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Topical Questions

Volume 515: debated on Monday 6 September 2010

During the recess, the Home Office presented proposals to fulfil a number of key coalition commitments, including a clampdown on rogue private sector wheel-clampers and the introduction of a system of temporary bans on “legal highs”.

Further to an answer that was given earlier, may I add my thanks to my right hon. Friend for banning the recent planned English Defence League march in Bradford? Will she join me in praising the officers of West Yorkshire police for the professional way in which they dealt with a very difficult and potentially volatile situation? What further steps will she take to tackle extremism in this country?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, which does indeed relate to one that was asked earlier. I am happy to commend the actions of West Yorkshire police, and, indeed, to commend the people of Bradford on ensuring that their community cohesion was not undermined by those who wish to create division and difference in our society. As was made clear earlier by the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, the Government are committed to ensuring that peaceful protest can take place, but also committed to ensuring that proper action is taken when people wish protest to be a means of causing violence and division in our community.

T2. During the recess I spent a day with police on the Grangewood estate in Chesterfield, meeting people there. Grangewood has suffered tremendously from antisocial behaviour in the past. The police were certain that, when properly employed, antisocial behaviour orders were an incredibly successful and effective way of reducing the incidence of antisocial behaviour. Why do we not continue to give the police a vital tool that will help them to reduce the incidence of such behaviour in their community? (13108)

We do indeed intend to ensure that the police have the tools that enable them to tackle antisocial behaviour, which, sadly, occurs too often in too many places, despite the last Labour Government’s introduction of a wide range of sometimes complex initiatives. The figures show that too much antisocial behaviour takes place, and people know that too much of it takes place in their neighbourhoods. We are committed to reviewing the powers that are available to the police to ensure that they can deal with it effectively.

T3. In Wimbledon, we have a thriving language school sector and there will be widespread support for today’s announcement that there will be action on overstayers on student visas, but can my hon. Friend assure me that the review that he undertakes will ensure that there is no discrimination against genuine applicants? (13109)

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. I know he and many other hon. Members on both sides of the House have reputable English language colleges in their constituencies. As he said, we are committed to introducing new measures to minimise abuse of the student visa system, and I am also able to tell him that we are looking at the English language sector as a particular priority. I have met representatives from the colleges in that sector and the Members representing them here. I have listened to their concerns about the current arrangements, which were introduced by the previous Government, and I will make an announcement about this shortly.

If the Home Secretary and the Government are serious about reducing and eradicating violence against women, why is it that they have only recently decided to opt out of a new European directive to combat human trafficking?

We are, indeed, committed to ensuring that we take action against violence against women, and I remind the hon. Lady that the last Labour Government took 12 years to develop a strategy on that. We will produce our strategy on ending violence against women within one year of coming into office, and it will cover a wide range of subjects. In looking at European Union directives, I take a very simple approach: is signing up to a particular directive to the benefit of the United Kingdom? Happily, most of the provisions in the European directive on human trafficking are already being acted on by the United Kingdom, because we take that issue extremely seriously.

T4. Last week, Brooke Kinsella visited the Corner House youth project in Stockton, which has been very successful in highlighting, through talks and special activities, the dangers associated with knives. Will the Minister consider implementing similar programmes in constituencies such as mine which, tragically, have only recently once again had a serious knife crime incident? (13110)

The Government are grateful for the work of Brooke Kinsella in considering how we can deter young people from carrying knives, and she will be reporting to us later this year. We are interested in successful schemes such as that which my hon. Friend describes, and if he will send me further information on it, I will gladly study it.

Does localism extend as far as consulting local communities about any proposals to cut safer neighbourhood teams?

In relation to the police and localism, we are ensuring that there is a more direct link between local people and policing in their community through the introduction of the ability for them to elect a directly accountable police and crime commissioner whose responsibility it will be to ensure that local policing delivers what local people want. We will also ensure that, through neighbourhood meetings and crime maps, people are aware of what is going on in their community and are able to hold the police directly accountable for what is happening in it.

T5. Last week on ITV a programme about community payback showed offenders on community payback smoking cannabis and not being properly supervised. How can we be sure that community payback means exactly that? (13111)

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House who saw that programme will have been angered, as I was, by the scenes depicted where offenders were, frankly, sticking two fingers up at the criminal justice system and smoking cannabis. They were not being properly supervised. That is being investigated, and we must have confidence that these community sentences are administered rigorously.

When the Home Secretary cut the police budget for this year she included cuts to vital counter-terrorism work. Will she take the opportunity to create some common ground across the Chamber by sending out a strong message to terrorists that she will protect counter-terrorism funding in the budget for next year?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that this Government will ensure that we maintain our fight against terrorism. As he says, this is something on which views are shared across this Chamber; all Members of this House want to see us combat the threat of terrorism effectively. We will certainly do all that we can to do that.

