[Relevant document: Tenth Report of the Home Affairs Committee of Session 2017–19, Policing for the future, HC 515, and the Government Response, CP 62]
I beg to move,
That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) for 2020–21 (HC 51), which was laid before this House on 22 January, be approved.
I am proud to be part of a new Government who are delivering on the people’s priorities. The public have demanded an end to the horrific crime and violence that has recently blighted our streets once again. They deserve no less, and it is our duty to deliver the safer towns, villages, cities and country that they want. That means enthusiastically supporting our outstanding police to cut crime. They are our first and finest line of defence against murderous terrorists and ruthless drug gangs and our protection against burglars, robbers and rapists. All hon. Members will join me in paying tribute to their world-renowned courage, sacrifice and professionalism.
As the natural party of law and order, the Conservatives owe the police the resources they need to get their immensely important job done. One of the first acts of this Government was to start recruiting 20,000 new police officers, giving them the strength in numbers they now need, supporting and equipping them with the powers and kit to keep us safe, including lifting restrictions on emergency stop-and-search powers for all forces across England and Wales and, crucially, giving them new and immediate funding to keep our streets safe.
Nothing is more important than protecting the British people, and the settlement will do just that. Our generous offer also recognises the immense challenges that policing faces today. Crime is becoming increasingly complex, serious violence is threatening ever more people, and ruthless thugs are finding new ways to exploit the vulnerable. The scale, range and brutality of the new criminality we face is daunting, but we are rising to the challenge by empowering our police to fight back. This deal will give them the power to take down the criminals and bring those threatening our people and communities to justice.
Cleveland currently receives no serious violence funding, despite having the third highest level of violent crime in the country. The hon. Member for Redcar (Jacob Young) appealed to the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions last week for more resources, but he was fobbed off. Will the Home Secretary now review it and give Cleveland the funding it needs to tackle serious violence in our area?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the issue of serious violence, which is blighting not only Cleveland but other parts of the country, too. It is obviously a huge focus of my work.
We are giving Cleveland police an extra £10 million this year, which I hope it will use to tackle some of the serious problems there. I have met the chief constable of Cleveland police, who is doing sterling work to move the force from one that has sadly been underperforming to one that can hopefully satisfy the needs and desires of the people of Cleveland.
Has the Minister had discussions with chief constables, and has it emerged from those discussions what priorities they have for the new police officers? I can think of plenty in the Thames valley, but has he had the experience of the chief constables on how they can make things much better with these extra police?
I am pleased that my right hon. Friend’s police force, in particular, will receive a very large settlement of just under £32 million. We are having an ongoing conversation with the wider policing family about how and where our priority activity should take place. That discussion is being held under the auspices of the new National Policing Board, on which all arms of policing are represented. The board will settle the priority action that will be taken forward.
We have had discussions, particularly at the board’s last meeting, on prioritising violence. At the top of the list, murder is the tip of the iceberg of violence, which features many types of crime. I hope we will move to a 360° approach to fighting crime over the next few months and years, and I hope that chief constables will support us in doing so.
The Minister mentions the priorities set by the National Policing Board. One thing that I and chief constables across Wales and England have been raising for a number of years is economic crime and scamming. There is a constant pressure from new scams, so will he talk to chief constables on the National Policing Board about setting economic crime as a priority so that increasing numbers of vulnerable people are not attacked by scammers, who are becoming increasingly clever in taking people’s money?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. As I have said, the technical complexity of crime has changed significantly over the past few years. One question we have to ask ourselves, both in the Home Office and in the UK policing family, is whether we have the skills and capability to deal with some of those issues.
I will come on to the settlement later, but it is partly about investing in some of those capabilities, not least in tackling online economic crime, which we are sadly seeing become increasingly prevalent as the internet penetrates even more of our lives.
Does not the very generosity of this settlement remove from some forces the excuse that they do not investigate fraud but, rather, palm it off on Action Fraud, which has proved to be totally useless?
I would expect a no less challenging question from my county colleague, and he is right that the fight against fraud has perhaps not been as effective as it could have been over the past few months and years.
