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Policing in London

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 27 March 2008

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of policing in London.

I am pleased to move the motion, not least because, despite what some suggest, there is a good news story in the broadest sense about policing in London. At the outset of my short contribution, I want to congratulate the Metropolitan police on all the work they do for us in London and Sir Ian Blair on the leadership that he has brought to the success of policing in London.

It is important that the people of London know and understand what the Metropolitan police have achieved over recent years—from the lowest level of community support officer neighbourhood teams in each and every borough, all the way up to the leadership team around Sir Ian Blair. There are any number of suggestions—some of them simply wrong—about police numbers and capabilities, about the broad success in London, about crime and violent crime specifically, about transport safety in London and, not least, about neighbourhood policing. Many of them are not the case or simply do not stand up.

We need to understand too—I know that everyone in the House does—that London is very well served by the Metropolitan Police Service in the fight against terrorism. All hon. Members know that the Metropolitan police were seen at their finest in the wake of the 7/7 attack and the two subsequent failed attacks of 21/7 in London and the incident in Glasgow. Lessons are, of course, to be learned from each and every one of those instances, and they surely have been learned.

Many of my constituents travel to and work in London, and they are very interested in policing in the capital, particularly on our transport networks. Does the Minister therefore welcome Conservative proposals to increase the number of police community support officers in the safer transport teams by 440 and to recruit an extra 50 British Transport police officers to patrol our mainline stations?

I would if those who proposed such policy developments could justify and sustain the funding for those extra PCSOs—

Wait a minute. What I would not accept is the costing that has been suggested so far, because it is rooted in the old Transport for London budget, so the money that is supposed to be there for 400-odd extra PCSOs on our transport network is simply not available any more. It has been spent. If the hon. Gentleman can suitably enlighten us, I would, of course, be delighted to give way.

Since the Minister asked a question, I would be delighted to enlighten him. Let me tell him that Londoners, given the choice between spending £63 million on further publicity for the Mayor of London or having 440 transport PCSOs on the buses, would rather spend £16 million, which is what I am proposing to spend, on another 440 PCSOs on the buses. Is the Minister in favour of that? Yes or no?

In the first instance when the proposal was thought up, the money was to come from Transport for London. Now, however, that and a whole series of other supposed innovations from the hon. Gentleman representing somewhere in Oxfordshire are not to come from those areas suitably designated in the first instance, but from some magical little pot rooted in the public relations budget in the Greater London authority. The slightest scrutiny would show that his overall spending plans are neither sustainable nor justified. He is as cavalier with the facts in that regard as he is in so many other aspects of his political life.

I am slightly confused by the position of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) because Tory assembly member Richard Barnes has openly said of police in London:

“I don’t think so much money should be spent on them”.

Conservatives have called PCSOs “plastic policemen” in the past, so where has this sudden support for PCSOs come from? Since the Mayor was elected, there have been 850 extra police officers on London’s transport system—

I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. We know that an election is forthcoming, but the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) does his case no good by traducing what is in place and the success that there has been in the London context. He cannot talk about having some sort of regard for—finally, because he has not done so for most of the time that he has been in the House—the safety of people on London’s transport network without recognising the significant work and investment that has taken place thus far. Far too often, in all that he does in his attempt to be Mayor, he treats Londoners like idiots. People have put in much hard work, whether through TFL, the British Transport police, the Metropolitan Police Service, or whatever. Day in, day out, PCSOs and front-line police officers make our transport network, buses included, far more secure than in the past. That is not to say that there is not still work to be done, but the hon. Gentleman does his case no good by trying to suggest that violent crime is going through the roof—

Croydon is very much a part of London. May I try to take a different tack? A recent survey showed that 46 per cent. of Londoners said that they did not feel safe in their neighbourhoods at night. Does the Minister find that understandable?

Over the past few years, the safety figures for London have been going in the right direction much more readily than they ever did in the 1980s and early 1990s. I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I said to his non-London colleague, that one must start from the premise that outer London boroughs are far better served with policing than they have ever been before. My borough is in exactly the same position in that there is a difference between perceived and actual levels of crime, and that is especially marked in outer London boroughs. The situation has changed enormously thanks to the embedding of safer neighbourhoods teams throughout London, but I accept that the perception is hard to shift. However, I do not do so in the stark, black-and-white, knockabout terms that he is suggesting. He has made serious contributions to London debates. Indeed, I believe that he was his party’s London spokesperson for some time. I accept that the perception of crime remains a serious matter that we need to deal with.

Does the Minister accept that one of the concerns of my constituents in Ilford, North and people throughout the borough of Redbridge is that they do not feel secure on buses especially? They were promised that there would be better policing on buses, but that has been an abject failure. It has not happened.

That might look nice in a central office press release, but it is simply not the case. Whoever the competitors for the mayoral election or any subsequent election, they should not treat Londoners like idiots. It is not the case that safety, and police and security presence, on our transport network and hubs has somehow diminished over the past five or 10 years—quite the reverse. Does more need to be done? Absolutely—no one is claiming otherwise—but people should not start from a year-zero perspective, because every time that the hon. Member for Henley does so, he traduces the very good work that is done day in, day out, by our PCSOs—whether in the BTP or MPS. That is not in the interests of the people of Ilford.

I agree strongly with my right hon. Friend’s support for the Metropolitan Police Service and the initiatives that have been undertaken in London. Does he agree that if we are congratulating the authorities on improvements and the reduction of crime over the past five years, we must include in that the Mayor of London, who has consistently supported additional police officers throughout London since his election? He has been solely responsible for the neighbourhood policing initiative that has done so much to reduce crime in local areas.

I absolutely agree. The Conservative party has had an on-off—now on, apparently—love affair with PCSOs and all that they do. It is simply not right, Ceausescu-like, to rub out history entirely and say that the Conservatives have always been at one with the Metropolitan police’s arguments on PCSOs. Some Conservative Members—not many among the congregation today—have spent the entire 10 years in which I have been in the House traducing the very existence of PCSOs. I am glad that that is not the case now.

The safer neighbourhoods teams have been a phenomenal addition and they are greatly appreciated by local people. Does the Minister agree that they need to be embedded in an estate property that is in the ward that they are policing? That is Met police policy, but it is not happening. Will he have a chat with the Metropolitan police about ensuring that that happens, especially in Highgate ward?

That is a reasonable point, whether about Highgate or elsewhere. As I have discovered in my area, it is not always possible to do that. I know that the principle of getting the teams as close as possible to the wards that they serve—ideally within them—governs what the Met does, but that is not always possible. Slowly, as the teams become far more embedded, they are shifting from temporary areas across London to more satisfactory ones. Although the Met and everyone else would like to meet the aspiration that every team should be located in the ward that it serves, that is not, to be fair, entirely practical or always possible.

The Minister will be aware that I have supported PCSOs since the moment the idea was raised in the House.

