Effective and visible neighbourhood policing for local communities is a key element in the fight against crime. From April, neighbourhood policing teams will be working in every area of England and Wales and I want everyone to have the opportunity to shape their team’s priorities for fighting crime in their area.
Today I am announcing, with the police, the launch of the Name in Every Neighbourhood campaign. Over the next few weeks, every household will hear from, be able to contact and be able to influence their local team. A new national neighbourhood policing website will let the public find the names and numbers of their local team, and the use of contracts between the police and the public will help to deliver this important change. I congratulate police forces across the country on helping to make neighbourhood policing a reality.
There is growing concern in Scotland about the operation of the Counter-Terrorism Bill—in particular, clause 27, which would allow offences committed in Scotland to be tried in England, and, theoretically, vice versa. Does the Secretary of State understand that that is fraught with difficulty? Will she assure me that if the provision goes on to the statute book, it will operate only after the agreement with the Lord Advocate of very clear guidelines for its operation?
If there are linked attacks in, for example, London and Scotland, it is important that it should be possible, through the proposals that we are putting forward in clause 27, for both those linked cases to be prosecuted in one place. That is what the universal jurisdiction that we are proposing would enable us to do. When countering terrorism, it makes sense for us to be able to prosecute in the place where the investigation takes place, wherever that is.
I thank my hon. Friend for her question. Operation Nemesis in Stoke was fantastically successful and led, I believe, to a 20 per cent. reduction in crime. If we are to bear down on and reduce crime, getting drug-misusing offenders into treatment is absolutely essential. The drugs intervention programme that we have introduced is one part of that, and my hon. Friend will be aware how that operates. I understand that there are one or two difficulties in her local area with commissioning of services. Perhaps the best way of taking that problem forward is for us to discuss it, and I will be happy to do that if she wishes.
The announcement made today by the Home Secretary, and earlier outside this House by the Prime Minister, of a new emphasis on neighbourhood policing is very welcome. However, what assurances can the Home Secretary give that the phone service will not be hit by 101-style budget restraints, that local residents will have access to ward-level crime and conviction data enabling them to be knowledgeable in holding local teams to account, and that more police, not fewer, will be available for a visible presence on the beat?
First, on local crime information, we have committed to ensuring that by July this year crime information is available for local people on the basis of their areas. Secondly, we have been clear, not only with the additional numbers of police officers but with the police community support officers who are playing such an important role in neighbourhood policing, that those teams need to be visible and accessible. The success that we have already seen in some areas of this country in rolling out neighbourhood policing shows us the potential that there will be when it is everywhere from April.
It is of course the responsibility of chief constables to ensure that they are making the best use of the resources that they have in relation to police officers and to police community support officers, but given that eight years ago there were no police community support officers and now there are 16,000, I hope that those vacancies will not remain empty for long.
Later this week, the European Court of Human Rights is expected to rule on whose DNA is to be permitted to remain on the United Kingdom’s database. Does the Home Secretary agree that decisions of this kind should be made not by unelected foreign judges, however distinguished, but by elected Members of this Parliament? Regardless of the merits of the argument on that particular question, what representations is she making to the court to increase what it calls its margin of appreciation so that fewer decisions of this kind are made in Strasbourg and more in this House?
The DNA database has been a fantastic crime-solving tool and is something that we fully support. It would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail on the Government’s defence in the case of S and Marper, which is going to court on Wednesday. We will await the outcome of that and take action as necessary, but our position is very firmly that the DNA database is valuable and we want to retain it.
I met very recently the chief constable, Sean Price, and the chair of the police authority, David McLuckie, to talk about this and a range of other matters. I have to say two things. First, Durham is not unique in having an urban core and a rural surround and the challenge of both those aspects of policing. Secondly, colleagues on both sides of the House are rather impatient that we get to the formula agreed upon three years ago rather than reopening a new one. However, I am happy to meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues from Cleveland if they want to discuss further, outwith the current budget round, the specifics of the formula and how it relates to Cleveland.