We are giving a lot of thought in the Home Office to how policing should structure itself for a crime type that has become increasingly complex. A fraud might be perpetrated in one geography—perhaps in the New Forest, sadly—by a perpetrator in another geography who transits money through another country and draws that money in a fourth place. These are complex and technical difficulties that we will have to address in the years to come.
Due to the huge cuts in policing budgets and youth services, knife crime is now at epidemic proportions. We have had another fatality in Slough in recent weeks. The Minister has mentioned the extra resources for the Thames valley but, given that Slough is affected by a disproportionately large amount of knife crime and violent crime, will he ensure that the lion’s share of that funding is catered towards Slough, rather than areas that are not as affected by crime?
I think I am right in saying that recorded crime in the Thames valley is lower than in 2010, but that is not a cause for complacency. I recognise some of the problems that towns around London like Slough and, indeed, Andover in my constituency have experienced, much of it driven by the drugs trade. The hon. Gentleman will know that we have done a huge amount of work, and will be doing more, on the county lines problem that drives a significant amount of violence in towns like his. He will be hearing more from me on that in the future.
Gloucestershire constabulary has one of the lowest settlements of all police forces. Will my hon. Friend explain to my constituents how these figures are made up so they can see why they have such a low increase?
As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, money for policing is shared out on the basis of a funding formula. I have studied the formula in some depth, and it is incredibly complicated and hard to understand. He is therefore right to raise the issue of confusion in the public’s mind about how money is allocated.
We have already said publicly that we believe the funding formula is outdated, and I hope and believe that, in the years to come, we can work to find a more equitable division of the spoils for policing and, critically, one that the people we serve understand.
This settlement sets out the biggest increase in police funding in a decade. This £700 million will pay for the recruitment of the first 6,000 of the 20,000 additional police officers, an increase of almost 10% of the core grant funding provided last year. Overall funding for police and crime commissioners will increase by £915 million to £13.1 billion if they make full use of the council tax flexibility available to them. Total police funding will increase by £1.1 billion to £15.2 billion.
Every single force in England and Wales will see a substantial increase next year. If their police and crime commissioner decides to maximise precept flexibility, Durham will receive an extra £9.7 million, Lancashire will receive an extra £22.6 million and the west midlands will receive almost £50 million more. These are serious increases, representing, on average, a 7.5% rise.
Will my hon. Friend come to visit Derbyshire and meet Angelique Foster, our PCC candidate, who is putting together a superb plan for what Derbyshire policing ought to look like with this extra new money?
I would, of course, be delighted to visit Derbyshire once again. I was there only a few months ago to visit the chief constable and the current police and crime commissioner.
I have already agreed to attend a crime summit in Derby, and hopefully other Derbyshire MPs will be involved. In fact, I was there to see the striking “knife angel” sculpture, which was standing outside the city’s cathedral. I am more than happy to visit once again.
In Lincolnshire we are fortunate to live in one of the safest areas of the country, but my constituents write to me regularly about antisocial behaviour, burglary, lead theft and fly-tipping. I am delighted that we will get 120 more police officers in Lincolnshire, an increase of 11%. What can my hon. Friend do to support those new police officers in tackling the crimes that worry my constituents so much?
The best thing I can do is encourage them, once again, to elect a Conservative police and crime commissioner in May who will be focused on their priorities. I am pleased to note that, in the past couple of weeks, Lincolnshire police’s inspection report has significantly improved, which I gather was the cause of some celebration in the Lincolnshire media. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), was trumpeting the triumph of her local police force.
We will be supporting Lincolnshire police in all its work, and it has made a special grant application that we will be considering in due course. I recognise that a county like Lincolnshire, which is very large and sparsely populated, faces particular challenges that we will want to address.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, with this extra funding for the Metropolitan police, it is time that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan—who is responsible for policing in London—revisited his list of police station closures, including the important Belgravia police station in the Westminster part of my constituency?