The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) said that neighbourhood policing was to the credit of just the Mayor of London. The Mayor must be given credit for doing quite a good job, but he has achieved that only by working closely with local authorities of any political colour. In the hon. Gentleman’s area, I suspect that the Conservative-controlled London borough of Enfield has worked extremely well to make such projects successful. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) will be keen to build on such partnership arrangements in the years ahead.

So keen that the hon. Member for Henley has not mentioned that at all during his entire life in the House, but that is by the bye. In fact, on the rare occasions that he has been in the Chamber, he has not troubled us terribly much with questions about any matter relating to London at all.

I find it hard to believe that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) is at all serious about fighting crime in London when he suggests that he will cut the Metropolitan police’s reserve budget, which is in stark contrast to the current Mayor of London’s commitment to putting an extra 1,000 uniformed police on the streets of London. Will the Minister comment on the difference that that would make? We should give the Mayor of London credit for rolling out neighbourhood policing right across London over the past two years in advance of that happening nationally, which has made a significant difference to my constituents and people throughout the whole of London.

I can only agree with my right hon. Friend. We have a candidate who has delivered substantially for London and throughout London. During that entire period, the Conservatives have gone from ice cold, to cold, to tepid and then to lukewarm, and there is now a vague recognition from them that what the Mayor, Sir Ian Blair, the MPS and the Metropolitan Police Authority have done increasingly matters to London. I welcome any latter-day Pauline conversion to the concept of neighbourhood policing throughout the country. However, I have to say that, historically, it has been rather tepid and lukewarm from the Opposition.

I know that the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) has been a fan of PCSOs from the very start and that he did not cast on them the aspersions cast by others. When we get it right and police and PCSOs complement each other, things work well. I take slight issue with what he suggested in relation to the remark about the Mayor made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford). It has taken the leadership of the Mayor and, I say, Sir Ian Blair to push on and push through safer neighbourhood teams in every area.

Having said that, safer neighbourhood teams are far better and far more effective when, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, they work closely with local councils, regardless of their political colour. I am happy to report that that is happening much more. Again, I say, “Please don’t revise history.” Some—not always just Conservative or Liberal Democrat councils, I freely admit—have come late to the table, although they now understand how neighbourhood policing and neighbourhood management can work so well.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Can he give an assessment of what Londoners are supposed to make of this statement by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson)? He said:

“More powers to interfere over noisy radios, dangerous dogs or truant children”

are

“legislative coercion.”

I suspect that the hon. Member for Henley has had another conversion and now accepts that there are Labour, Liberal and Tory councils throughout London—fewer Liberals, as they are not terribly good at it—that know and understand in terms of yobbish and antisocial behaviour that what we are seeking to do within the legal framework that we have established, and in partnership with localities, is working, and working effectively for London across the continuum from very early intervention to, in the end, antisocial behaviour orders.

On the issue of the conversion of the Conservatives to supporting PCSOs, does my right hon. Friend recall the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition at the last Conservative party conference, in which he attacked two PCSOs from Wigan because they did not dive in, accusing them of standing and watching as a young man drowned?

The important point is that PCSOs have the requisite skills base for the job that they are intended for. As the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster suggested, they work well when complementing and supporting police; it was never the Government’s intention to have them replace police. Quite what individual Members of the House or people elsewhere, from a position of total and perverse ignorance, say about specific events is not for me to comment on, especially as they took place outside London. Following your instruction, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall not do so, in particular because Wigan is outside London.

I thank the Minister for giving way as he has made some unsubstantiated allegations about Liberal Democrat councils. May I encourage him to come to the London borough of Sutton to see the partnership work there, which was a trailblazer in terms of the local authority and the police making a joint appointment of someone to take on the whole range of responsibilities for tackling, among other things, antisocial behaviour?

At some stage, I shall, and I am sure that my private secretary would enjoy it enormously, seeing as he lives just down the road. Again, this is a latter-day conversion. [Interruption.] Let me make it clear that it is latter-day conversion. It is not the case, as the hon. Gentleman would have it, that—apropos the comment made earlier—all the discussions and the legislative framework around helping communities with antisocial behaviour and other things are part of the Liberal dream. They are not. I pray in aid the lamentable examples of Islington, when it was Liberal, and now, increasingly, Liberal Camden. They do not get it and simply displace the thing entirely.

Given the Minister’s concern about ill-informed criticism of police in London, will he join me in condemning the outrageous observations of the Mayor of London’s transport commissioner, Mr. Hendy, who threatened to cut off funding for the transport police operational command unit for having dared to criticise the safety record of the Mayor’s bendy buses? That is ill-informed criticism, is it not?

A trio of lamentables—Camden, Islington and the hon. Gentleman.

I need to say in conclusion, Madam Mayor, that we have had action—[Interruption.] I mean Madam Deputy Speaker. I am not aware that you are standing for the post; I am sure you are not.

In London, we have the example of real leadership and action by Ken Livingstone. That should continue. We do not need the hot air, wind-baggery and aspirations of the hon. Member for Henley, who has finally discovered that London exists as a city. In the end, Londoners will determine which way to go, especially in terms of policing.

I have a lot of regard for the Minister, but he plumbed new depths with his rather churlish approach to some of the sensible comments made by Conservative Members, particularly the public statements from my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), who has contributed hugely to the debate on how to improve London policing.

I start by paying tribute to the work of all police officers in London—to the City of London force, which I have had the privilege of visiting; the British Transport police; and, of course, the Met. The Metropolitan police is unique in this country. It receives a quarter of the national police budget and contains approximately a fifth of all sworn officers. It works hard—day in, day out—to protect 7.4 million citizens. It spearheads the national effort to tackle serious crime and terrorism. However, the rather rosy picture that the Minister paints of crime levels in London needs to be tackled.

Of course the police work hard, but no one who has canvassed in this mayoral election or talked to Londoners in a normal, average week thinks that the average Londoner is happy with crime levels in London. They think more can be done. They believe that London can be made safer.

In a moment.

The current Mayor wants London to be the safest city in the world, but after eight years of the Labour mayoralty London is not even the safest city in the United Kingdom. According to the latest Home Office figures—up to 2006-07—in London there were 124 recorded crimes per 1,000 of population, which is a quarter higher than the 100 per 1,000 of population nationally. In London, there were 24 recorded instances of violence against the person per 1,000 of population. That is 20 per cent. higher than the 19 per 1,000 of population across England and Wales. In London, there were 32 recorded instances of theft, excluding car theft, per 1,000 of population. That is higher than the 22 per 1,000 of population across the rest of the UK.

Even the Home Secretary herself—

In a moment.

Even the Home Secretary herself has said that either in Hackney or in south Kensington—pick a borough, it does not matter which—she is not comfortable walking on her own at night.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and commend him for giving selective figures. Does he accept that, overall, the crime figures over the past five years show a 19 per cent. reduction? Will he add to his list and congratulate the Mayor of London on providing the back-up that allowed those figures to be achieved?

