.25 billion across government over the past 12 months. In the past month, we have announced the refocusing of the Home Office towards counter-terrorism, crime and immigration, to supplement the effort of the increased resources. Most recently, I announced last week my intention to bring forward a new counter-terrorism Bill containing a range of measures, on which we hope to consult and to achieve, at best, solidarity and, at a minimum, consensus across the House. Two weeks later, I shall be leaving and handing over to a new Home Secretary, so the fight for counter-terrorism, my interest, will go on. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Members of the House for the constructive and emollient approach that they have adopted towards the Home Office in the past 12 months; it would have been very difficult to go on without the laudable appreciation that has so often been exchanged across the Chamber.
We shall certainly miss my right hon. Friend. In dealing with counter-terrorism, is it not also important to remember the victims of terror? Will my right hon. Friend tell me whether anything can be done urgently to look into the approximately 120 outstanding claims of the victims of terror on 7 July? Some have lost limbs or sustained other serious injuries, and they have been waiting a very long time for a final settlement of their claims. Should not this matter receive much greater priority than it has done?
I would love to say—indeed, I will—that, in the case of my hon. Friend missing me, the feeling will be mutual. Attention to the victims of the terrorist atrocities in London is given the highest priority. I cannot think of another occasion on which all the victims of a major tragedy have been seen, or at least had an offer to be seen, by at least two Cabinet Ministers. Both I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport have tried to do that. When I last inquired about reports of delays in such payments, I was satisfied that most were either the result of complicated medical evidence being awaited or claims having been submitted in the past few months. People sometimes do not claim during the initial period, as the symptoms only become obvious at a later stage. At my hon. Friend’s request, I shall reassure myself that those cases are not being neglected or receiving a lack of priority.