I know Belgravia police station very well indeed—[Laughter.] It was not through having spent any overnight stays there. During my time in policing in London, I visited it on a couple of occasions. The Met will be in receipt of a further 1,369 police officers, who will need to be accommodated somewhere. As I have said in the media in the past, perhaps to some hilarity, their lockers will need to go somewhere, and an expansion of the size that London will see over the next few years means that a general review of the property strategy is sensible.
In Clacton, we led a campaign to increase the precept for policing, it spread across Essex, and I am very glad that we have more police officers in Clacton and we have town centre teams. However, like many parts of the rest of the country, we have a lot of knife crime and it needs to be dealt with. What is my hon. Friend thinking of doing to stop young people getting drawn into that sort of crime in the first place?
My hon. Friend, in his typically astute way, raises an extremely important point. Although we talk a lot in this House, and certainly in my job, about the enforcement aspect of crime, one key area—one of the twin pillars of success—is investment in young people, particularly in diverting those on the margins of criminality away from it and showing them that there is a better life. Obviously, the Government have committed significant funding to that, not least in the Home Office, where we have a couple of hundred million pounds to spend on it. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has £500 million to spend over the next few years on youth intervention and youth projects, and we will be focusing, certainly in the Cabinet Committee that the Prime Minister is chairing, on that aspect of crime, alongside enforcement at the same time.
If Members do not mind, I would like to make a bit of progress. I will allow others come in a little later.
This settlement will turbocharge the unprecedented recruitment of 20,000 police officers over the next three years. All forces will have the resources they need to meet rising demand. The impact of the extra officers should not be underestimated, with the recruitment targets showing how each area will benefit. By March 2021, West Yorkshire police aims to recruit some 256 extra officers, and the figure for Greater Manchester is almost 350. As I said, the Met, a force I know well, will soon be able to deploy an extra 1,369 officers on the streets of our capital. The spending round, which concluded in September, confirmed that an additional £750 million would be made available next year to deliver this uplift. This settlement confirms that £700 million of that will go directly to PCCs to support the first wave of recruitment, and £168 million will be ringfenced to help pay for recruiting and employing additional officers. Forces will be awarded a portion of that in line with their funding formula allocation. It will be linked to results, with the money paid out as they make progress against their recruitment targets. That will ensure that forces make full use of this investment, delivering good value for money for taxpayers and the results they expect to see. In addition, £50 million of the settlement will deliver national elements of the police uplift programme to ensure that it is a success. That will include central co-ordination, national recruitment campaigns, Police Now training and College of Policing support.
The Minister mentioned Durham, which has lost 380 officers since 2010. Even with these replacement officers—they are not new ones—there will still be a shortfall of 154 officers for County Durham. Can he tell me when County Durham will get back to the level of police officers it had in 2010?
Obviously, these 6,000 officers are a down payment on a three-year protection plan, under which we will be recruiting 20,000 police officers. Just for clarity, I should point out that these are extra police officers—
They are not. They are replacements.
This is on top of the numbers we need to recruit because of those who retire—we see 6,000 to 8,000 retire. At the end of March, or possibly April, we will be publishing details of our recruitment performance and the baseline figure where we believe we have started, agreed with forces, so that Members across the House and the public will be able to see how we are performing. We hope that by the end of the three-year recruitment process we will have a greater number of police officers than we did in 2010.
Unfortunately, the South Wales force faces a similar situation; since 2011, the number of police officers has been brought down from 3,400 to 2,800. The figures announced by the Government in October showed that there would be an uplift of just 136 officers in this new recruitment scheme. Obviously, those 136 will be very welcome—I wonder how much progress we are making on that—but they represent a substantially smaller number than the amount cut since 2011.
To repeat what I said in my earlier answer, those 136 are the first instalment of a three-year programme. We are recruiting 6,000 and there are a further 14,000 to go. Although we have yet to decide completely how the remaining 14,000 will be allocated, it is not hard to surmise that all forces will receive more than in this year. I ask hon. Members to hold fire and rejoice in the fact that these first 6,000 will be recruited—we hope—in 12 months’ time. That is on top of the number of police officers baked into the very large financial settlement last year. It means that by the end of three years the number of police officers in this country should be higher than it was in 2010.