I will offer no such congratulation to the Mayor of London, whose record I will get on to in a moment, and no, I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of such large falls in crime. Those are recorded figures from the Home Office itself, and they stand the test of time. They show what is happening to recorded crimes—they are going up. Violent crime is up in London. Gun crime is up in London. Knife crime is up in London. Something needs to be done about that.

The simple fact is that London’s citizens do not feel as safe as they would like.

I will give way to the Minister in a moment.

On 11 March 2008, the current Mayor of London told the Home Affairs Committee:

“crime continued to rise until 2003; since then it has fallen by 21 per cent.”.

Let me put that in its historical context. According to the Home Office figures, which are there for all to see—I say that for the benefit of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love)—there were just under 130,000 recorded offences of violence against the person in London in 1998-99. Guess what the figure was in 2006-07: it was 182,000. That is an increase of 40 per cent., according to Home Office figures. In 1998-99 there were 26,000 robberies in London. Guess how many there were in 2006-07: well over 45,000. That is an increase of over 74 per cent.

The hon. Gentleman simply cannot do this. He must quote the figures accurately. The 182,000 offences of violence against the person in 2006-07 has fallen by 3 per cent. to 173,997, and if offences of harassment are excluded—I am sure that Members know what harassment is—the figure is 13 per cent.

Members must not mislead the House, inadvertently or otherwise. It is not right to say that violent crime is going up when the correct figures tell their own story: that violent crime has fallen significantly. That is not a debating point but a matter of absolute fact, and the hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of himself.

I invite anyone who reads Hansard tomorrow to read what I have said, and then to view the Home Office website and compare the record for 1998-99 with that for 2006-07. Then we shall see who is right.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the huge majority of Londoners would listen with more interest to the words of the Labour hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), who said only this month that scarcely a child or teenager in her constituency had not been mugged? Is not that testimony far more powerful than the fictitious statistics of that Minister?

I would rather take my hon. Friend’s powerful point than the fiddled and dodgy numbers and spin put out by—

Order. There is a bit of a heated debate going on in the Chamber, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will think very carefully about the words that he uses.

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. Let me simply say that the spin-addicted Minister may decide to revisit his comments when he reads Hansard tomorrow.

Let us consider another statistic. In 2007, 27 teenagers were murdered in London, nearly all of them victims of knife or gun crime perpetrated by other youths. That lends force to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley.

Those rises in crime—which, I hasten to add, are not to be laid at the door of the police; I shall explain why in a moment—should be seen in the context of police funding. They have occurred as spending on the Met has gone up, with a budget increase of more than 30 per cent. That increase is of course welcome, but the fact remains that Londoners are paying increasing amounts through higher police precepts, and I think that many of them will wonder why crime is not falling in proportion to the amount of extra money that they are contributing.

The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) represents one of the safest constituencies in the country, but he has opposed measures to fight gun crime and antisocial behaviour here in London. He opposed the automatic five-year sentence for carrying a gun illegally. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) will explain that to us in the context of tackling violent crime in London.

The right hon. Lady’s rather thin and, frankly, pathetic intervention shows how scared Labour Members are of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley.

The net police precept in my constituency has quadrupled over the past 10 years, but we have not seen a quadrupling of the number of police officers. Over the past seven years, Wandsworth residents have paid £66 million more for fewer warranted officers who can arrest people on their streets.

I wish to make some progress first.

If the Minister will not accept statistics in black and white, surely there is one thing on which we can agree: the need for greater police visibility in London. Surely there is common ground on that. There is, however, a huge difference between our prescriptions and those of the Labour Government.

I am sure we can agree that if there are more police on the beat, they deter more crime and more arrests are made. After 11 September 2001, the police redeployed 1,500 officers from outer London to the city centre. At the time, Ian Blair described the impact of that redeployment on crime levels. He said:

“On 13 September, street crime began to rise in the outer boroughs and go down in the centre. By Christmas, the rise in street crime everywhere except central Westminster had become almost vertical, with nearly 7,000 robberies and snatch thefts in January”,

which, he said, represented an increase of more than 50 per cent.

After the July bombings, the redeployment of officers on the streets—for which my hon. Friend the Member for Henley has argued so powerfully in the past few weeks, and will argue powerfully for in future weeks—had a similar effect. A study in the aftermath of 7 July found that, in the six months following the incident, increased police deployment in six key London boroughs had led to a significant fall in crime. That is why London Conservatives, and Conservatives nationally, are serious about cutting the bureaucracy that is heaped on our hard-working police officers. It is not acceptable that, in London, the amount of time spent on patrol decreased from 13.7 per cent. in 2003-04 to 12.8 per cent. in 2006-07.

I will in a minute.

Not even the men and women in the Police Federation believe the Minister when he says that he has cut—or his Government have cut—the number of forms by 9,000. The Conservatives have consistently asked the Minister to publish the 9,000 red-tape forms that they say they have cut, and he will not do it. Will he do it today?

Unless the Government can show what they have done to cut red tape in the last 10 years, they will have no claim to be anti-bureaucracy and no claim to be putting more police officers back on the street.

May I return my hon. Friend for a moment to the subject of high-visibility policing? I know that earlier this month he visited the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and had a look at the 24/7 policing there, which I think is a fantastic achievement. It is the only borough in London where safer neighbourhood teams patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week—in two wards, Shepherd’s Bush Green and Fulham Broadway. Will my hon. Friend share with us his impressions of what I consider to be a fantastic initiative?

I was impressed by it. It is not cheap, and the Conservative council should be commended for saying that there should be more spending. I know that the Minister is allegedly sceptical. We must wait for the evaluation, but what I saw in Hammersmith and Fulham confirmed for me the key point that having more police on the beat more often reduces crime and, crucially, reassures Londoners—certainly in Shepherd’s Bush, which I know well for various reasons.

I am extremely grateful. The hon. Gentleman is characteristically generous.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned bureaucracy and red tape. His party, rightly in my opinion, introduced the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which at the time of its introduction was attacked on precisely the grounds to which he has referred today. Does he propose to repeal PACE?

Absolutely not. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act was a Conservative piece of criminal justice legislation which, as everyone agrees—the Minister and I have debated this—is one of the jewels in the crown. In terms of red tape, let us consider the Auld review, which resulted in statutory charging, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. They are the measures that are causing more red tape to be heaped on the police, not PACE, and no Conservative Member has ever suggested otherwise.

In the context of a police presence in our communities, does my hon. Friend recognise the crucial role of local police stations? There is concern about that in my community, not least in Southgate, where the police station is threatened with closure by a centralised asset-management strategy. Surely we should take more account of local communities, and follow the lead of our hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), who wishes to keep police stations such as Southgate open.

In the past 10 years, under this Government, there have been net falls across the country, including London. I think that many Londoners will be reassured if they see more police stations or police outposts than there are now, and I look forward to the time when my hon. Friend the Member for Henley is Mayor of London and can drive that policy forward.

