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Regional Organised Crime Units

Volume 636: debated on Monday 26 February 2018

3. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of regional organised crime units in tackling serious and organised crime. (903995)

Serious and organised crime does not respect force boundaries, which is why we organise our response at regional level, giving us the ability to tackle organised crime groups head-on. The Government have invested £140 million in ROCUs since 2013, and last year we announced £40 million of additional funding to enhance ROCU capabilities further in areas such as cyber-crime and undercover work.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when using informants to tackle serious and organised crime such as paedophile rings, it should be unacceptable to use paedophiles as informants in such investigations?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern, but I can assure her that the use of informants is strongly controlled by robust safeguards and independent oversight. We must not shy away from using informants, as their use in certain circumstances is vital in stopping some of the worst in society carrying out their crimes.

Has the Minister heard, as I have, from police up and down the country about the influence of Russia in our serious and organised crime? I hear time and again about Russian money and influence, and about Russians coming in via Malta and Cyprus.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that a number of active Russians and indeed other nationals are involved in organised crime in this country. That is why the Government are reviewing the organised crime strategy that was first published in 2013 and why we introduced the Criminal Finance Act 2017 to give us the powers to deal not only with the people inflicting these crimes but with their money, should they choose to push it through this country.

The Security and Economic Crime Minister will be aware of the great number of loyalist and republican crime gangs that operate with organisations in England, Scotland and Wales, and also internationally. He knows that they are subject to the paramilitary taskforce, but will he meet me to discuss how we can ensure that that succeeds?

I would be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss that matter. We realise that the best way to tackle organised crime is similar to the way in which we have often tackled terrorism in the past—that is, alongside the criminal justice outcome, to use the broad shoulders of the whole state, local authorities, financial regulation, the police and neighbourhoods to tackle these people.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the article in The New York Times—because I sent it to him—about the British television series “McMafia”. Indeed, he was mentioned in that article. Does he agree, though, that while it is important to recognise that many Russians are involved in organised crime, it would be utterly wrong and simplistic to demonise a whole nation and its immigrants in the United Kingdom?

There is absolutely no intention of demonising a nation, an ethnicity or a culture. However, it is important to note that illicit money flows into the United Kingdom come predominantly from China and Russia, and that we have to tackle that. The powers in the Criminal Finance Act 2017 will allow us to go upstream and to take real action. If we take their money away, those people will know that they and their dirty money are not welcome in this country, and that they can either go to prison here or go home.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit the National Crime Agency this morning to see the great work that its staff are doing to tackle crime. However, there is little doubt that the tech giants could be doing a great deal more. I know that the Prime Minister has recently asked them to do so, but she was also asking them to do more in her early months as Home Secretary nearly eight years ago. When can we have more emphasis on action rather than words?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the empowerment that the internet gives to criminals, terrorists and radicalisers is extraordinary. That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has helped to lead the charge in the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, and recently visited silicon valley to ensure that companies there start to deliver. We have seen significant changes involving the taking down of radicalising material and enabling us to catch the bad people who are doing the crimes. It is, however, important to note that one of the ways in which the National Crime Agency, the police and our intelligence services get to the bottom of these crimes is through the use of the powers given to them under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, whose effectiveness some Members in this House still try to block.