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Reducing Crime Levels

Volume 584: debated on Monday 7 July 2014

We have freed the police from central targets, and police and crime commissioners are addressing the issues that matter to local people. We are cutting bureaucracy so that officers can be at the front line where they are needed, and the College of Policing is driving up professional standards. We are working with forces to tackle national priorities such as organised crime, gangs, modern slavery and violence against women and girls. The evidence is clear—police reform is working and crime is down.

The Minister will be aware that crime in Lancashire has been cut by 10%, but there is some variation in overall levels of crime across the country. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the police need to be more innovative and to share best practice right across the country in cutting crime and keeping our streets safer?

I agree with my hon. Friend, whose point about innovation is correct. That is precisely why we have introduced an innovation fund, which all forces have bid for. She will be aware from last year’s precursor fund that Lancashire successfully bid for the collaboration we want—a joint initiative with Lancashire county council to create an early action response service for missing people, vulnerable people and those with mental health issues. That is precisely the innovative collaboration that will enable crime to continue to fall.

Did the Minister see the comments made recently by the Police Federation in Manchester about the city centre of Manchester being a dangerous place? Will he take this opportunity to agree with me that Greater Manchester police and the city council work very effectively to keep the streets of Manchester safe, and will he assure the House that GMP will have all the resources it needs to do just that job?

I agree that Greater Manchester police is doing a very good job, as, indeed, the figures show: crime in Greater Manchester is down 24% since 2010. It is the use of the resources available to Sir Peter Fahy and his force that will continue to make Manchester safer than it has been before.

The police in North Yorkshire, and in Selby in particular, are innovative, especially about rural crime. I am pleased that crime is falling there, but the planned closure of Selby’s police custody suite could have an adverse impact on policing in the district. Having to take those arrested all the way to York could take two bobbies off the beat in Selby, leaving the town exposed. Although the decision could save tens of thousands of pounds, does the Minister agree that it is a short-sighted move, and will he urge the chief constable to rethink?

The decision to close the custody suite at Selby was first taken in 2000, under the previous Government, and it has been a source of some controversy ever since. The custody suite was reopened, but, as my hon. Friend says, the chief constable has now decided to close it again. I would be very happy to look at the case, and to discuss it with the police and crime commissioner.

The Home Secretary introduced police and crime commissioners. Tragically, Bob Jones, the PCC for the west midlands, died last week. He was an outstanding champion of all that is best in British policing, and a man of great personal integrity. He has yet to be buried, but the Home Secretary’s legislation obliges a by-election to be held on 21 August. How much will a by-election for an electorate of 2 million cost, and does the Minister anticipate a turnout higher or lower than the 13% who elected Bob Jones?

I absolutely echo the hon. Gentleman’s tribute to Bob Jones, who gave his life to public service over many decades. He held his beliefs very strongly, and he expressed them very strongly. My condolences and those of the home affairs team go to his wife, and his friends and family.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that a by-election is triggered by two people calling it. He will also be aware that, frankly, it was not done at the behest of either his party or mine. I take the point that the by-election will take place in the middle of August. It is therefore the responsibility of all politicians—particularly, I should say, of Members of Parliament in the west midlands—to ensure that people get out and vote. As people now realise, the police and crime commissioner is an important post, and it is important that the people of the west midlands have a say in who the next police and crime commissioner is.

It is always helpful if answers are comprehensive, but they do not have to include the kitchen sink.