Bureaucracy results in about one hour in five of a patrol officer’s time being spent on the street as distinct from other important work. We need to address that low figure and my hon. Friend the Member for Henley has given some practical ways of doing so. I do not accept some of the sniping from Labour Members; of course my hon. Friend is right to say that press officer and advertising spend for Transport for London can be reduced in order to increase the number of PCSOs. He is right to say that more British Transport Police officers at railway stations can be funded by looking at the Metropolitan Police Service overhead budget for spin doctors and advertising. Who could possibly disagree with that kind of common-sense Conservatism?

More police can be put back on the beat, but not by general imprecations that it might be nice to have less red tape. We are arguing purposefully—my hon. Friend is doing so in London—for the abolition of the stop and account form and to make the stop and search form recordable in digitised form.

That has not been done; there is no sense in which the stop and search form is a paperless transaction. If the Minister thinks that it is, he should get out more. My hon. Friend the Member for Henley is putting forward that policy as a practical way to cut red tape and to get more police back on the beat in London.

It is also fair to say something about PCSOs, for whom we see a strong role. It is regrettable hat the Government ditched their 2005 goal to recruit 6,389 new PCSOs in London. The figure will be about 5,562, lower than what the Government promised—another broken Labour promise.

Another really important point for all Londoners listening to this debate is that Sir Ronnie Flanagan, in his independent review of policing, said something with great applicability to London:

“maintaining police numbers at their current level is not sustainable over the course of the next three years… we would not be making the most effective use of the resources dedicated to the police if police officer numbers were sustained at their current level.”

Do the Minister and his London colleagues agree with that? Does the Minister think police officer numbers in London are unsustainable in London over the next three years? Let us hear about that. If we want visible policing on the streets of London, we need to know the Government’s intentions on police strength: more, fewer or about the same? Flanagan says the numbers have to be cut; what does the Minister think?

In London, which has huge diversity, only 20 per cent. of police officers are female and only 8 per cent. are of black and minority ethnic origin. Should not that be addressed? I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Henley will do so.

It is an important point on which there is cross-party agreement. The chief constable of Cheshire, Peter Fahey, is the ACPO lead on the issue and I have had many fruitful discussions on this. There is cross-party understanding that BME recruitment to the Met has gone up under Sir Ian Blair’s leadership, for which he should be given credit—a high proportion of PCSOs are from BME backgrounds—but that that is not reflected in the ranks of constables or sergeants. More needs to be done and I know that the liberal-minded, socially concerned leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley when he becomes London Mayor will be addressing that. He is an inclusive, modernising and very much forward-looking Conservative.

I defer to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but after listening to the Labour attacks on my hon. Friend the Member for Henley, I thought that that was exactly what was going on.

The 101 non-emergency number is something on which I thought there was cross-party consensus. The London Labour manifesto said that it would be rolled out across the whole of London. Instead, because of budget cuts, the Met itself is funding a small roll-out in three London boroughs. That is not what citizens were promised by the Labour Government; many want a non-emergency number to report things such as antisocial behaviour. What are the Government doing about that broken promise as well as all the others?

This is a very opportune time to have this debate, with the Metropolitan police at its highest ever strength, with crime falling fast—by 19 per cent. over the last five years—and with Londoners soon to face a choice between a Mayor who has built up the Met and a Conservative party that has consistently voted for cuts in its budget; between a candidate who has cut crime and has good community relations, and a candidate with no new ideas who has alienated the minorities in our city.

We now have 10,000 more police and PCSOs than there were in 2000, with dedicated safer neighbourhood teams in every ward. This includes 850 extra officers keeping the bus network safe and 700 British transport police—up by 300 since 2000—keeping the underground and the Docklands light railway safe. Police numbers are now at their highest level ever, at over 35,000, including 31,304 police officers and 4,178 PCSOs. This is the result of the investment by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and the Government, after a decade in which numbers were in continual decline under the previous Government. The Mayor’s budget for next year—assuming he is re-elected, which I am sure he will be—will provide for an extra 1,000 police officers over the next 12 months in the new financial year.

Yet we have seen London Conservatives consistently opposing more funding for the police. The Tories on the London Assembly voted against Mr. Livingstone’s budgets that pay for extra police and safer neighbourhood teams in every ward. Tory GLA Member Richard Barnes has openly said of the police in London that

“I don’t think so much money should be spent on them.”

At the mayoral hustings in September 2007, the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) announced major cuts to London’s police budget, saying:

“We have got to be absolutely clear where the scope for real economies is and the real big ticket for spending is the Metropolitan police and Transport for London. That’s where the real savings, believe me, are to be found.”

That was reported in the Evening Standard on 10 September 2007. I now understand that he is targeting other aspects of the Metropolitan police budget—

The hon. Gentleman will get his chance later. He is aiming to cut the Met’s reserve budget for major incidents such as a terrorist attack. His pledge, as we heard earlier, for 440 extra PCSOs is based on numbers that simply do not add up, and on out-of-date budgets.

People are also interested in what is happening in their own boroughs. In my borough of Barnet, we now have 532 police officers and 147 PCSOs, which we never used to have. Not only that, but great progress has been made on sickness absence, for example. We now have one of the best records in the Met, which means that we see much more of our police officers than used to be the case.

The real success story is that of the safer neighbourhood teams. We have large wards in Barnet, so our teams are six PCSOs, two constables and a sergeant. They are now working from 8am to midnight on rotas and shifts set by the sergeant in accordance with local demand.

This morning, I was out with the Perivale safer neighbourhoods team on what we call a partnership day. Virtually everybody has talked about feet on the street and bobbies on the beat in the same way as they talk about motherhood and apple pie, but can my hon. Friend ever remember, while we have been denizens of this city, a time when there have been so many police officers and support officers on the street? Why does he think that increase has happened?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. It has happened because the Mayor of London, working with the Labour Government, has worked hard—in the teeth of Tory Opposition—to make sure that the money is available to bring in the project for safer neighbourhood teams in advance of the national roll-out. The Mayor and the Government are to be commended on that.

It is also important to recognise how approachable safer neighbourhood teams are. Not only are their mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses well publicised, the names of the officers are well known locally. I personally would like to pay tribute to Sergeants Lachlan, Mitham, Peyton, French, Simpson, Mather and Reid, who have done a great job in making sure that they are well known in their wards and approachable by local communities. They provide reassurance and enforcement against antisocial behaviour. What is more, working on safer neighbourhood teams has proved very popular with officers as well. For once, there is real stability in police and PCSO staffing out on the streets. They operate from local bases in local wards. Far more can be provided through such local bases than via the old police stations, which are often further afield.

In my constituency, the safer neighbourhood teams have worked effectively on youth diversion projects. I particularly commend the Edgware SNT for its work in that respect. It is a pity that Conservative Barnet council has not supported its efforts sufficiently, for example in trying to bring Pavilion Way fields—near where I live—back into use, after it had lain derelict for years under the Conservatives. Police constables have worked hard to bring those fields back into action, but all the council wants to do is flog them off so that property speculators can build houses on them.

