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Crime Reduction Grants

Volume 498: debated on Monday 26 October 2009

3. What plans he has to extend the availability of small business crime reduction grants; and if he will make a statement. (295127)

The £5 million small retailers capital grants fund will help secure small independent retail shops in areas that are at most risk of crime. There are no plans to extend the scheme, but other aspects of the retail crime action plan are helping to tackle retail crime in every area.

Is the Minister aware of the Federation of Small Businesses survey that found that crime against businesses costs small firms about £13,500 each? Although I am sure that the businesses within the 50 priority areas have taken up the opportunity with enthusiasm, I think it curious that they bear a remarkable similarity to a list of Labour local authorities. Why do not businesses in areas such as my constituency in Essex have the same opportunity to apply for help?

The criteria for the scheme were deprivation, crime rates and the proportion of the small retailers that we were most interested in helping. The criteria were agreed by the retail crime steering group, and the FSB is not only an active member, but it agreed with the criteria and the principle. I should point out that Chingford, which is part of the seat of the hon. Gentleman’s right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), is not a Labour area.

It is very important that we support small businesses and prevent crime against them, but we have to back that up with a Forensic Science Service that can protect the public and ensure that crimes are solved. Why is the Minister overseeing a criminals charter through the closure of the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Chorley, leaving people to have to go from either Wetherby or Birmingham to parts of Cumbria to protect the public and ensure that crimes are solved? Will he reflect on it—

Order—[Interruption.] I am not being very kind at all. When I say “Order”, the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. We have had an enjoyable Cook’s tour, but it is time for the answer.

I commend my hon. Friend on the inventive way in which he got the Forensic Science Service into his question. However, I point out to him that, if we are to ensure that there is a service to support not only business but the whole community in the fight against crime, we must have an efficient and effective service. That is what the transformation programme is all about.

Following on from the previous question, the Minister still has not explained to us how on earth crime is going to be solved within four hours and crime scenes visited within four hours when laboratories at Chorley, Birmingham, and Chepstow in my constituency, are being closed down. What is the point of giving money to small businesses if crime is out of control because we do not have the forensic science laboratories to catch the perpetrators who are responsible?

It is essential that we have schemes, such as that which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, to ensure that crime does not get out of control. However, he will know that the transformation programme took all those issues into consideration, and the model that the Forensic Science Service is moving to will ensure that it provides throughout the country the efficient and effective service for which he is looking.