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Organised Crime

Volume 594: debated on Monday 23 March 2015

The Government are committed to tackling the threat of serious and organised crime. In 2013 we launched a comprehensive new strategy and a powerful new crime-fighting organisation—the National Crime Agency—which are already making a difference. We continue to strengthen our response through the Serious Crime Act 2015, the Modern Slavery Bill and strategy, and the anti-corruption plan. We have also forged new collaborative relationships with the private sector to tackle money laundering and to combat online child sexual exploitation.

The National Crime Agency has clearly had a good start, with 300 convictions in just the first six months. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Serious Crime Act 2015 will ensure that the National Crime Agency continues to have the resources and powers to address serious and organised crime?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He is right that the National Crime Agency has made a good start. We have looked carefully at where powers are needed to increase the weapons that it has in its arsenal, and the Serious Crime Act really assists the National Crime Agency and other police forces in making sure that they can tackle particularly criminal finances to stop the Mr Bigs keeping hold of their money.

One of the most serious forms of organised crime is child sexual exploitation. The National Crime Agency was given information over a year ago about 20,000 people who had downloaded abusive images of children. Twelve months later, only 2% have been fully investigated or charged. What has happened to the other 98%? With that kind of backlog of CSE cases, does the Home Secretary really think that this is the right time to cut thousands more police?

The hon. Lady disappoints me. We have had this conversation on several occasions. The fact of the matter is that the National Crime Agency, through Operation Notarise and others, has protected more children from abuse than any other agency, and it is ensuring that children at risk of abuse are looked after and protected in a way that has never happened before.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the signal successes of the NCA is that it has made more than 600 arrests in dealing with online child sexual exploitation through the operation that she has just mentioned? Will she assure the House that this will continue to be a high priority, not just for the NCA but for each individual local force?

My right hon. Friend, who has considerable experience in this area, will know full well that the National Crime Agency and local police take this issue incredibly seriously. Bringing the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre into the National Crime Agency, as a command within it, has increased both capability and capacity to consider such crime and to make sure that we find those criminals who want to hurt our children and prevent them from doing so.