Our SNTs have been effective in combating mini-motos and dealing with dangerous dogs, in spite of lack of effort by the Conservative council, which will not bring in dog control zones. The hon. Member for Henley has left the Chamber, which shows that he is no longer interested in policing London, but it is my understanding that he opposed what he called the new anti-yobbo programme, which included powers to deal with dangerous dogs. I can tell him that dangerous dogs are a major issue in my constituency, featuring on the front page of the local newspapers—yet he talks about legislative coercion.

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way—and I also regret that the hon. Member for Henley has left the Chamber.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Opposition have not prioritised the issue of antisocial behaviour, and that it remains the case that only Labour in London, and the Government, are doing anything to deal with the real problems on our estates across the capital?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. Perhaps that is because the people whom we represent tend to be more on the receiving end of antisocial behaviour—such as noise nuisance, dangerous dogs and children running wild. When I hear that the hon. Member for Henley does not even think that CCTV is important—he sees it as an erosion of liberty—I wonder how he has the gall to say he wants to be Mayor of London, as so many of our streets could benefit from having CCTV cameras, and that is a popular demand that we hear all the time from our constituents.

On the subject of CCTV cameras, when we had a problem with vandalism on the buses—something the hon. Member for Henley has made a great deal of—one of the things the bus drivers demanded and got from the Mayor of London was CCTV on the buses. I dare say if the hon. Gentleman does not consider CCTV cameras important, he does not consider them important for dealing with antisocial behaviour on buses either.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The fact remains that there is now CCTV on every bus in London. That is a major improvement not only in terms of safety on the buses, but for public transport more widely.

May I correct something the hon. Gentleman said? I have a copy of the transport manifesto of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson). It clearly states:

“Boris will fund a trial of live CCTV on the 20 most dangerous routes”

and:

“We will cut the Transport for London advertising budget by £16.5 million to pay for the PCSOs and the CCTV trial”.

So my hon. Friend is definitely committed to having CCTV.

As was said earlier, that cannot be paid for in the way that the hon. Member for Henley proposes. However, the fact remains that he has called CCTV an erosion of liberty. How he squares his circle is for him to justify. He is not here to answer that particular point for himself. That is a pity, because on the one hand he says it is an erosion of liberty, but on the other he says he wants to have more CCTV. That is another example of Tory flip-flopping from day to day.

Against the background of increased priority for, and investment in, the police, there has been a significant fall in crime for the fifth year in a row. It is now at the lowest level since 1999. We can argue about statistics, but those pre-2002 are not comparable. There has been a 19 per cent. fall in murders. Gun crime is down 22 per cent., robbery down 12 per cent., rape down 25 per cent., grievous bodily harm down 10 per cent., domestic violence down 15 per cent. and knife crime down by 18 per cent. since its peak in 2004.

I am listening with interest. Can the hon. Gentleman give the source of those statistics? Are they recorded, are they from the British crime survey, and which areas do they cover?

The statistics are from the Metropolitan Police Service performance information bureau. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not question whether the police have collated them accurately.

I can also give the figures for my borough, which are BCS statistics; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not want to challenge them, either. I pay tribute again to Chief Superintendent Kavanagh, my borough commander, who has proved to be an inspirational leader. He is very accessible and popular in our community. In the current year there has been an 8 per cent. fall in crime, on top of 16 per cent. in the whole of last year—24 per cent. in total in less than two years. Mugging is down 5.9 per cent.

Violent crime is down by 4 per cent. We have had a particular problem with burglary, especially violent burglary, with a couple of gangs who have been targeting Jewish families. That is a very serious matter, but it appears that those gangs have now been caught and their members are subject to trial, so I will not say anything further about it.

We have also seen significant success in dealing with alcohol-fuelled crime over the Christmas period. The number of offences fell from 158 in 2006 to only 90 in 2007, and there has been a fall in actual bodily harm of 61 per cent. over two years. That is a great tribute to the style of policing we now have in Barnet.

We have heard a lot about transport today, and significant progress has also been made in that respect. Crime on London’s buses is now 11 per cent. lower than a year ago. The latest figures—for the first six months of 2007-08—show a significant fall in criminal damage, robbery and theft offences on the capital’s buses, despite a significant increase in passenger numbers. In outer London, I am pleased to say, we now have the 21 safer transport teams, which have proved a great success. We have such a team in Barnet. Its mobile telephone numbers and e-mail are available. We have 18 PCSOs, two police constables and two sergeants patrolling the north-south routes and the transport hubs. They have proved very effective in catching offenders, and in providing safety and reassurance, and useful intelligence. When they were first introduced, the London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, Brian Coleman, described them as a gimmick. My constituents certainly do not regard them as a gimmick. They want them to be made more effective and their numbers expanded.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. With reference to “Erskine May”, is it in order for a Member to read a speech?

I was not reading a speech; I was reading out the numbers. The hon. Gentleman may not appreciate them, so I will give them to him again, if he likes. Our safer transport team has 18 PCSOs, two sergeants and two constables, and has proved very popular, despite being described as a gimmick by the Conservative London Assembly Member for our borough.

What would the hon. Gentleman’s constituents say if he were to put a question in one of his numerous surveys to them asking, “Would you rather £16.5 million of the Transport for London advertising budget be spent on promoting ourselves, or on more PCSOs and CCTV?”

I suspect people would not like money to be spent on public relations. That is inevitable; that will always be a lower priority. However, as we explored earlier, the budget that the hon. Gentleman mentions is simply not available for such expenditure. I do not think he will get anywhere by pursuing that idea.

Reference has been made to the problems of gun and knife crime. There has been significant progress, with Operation Kartel in February this year leading to 780 arrests, and a 50 per cent. reduction in gun-enabled crime and a 26 per cent. reduction in knife-enabled crime across the 11 London boroughs. Operation Blunt’s knife amnesty earlier in the year led to more than 1,000 knives being handed in, and Operation Trident solved 12 murders in 2004-05.

It is interesting that when the hon. Member for Henley says that tough gun laws must be enforced, and talks about mandatory five-year sentencing introduced to deter gun crime and to punish offenders and make people safer, he fails to add that he voted against those automatic five-year sentences for people caught illegally carrying guns on Third Reading of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which brought in those powers. It is remiss of him to say that he supports something when he voted against it in the House.

It is important for us to reflect on the problem of teenage murders, which is a serious one in London, although we must recognise that the vast majority of young Londoners are not involved in criminality. The 26 murders last year were 26 too many. We must look far beyond a simple law-and-order solution, and examine the social and educational factors involved. Importantly, the Mayor has made £79 million available over the next two years through the London youth offer, to give young people more opportunities to try to get out of crime.

I have already spoken for some time, but I should mention people trafficking. I have taken a particular interest in that subject through my work as Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and I commend the Mayor on the work that he has been doing, with and on behalf of trafficking victims, to provide for them.