T7. Will the Secretary of State tell us what representations have been received from police and members of the youth offending teams regarding their concerns about youth offenders who do not comply with the licence conditions, in particular the community element, of detention and training orders? (13114)

I am not aware that we have received any representations about these orders, but the same argument as before applies: it is essential that they are administered properly, that they are completed and that the public can have confidence in sentences containing a community element. We will be publishing a sentencing review later this year, and I will also discuss these issues with the Youth Justice Board.

Has the Home Secretary read Saturday’s Yorkshire Post and the appeal made by the Archbishop of York, on his knees, as it were, to the Government asking them to opt in to the EU directive on sex slave trafficking. The Home Secretary is right to say that there are many measures in law in this country that deal with that, as there are in other EU member states. However, the point is that we need to send a signal to the pimps and traffickers that we are co-operating at a European level. It took three or four years to get the Council of Europe convention adopted—that was against the opposition of the Home Office in the previous Government. Do not stand on the side of the pimps and traffickers; stand with the Archbishop of York and the victims of this terrible trade.

Sadly, I did not read the Yorkshire Post on Saturday—I was far too busy reading the Maidenhead Advertiser—but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am aware of the comments made by the Archbishop of York on this matter. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has, over a number of years, taken this issue extremely seriously and has spoken up on behalf of women who have been trafficked into the sex trade in this country. It is right to say that we need to take all the action that we can to combat that terrible, terrible trade. However, I repeat what I have said in answer to an earlier question: most of the elements of the EU human trafficking directive are being adopted already in the United Kingdom, because we all take this issue very seriously.

T8. Has the Home Secretary had an opportunity to take forward the suggestion of the anti-terrorism expert, Dr Marc Sageman, that the transcripts of trials where terrorists are convicted should be published in full, in order to educate communities of the stupidity, moral poverty and criminal hatred of the people convicted in such cases? (13115)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, which concerns an issue that he raised with me on the Floor of the House on 13 July. I am grateful for the letter that he sent me to follow up on that exchange, and I have passed that correspondence on to the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for considering the publication of trial transcripts and is examining the possibility of making available more information—more transcripts—about remarks made by judges when sentencing. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt), will be in touch with my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) on this matter shortly.

Police community support officers have become an essential part of local communities in Nottingham and elsewhere, so what reassurance can the Minister offer on this matter to my constituents, who are worried that the cuts in policing proposed by the Government will lead to a reduction in their number?

We share the hon. Lady’s support for PCSOs, which we believe are an important part of the policing family. We are determined that police forces should make efficiencies and savings, and that the front line of policing will be protected.

T9. May I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to look into the case of one of my constituents, who is apparently being deported for working for too many hours in a part-time job and losing her working visa in this country?


I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. He will understand that I cannot comment on the case on the Floor of the House, but if he wishes to write to me, I will of course look into it and get back to him as soon as possible.

The Minister will be aware of the awful case, widely reported at the weekend, of Sergeant Mark Andrews of the Wiltshire constabulary who was convicted of a serious assault on my constituent, Miss Pamela Somerville, when she was incorrectly in police custody. Will Ministers take a look at the rules, regulations and protocols covering police cells to make sure that that kind of outrageous event cannot occur again?

It is essential that offenders taken into custody are treated and supervised properly. I will happily look at the matter and ensure that we have adequate systems in place to ensure that is the case.

In light of the Deputy Prime Minister’s very welcome announcement that the child and female wing of Yarl’s Wood will be closed, may I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends what plans there are to look at the long-term role and future of Yarl’s Wood as a whole?

My hon. Friend is correct. At the moment, we are looking at alternatives to detention for children. Yarl’s Wood is, as he knows, used for the detention both of single women and of women with families. It is our intention to minimise the detention of children in the future as a whole and, therefore, that aspect of Yarl’s Wood’s use will disappear, but clearly not its use for adult women.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in offering the warmest congratulations to the Prime Minister and his wife on the safe delivery of their daughter, Florence Rose Endellion, at the Royal Cornwall hospital in my constituency? Will she join me in thanking the staff at the hospital for their kindness and care, given not only to the Camerons but to all those visiting Cornwall for their holidays who find themselves in need of the NHS?

Order. I am sure that somewhere in that eloquently and elegantly phrased question the hon. Lady wanted some sort of response on police matters—perhaps police attendance, police security or something of that sort.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am indeed very happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Prime Minister and his wife Samantha on the safe delivery of their daughter, Florence, who as my hon. Friend said has a Cornish name as well. I am sure that the Prime Minister and his wife were very pleased to have been protected and kept safe while they were in Cornwall by the appropriate local constabulary.