Yes, I can confirm that from next month, the website will ensure that people can know the names and telephone numbers of teams who will be working day in, day out with them in their neighbourhoods. Wiltshire constabulary deserves congratulations for the way in which it has responded to the challenge of ensuring that we have visible, responsive policing in every neighbourhood in this country.
We, of course, have implemented an increase in the maximum knife sentence from two years to four years. Alongside that, as I announced last week, we are undertaking a range of actions to ensure that we are able to cut knife crime, particularly among young people where—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on this—it is a particular concern.
Serious punishment is obviously an important part of countering knife crime, which is why we will change the situation so that there will be a presumption of prosecution for those who are caught carrying knives. Secondly, we will make it more likely that those carrying a knife are caught, by investing in the opportunity for police to use search wands and portable arches. Alongside that, through the extra investment into the roll-out of programmes such as the Be Safe project, which takes place in schools and teaches young people about the implication of carrying knives, we will try to prevent young people from even thinking about carrying knives on the street in the first place.
My constituency has again been blighted by the establishment of a so-called cannabis café, to the great annoyance of local residents. It acts as a magnet for all sorts of low life coming into Lancing. Despite the best endeavours of the police, who have raided the place five times, no prosecution has been brought to close it down. It is heavily fortified, well beyond what is required for a legitimate café, and a constantly fired furnace is used to burn the evidence the minute any police come in. I have written to the Home Secretary, but can she offer any help so that places such as this, which are clearly trading illegally and are fortified well beyond their needs, can be closed down, as local residents want?
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to speak to me straight after questions, I shall meet him to discuss that quite deplorable situation. I have not heard of anything quite as bad as that with respect to cannabis cafés. We need to ensure that we nip the situation in the bud, so that people see the serious consequences of such practice, and so that it does not spread anywhere else in the country. I will be pleased to hear the details because I have not heard of anything like that anywhere else in the country.
In our country there are organisations that promote bad behaviour and drug abuse, such as the Bullingdon dining club at Oxford, which is famous for hard drinking, bad behaviour and drug abuse and is also responsible for the decline and fall of many of its members. Will the Home Secretary say whether there is any indication over a 20-year period that the use of cannabis in clubs like the Bullingdon dining club is any higher or lower or about the same as it was when the Leader of the Opposition was an active member of that club in 1988?
What I can say to my hon. Friend is that cannabis use—indeed, all drug use—is lower now than it was in 1997. Cannabis use is lower among young people. I agree with him that we need to find positive role models for young people to encourage them to live their lives as we would hope that they would.
A young boy in my constituency who spat at his sister recently spent the night in the Essex police cells and may end up with a record. This unpleasant but not extraordinary incident consumed a massive amount of police time and resource. When can we get back to dealing with those things through parents, families and common sense, thus saving police time?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that it is always difficult in this place to comment on the details of individual cases. It is precisely in order to ensure that police forces across the country can concentrate on the things that matter to local people that we will ensure first that there is a neighbourhood policing team in every area from April and secondly, as part of the new public service agreements that we will introduce from April, that there will be more flexibility for local forces to concentrate on local priorities.
The Home Secretary said in response to an earlier question that she wants to roll out neighbourhood watch schemes in every neighbourhood. That will not happen if North Yorkshire gets a similar police funding settlement to the constituency of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland (Dr. Kumar). Will she please review the police funding for the forthcoming financial year and introduce rurality and sparsity factors to the way in which the funding is allocated?
As I suggested in an earlier answer, we are still seeking to implement the formula agreed some two or three years ago. The hon. Lady may want to get together with other MPs and look specifically at the rural dimension and at restoring the rural policing element of the old formula, which will clearly be at the cost of something else—I am sure that her urban colleagues would have something to say about that. I am happy to meet the hon. Lady and a cross-party group of MPs to discuss the matter further. If we do not have the formula right as regards the rural dimension and rural policing resources, I am happy to talk about it.