We face significant policing challenges over the next few years, not least the challenge of policing the Olympics, for which there is a massive security budget of £1.2 billion, and the ongoing challenge of terrorism. When Londoners make their choice in a few weeks’ time, they would be well advised to vote for a man who has an excellent track record of cutting crime, looking after public safety and increasing the police service in London to record levels.

I echo the tributes paid to the police for the dangerous job that they do. I also welcome the fact that a statement was made earlier. Although we cannot talk now about the concerns raised in Surrey, it is worth pointing out—hon. Members who have seen the press reports will know this—that if Surrey’s force has to cut £4 million from its budget, it will drop a big operation to prevent criminals moving in and out of the county, which would undoubtedly have an impact on London.

Policing in London is, of course, a priority, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, London is a prime terrorist target and the police in London need to be adequately resourced to address that issue. In passing, I should question the effectiveness of some of the measures that are being taken. Some hon. Members may have seen posters that state:

“Thousands of people take photos every day. What if one of them seems odd?”.

I am willing to be convinced that the campaign is effective, and I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how effective it has been. I know that it is of concern to at least 91 Members of Parliament, who have signed an early-day motion expressing concern that people are being accosted while innocently taking photographs and asked precisely what they are doing. I would like to be convinced that the campaign will be effective and will not simply add to a climate of fear.

London is the world’s financial centre, a fact which generates specific crime issues, particularly those associated with e-crime. I hope that the Government will update us about the cross-departmental committee that is to be set up to examine e-crime.

Major events in London must be policed; for example, President Sarkozy’s visit yesterday would have used a lot of police resources. London has high deprivation, especially in the inner-city areas, which leads to additional or above-average levels of crime.

For all those reasons, policing in London is a priority. For many years, law and order has been the greatest concern for Londoners. This debate has confirmed that such issues will be the focus of much of the mayoral campaign, so it is worth spending a little of the little time available contrasting the offerings of the various mayoral candidates.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, Brian Paddick, has 30 years’ experience at the sharp end of policing in London. His record spans the Brixton riots and tackling hard drugs in Lambeth. He plans to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority and bring that experience to bear on it. He has pledged to introduce a guard on trams after 9 pm and on the 10 worst bus routes, and to reduce crime by 5 per cent. every year during his first term. Unlike the present Mayor, who promised to reduce crime by 50 per cent. but has so far achieved only an 18.5 per cent. reduction, Brian Paddick will resign if he does not deliver on his pledge at the end of his first term.

The Mayor has broken his promise made in 2004 to reduce crime by 50 per cent., and he appears to have thrown in the towel. Many hon. Members will be aware of his comments on gun and knife crime during the “London Talking” debate:

“No Mayor, no commissioner of police, can stop young people killing each other if they haven’t been given a moral code.”

The Mayor, who is responsible for policing and who claims credit for successes in London, clearly has a responsibility and the ability to do something about young people killing each other in London—if he does not, he should resign and make way for someone who does.

The Mayor has pledged to deliver 1,000 new officers, and Labour Members have referred to that. It is worth examining the pledge on the 1,000 new officers whom he will apparently provide, because in fact he will not provide them: the Home Office will provide the vast majority through its funding or through the boroughs. The Mayor’s role will be very limited. We know that, within that figure, he was seeking 300 designated security posts, but only 97 will be delivered. He was also seeking 300 counter-terrorism officers, and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm whether they will be delivered. There are already significant gaps in the Mayor’s promised 1,000 new officers.

There is a great inconsistency in the promises and delivery of the Mayor and the current Administration. Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the other frustrations felt not only by citizens but by the police is that whereas the Labour Government and the Labour Mayor keep claiming that crime is generally going down, people who live in a borough that is run by a non-Labour council receive Labour leaflets that perpetually say that the local council is responsible for crime, as though there were no possibility of people going out safely on the streets? There appears to be absolute hypocrisy in Labour, which wants the national message to be that crime is reducing but locally it appears to blame local councils—so long as they are not Labour ones—for increasing it.

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention, which highlights the fact that what is often said is not what is delivered in practice.

I must briefly discuss the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), who gives very entertaining evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs but who seems to have an obsession or fixation with buses; the scrapping of bendy buses seems to be the solution to all London’s problems. Whether we are talking about transport policy, tackling antisocial behaviour, it all requires—

Before I make a few brief remarks, may I offer my congratulations to my borough commander, Ali Dizaei, on his much-deserved recent promotion to assistant commissioner? His fame goes beyond his borough—I refer to his previous service in the London borough of Hounslow. I am sure that my hon. Friends the Members for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen) would join me in those congratulations. I am pleased to say that Ali Dizaei will probably continue in a role across west London; his brief service so far has been excellent in that capacity. He is an example of one of the many excellent police officers at all levels serving the community across London.

This debate is about the Mayor and policing in London as a whole. Without repeating what my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) said, I merely wish to say that the Mayor’s record on policing is exemplary. The number of police is at an all-time record level. The rather churlish comments of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) notwithstanding, 1,000 additional officers have been promised.

Tribute has been paid to the borough commander in Hammersmith and Fulham by my hon. Friend, who also represents part of the great and noble borough of Ealing. I am sure that he will therefore wish to associate himself with the comments that many of us have made about the excellent qualities of Borough Commander Sultan Taylor of Ealing.

I certainly do—it is another excellent appointment. My only problem with the borough commanders that we have had in west London is that they are so good that they keep getting poached and promoted. I hope that I have not set off a whole sequence of 32 borough commanders being praised, because then we will have no time for anything else.

Over the past five years—Conservative Front Benchers should take notice of this—crime in London has fallen by 20 per cent. It is all very well for the Conservative spokesman to say to his researchers, as he doubtless did, “Please go away and find me some statistics, however obscure, to try to suggest that that is not the case.” In almost every area of serious crime—whether it is murder, gun crime, robbery, rape or grievous bodily harm—reductions in crime have been in double figures. I am glad that I am not still at the criminal Bar, because I fear that I would find it difficult to earn a living; in fact, I always did, owing to the Government’s appalling legal aid rates.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one area of concern, which is borne out by the statistics, is what is happening with young people committing homicides and being murdered?

I entirely agree that that is a serious problem. The death of Kodyo Yenga in Hammersmith and Fulham only a year ago was one of a number of tragic events at that time but we must keep this in perspective, as such events are still rare. One death, particularly of a young person, is a serious matter. However, I feel that the issue has been sensationalised—not by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington and his party, but certainly by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) who has not graced the Chamber with his presence during this debate. That is a disgrace as he seeks—[Interruption.] He was present for about 10 minutes. No doubt he has another more important—

Order. I have already ruled that I will not allow comments to be made about who is or is not in the Chamber.

I accept that. Of course, as he is an Oxfordshire MP, perhaps he should not have been present at all for a debate on London policing.

When the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) talked about crime figures, he took 1998 as his starting point. The point that the Mayor would make, which the statistics bear out, is that crime rates are in line with police numbers. As police numbers have grown and the Government and the Mayor have invested in extra police, crime has come down. The hon. Gentleman should remember that.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that he wants to speak and I shall therefore say what I need to with greater speed.

The Mayor of London has transformed policing, most usefully by introducing neighbourhood policing—an initiative that has been followed throughout the country. That subject is a particular interest of mine, and I introduced a ten-minute Bill on it about two years ago. There was resistance among the police to neighbourhood policing, which was initially described as reassurance policing, but I always believed, as did the Mayor, that it would have an effect in cutting crime, and it has. I also believed that it would assist intelligence-led policing. The safer neighbourhood teams throughout the boroughs—

We have seen failures, as we certainly did in the Brixton command not too recently. Does my hon. Friend agree that when the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) says that the Liberal candidate for Mayor would resign if crime did not fall, that is roughly analogous to my saying that I would control myself if Carla Bruni came knocking at my bedroom door? Neither scenario is likely to occur. [Laughter.]

I agree that a little more control is needed on all sides, Madam Deputy Speaker.

When Hammersmith and Fulham, which is part of my local authority, was Labour-run, it was the first authority to decide to put neighbourhood officers into all wards. Before that programme could be completed, the Mayor accelerated the programme of neighbourhood policing and put the six-member teams into all wards in London in record time. The Tories opposed that. They try to weasel out of it now, but they opposed additional policing in every budget proposed in the GLA. They are now trying to climb on the bandwagon.

It is a similar story in Hammersmith and Fulham. The new Tory council says that crime is its No. 1 priority, whereas its priority is actually making £36 million in cuts. It will invest £750,000 a year in policing and make cuts worth £36 million in services. That gives a good idea of the priorities of Conservative councils. Where it has put in that extra policing, it calls it 24/7 policing. The police find that very offensive, because when we talk to them they say that they thought that they worked 24 hours in any event, but that the Conservatives in Hammersmith say that they did not.

That extra policing has been introduced in only two wards, displacing crime into other wards. The Evening Standard—the Boris Johnson house magazine, so I hope Conservative Members will trust it—said that of the 20 areas with the most residential burglaries, two are in Hammersmith and Fulham, in wards that neighbour those where enhanced policing has been introduced. The Labour opposition’s policy, which it will implement when it returns to power in 2010, is to introduce police task squads across all wards with high crime. That proposal, which chimes with the Mayor’s policies, is the way we need to go.

I mentioned my local Tory authority as an example of how a Tory Mayor would behave. Nothing can be said about what the hon. Member for Henley has done, because until his selection as candidate a few weeks ago he showed no interest whatsoever in London or policing in London other than opposing measures such as the five-year compulsory sentence for carrying a gun, which was a measure to reduce crime, particularly in London. His financial illiteracy—

Before the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) became the candidate for London Mayor, he mentioned London in the House only once.

His financial illiteracy extends not only to policing, as we have heard. The Conservative spokesman tried to wriggle out of this, but I was actually there—

Order. I said earlier in the debate that the manifestos of individual candidates must not be given. I am trying to chair this debate as evenly and fairly as I can.

I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Conservative Front-Bench spokesman specifically said that his party’s candidate would introduce an extra 440 officers, paid for out of a fund that does not exist. I was there when the hon. Member for Henley explained that and talked about an increase in funding through public relations—a budget that simply does not exist. Like all the protestations made by that Oxfordshire Member, these are magical figures. His budget for additional spending for buses was said to be £8 million yet the true cost was £110 million.

You are absolutely right, Madam Deputy Speaker, to admonish my hon. Friend for referring to the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson). May I bring him back to the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and his achievement in bringing racist crime down by 55 per cent. since 2000? Is that not some achievement in the context of 7/7 and the danger of a backlash? Should not communities in London be aware of that and praise him for it?

I agree. Racist crime in London has fallen by 55 per cent. since 2000. I do not need to say much about that because, as Doreen Lawrence and others have said, the record of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London in tackling racist and other hate crimes in London is exemplary. There could not be a starker comparison with the record of the hon. Member for Henley, who made offensive and racist comments of a kind that he now tries to pass off as a joke. [Interruption.] Well, he did.

I withdraw those remarks and replace them with the words that he actually used. He used the expressions “piccaninny” and “watermelon smile”.

I did move on, but—[Hon. Members: “Withdraw.”] I withdraw the comment that I made; I will let the words speak for themselves. The hon. Member for Henley tried to resile from those words and say that they were a joke. I think that when the people on London have a chance to vote on 1 May, they will treat him as a joke.

It is right that Conservative Members should record all the hard work of the police—the City force, the Metropolitan police and British Transport police—in ensuring that they provide a level of safety and security. That does not mean that we should not examine the figures and highlight some of the points that hon. Members have made: that London has higher levels of crime than the rest of the UK and that since 2000, drug offences have doubled, robberies have increased by 12 per cent. and violent crime has risen by a fifth.

That is why we need change and why the Mayor’s record, whatever he may say about it, does not bear scrutiny. It is why so many people in my constituency and many others in London do not feel safe out on the streets. The polls that have been taken show that nearly half of Londoners do not feel safe in their community. That is a terrible record and shows what this Mayor has not done to ensure that people feel safe and secure in their communities, homes and streets, whether during the day or during the night. It is quite telling that the Home Secretary herself does not feel safe on the streets of London at night, except perhaps on one of her regular runs to the kebab shop with her security police in tow. Perhaps that is the latest initiative to make London’s streets safer.

There are serious issues to consider, particularly about crime that affects our young people. It would be remiss not to focus on the teenage murders that have taken place in the past year—27 young lives lost on the streets of our capital. Sadly, there have been nine murders of young people already this year.

Does my hon. Friend agree that such tragic murders give rise to the perception—the Minister may be correct that it is a perception rather than a reality—that crime is out of control? That is what happens when we see young, 15 or 16-year-old boys with guns and knives killing each other in the streets or homes of London. Does he agree that we ought to be doing a lot more about that, rather than just bandying around statistics? We should at least try to understand why the public at large have such grave concerns.

My hon. Friend makes an important and powerful point. One of the most disturbing trends that we have seen in recent years in violent crime and gun crime is that both the victims and the perpetrators are getting younger. The trend analysis from the Metropolitan police’s Trident unit, which investigates crime among London’s black communities, shows a clear drop in the ages of victims. In 2003, 16 per cent. of victims were under the age of 20; by 2006 that proportion had nearly doubled to 31 per cent. In evidence to the recent Select Committee on Home Affairs inquiry on young black people and the criminal justice system, Superintendent Leroy Logan, deputy borough commander in Hackney, told the Committee about

“growing incidents of gratuitous violence committed by younger age-groups…predominantly among themselves, with an increasing use of weapons in an attempt to gain respect through violence.”

Does my hon. Friend agree that the very real concern that he highlights has regrettably been exacerbated, particularly in some parts of outer London, by the amount of disorder that has occurred on buses following the introduction of free travel? Does he agree that it is regrettable that, rather than find a practical means of policing the issue, the Mayor has sought to denigrate the comments of head teachers in my constituency and others by calling them Victor Meldrews, when they are actually raising concerns to seek the protection of the young people for whom they have responsibility?

Crime among young people is a real problem. We need to be careful in how we phrase our comments, because young people are most likely to be the victims of crime, particularly crimes such as personal robbery. Yet the British crime survey does not even take account of crime against the under-16s. Even though the issue has been raised on many occasions, the Home Secretary is still sitting on her hands in relation to whether to take proper account of such issues.

Bus crime is a real factor, certainly in my area of Havering, an outlying London borough, where we have a number of code reds and significant bus crime problems. The way in which the bus policy was introduced, without proper consideration of the sanctions that should be imposed against those who breach conditions and do not properly follow the rules attached to Oyster cards, was wholly irresponsible on the Mayor’s part. It does not help that the commissioner of Transport for London has made ridiculous comments about and criticisms of the police when they have raised what I regard as legitimate concerns about the bus fleet in London. He has suggested that the money for the transport operational command unit should in some way be reduced or taken away. It is quite something that the debate has gone in such a direction.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the police and London Members across the party divide believe that a real difficulty is that many people will not come forward to give evidence, because they do not feel safe? One of the priorities for reducing crime, particularly very serious crime such as gun and knife crime and sexual offences, should be a better system of witness protection. Does he agree that that is a huge priority across the country in general and specifically in Greater London?

The whole issue of witness protection is extremely important, particularly in the case of gang crime. A real fear resides in a lot of our communities. The sad fact is that in too many of the communities across our capital city, the basic concept of civil society—the protection offered by law of the basic right to live free from intimidation, violence and fear—has been perverted by the activities of serious criminal gangs, acting with little or no conscience and with no sense of responsibility to anyone other than themselves. They prey on some of the most vulnerable young people in our community, and the active recruitment process that they go through is organised and serious. That is why it is so important to focus and bear down on gang crime, which has sadly taken the lives of so many young people in our capital city and continues to do so.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because I know that time is short. He is making some good and important points about gang crime. In that context, will he praise the current Mayor for his £79 million London youth offer, which is intended to get youth facilities in the most deprived areas? I do not know the Conservatives’ position—whether they would match that or skew money away from those deprived areas. Can he tell us something about that?

We need to focus on proper policing on the streets. That is why I support measures that cut bureaucracy and mean that police are on the streets, not sitting back in police stations dealing with forms. The police need to be visible, because that provides reassurance. As we have heard, only a fifth of the police’s time is spent out in the communities, but that is where they need to be to ensure that our streets are safer.

The Flanagan review said that police numbers were unsustainable. That poses a real question about the embedding of community policing. I believe in community policing, but I am concerned that the police do not have the time to spend out on the streets. I am worried about the future of policing in our communities and how we can make the streets of London safe.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the current arrangements, whereby police are based in wards instead of in proper communities, are a nonsense? In Havering, for example, it is ridiculous that areas such as Collier Row or Elm Park, which are divided between wards, have two different community police teams. The boundaries are based on electoral numbers rather than the needs of the local community.

We need to ensure that there is more local control over policing priorities, to ensure that they do not get distracted. For many people, crime and antisocial behaviour are real fears in our capital city. That is why the current policies are failing and the current Mayor is failing, and that is why we need a change.

I apologise for calling you Madam Mayor earlier, Madam Deputy Speaker.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) said, the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) made some serious and interesting points. When it comes to the detail of debates on policing in London, people can see that there is much more on the agenda that unites London Members than divides us. How did we get to where we are now? It is not good enough for hon. Members to run down London for electoral gain, as people have clearly done, or to run down our police in London. There is a fine line between traducing individual policies of the Metropolitan Police Service and traducing what the brave men and women in uniform do on London’s streets every day. At least some Opposition Members crossed that line.

Nor is it appropriate to run scare campaigns wrapped up in irrelevant statistics. There is enough to unite us when it comes to crime in London, because it is not going to disappear overnight on anybody’s watch. Like all hon. Members, I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the level of homicide among young people, especially gang-related homicide, but that should not lead us to presume that homicide levels in London are mushrooming. They are not; the figures are going the other way, and that should be recognised.

Sustained investment in London policing is now reflected in the numbers, and officers are coming out on to the streets more and more, whatever the hon. Gentleman says about half-developed plans to cut bureaucracy and get rid of paperwork. Policing in London has seen success in falling crime rates, and I am not being complacent in saying that. Those are the facts, and indeed violent crime has fallen considerably, whatever he says. Shroud-waving and scare campaigns do him no credit.

Transport safety is now significantly better, especially in outer London, my own borough included. Neighbourhood policing and safer neighbourhood teams have also been a huge success. By any measure, significant progress has been achieved throughout London, based on what the Mayor has done over the past eight years. I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) that that work has increasingly had the indulgence and active support of councils of whatever hue, working with the safer neighbourhood teams and embracing neighbourhood policing in all its concepts.

I can tell the hon. Member for Upminster—

I apologise: the hon. Gentleman looks nothing like the hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson). I can tell him that it is well within the scope of borough commanders to determine whether ward teams should work together and ensure that areas are covered geographically rather than on a ward basis.

All the success in policing and our future progress in that area is rooted in the success that the Mayor and Sir Ian Blair have achieved over the past eight years, and that should be commended. No matter where people want to go next, they should commend and recognise the great record of the Metropolitan police in London. London is very different from how it was 10 or 15 years ago—and I would say that no matter which party ran the Greater London council or central Government back then. Our task as London MPs is to work with the Mayor to build on that, and to ensure that our investment is returned in style. We must work closely with those responsible for community safety, and with local government, to make sure that that is the case.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings, the motion lapsed, without Question put, pursuant to Temporary Standing Order (Topical debates).

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In no way is this meant as a criticism of the Chair, but in the 90-minute debate that we just had, there were no time limits on Back-Benchers’ contributions, although there were such limits for Front Benchers, and that meant that three quarters of the Members who wished to make contributions were unable to do so. Will you speak to Mr. Speaker to try to ensure that in future, when there is great demand to speak, as there is in topical debates on London, there are time limits on Back-Benchers’ contributions?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I came to the Chamber for business questions two weeks ago and asked for today’s debate, and the Leader of the House said that she would take up the issue, yet due to the shortage of time I was not able to contribute, so I feel slightly aggrieved, too. If time limits could be considered, I would support the idea.

I understand the concerns of hon. Members who sought to take part in the debate and were not able to do so, but when a debate is only one and a half hours long, and obviously must include Front-Benchers’ contributions, there is a problem. The points that both hon. Gentlemen made are now on record, and I am sure that they will be taken into consideration in future.