No two areas of this great country face the same challenges. This Government want to level up our communities, but to do that we must tackle regional issues head on, including crime. PCCs have continued to ask for more flexibility and funds to respond to local priorities. We have listened to their pleas and empowered them to target the criminals plaguing their towns and communities. This settlement allows all PCCs to raise council tax contributions for local policing; it is less than 20p per week for a typical household—just £10 per year. If all PCCs decide to maximise their flexibility, the result will be £248 million of additional funding for local policing. Locally elected PCCs will decide how to use that flexibility, and will be accountable to their electorate for using it to cut crime and deliver real results in their areas.
I have been contacted by some shooting organisations so that I can put this on the Minister’s plate. The Countryside Alliance and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation have expressed concern about firearm certificate renewals and new applications across the whole of mainland England and Wales. They have indicated to me that there is not a uniform system of renewing firearm certificates. We must remember that those who have such certificates are the most law-abiding people in the whole of the UK. Will he assure us today that firearms licensing will be delivered equally across all counties and police forces in England and Wales?
Obviously, it is a responsibility of the local PCC and the chief constable to make sure that they deliver the services they are mandated to deliver in an effective way. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that I held a meeting two weeks ago with the British Shooting Sports Council, and one or two of its constituent members, to discuss exactly some of the difficulties he raises. This is on my list; alongside being Policing and Crime Minister, I am the firearms Minister. The hon. Gentleman should be assured that I will be paying attention to that issue in the months to come.
The horrific attack in Streatham just weeks ago showed that the threat of terrorism in this country remains all too real. I know that all our thoughts are with the victims and all those affected, and I would like to pay tribute to the remarkably brave police officers who stopped the attacker before more harm was done. To keep people safe, we must also invest in our homeland security, which is why this settlement increases funding for counter-terrorism policing by £90 million to more than £900 million. That includes a continuation of the £24 million uplift in armed policing.
We are also tackling high-harm crimes that devastate families, towns and communities. Serious and organised crime exploits the vulnerable and fuels much of the horrific violence on our streets, so we will allocate £155 million next year to help the police fight back—this includes funding new capabilities for tackling illicit finance. We are also investing in national policing priorities that benefit all forces across the country. That includes making sure we keep up with the criminals we are pursuing. Our systems simply must be up to scratch to help us stay one step ahead as crime evolves. We will invest £516 million to improve police technology in 2020-21, which will upgrade critical infrastructure such as replacing the Airwave communication system with the 4G emergency services network. It will also fund the development of the law enforcement data service, replacing the existing police national computer and police national database.
The funding I have set out represents an unprecedented scale of investment in our police forces, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this is public money that we are spending, and the public expect to see a return on that investment. This Government are clear that the police must continue to focus on improving efficiency and productivity to deliver value for money for the people they serve. Members should be in no doubt: I will be holding the police to account for their spending and performance, because we are a Government driven by the people’s priorities. The demand of these hard-working, honest, law-abiding people is simple: they want to see more police on our streets and less crime, and they expect us, as public servants, to deliver. So, today we have provided the funding needed to do just that.
Does the Minister not accept that increasing the precepts at a local level means that too much of the burden is borne by our constituents in their council tax total? It may be described as another pound a week or whatever, but that is on top of all the other council tax increases that they face. It is just £1 too many for them.
That is obviously a judgment for the local police and crime commissioner to make. We chose to limit the uplift in cash terms so that even those forces that raise a relatively small proportion of their funding from council tax could benefit as well, but in the end it is something that, as I say, police and crime commissioners will have to decide for themselves and take their chances in May. I hope and believe that the British people are willing to pay an extra 20p a week to improve their security, but I should say that it is £248 million alongside a huge investment from the Government. In the end, it is all the public’s money. Our money is not magicked from anywhere; the public pay it. Whether they pay through council tax or other means, their priority is that we should invest in our police officers. The recruitment of 20,000 new police officers is wildly popular.
What particular provision is being made to address the problems of rural policing, especially in rural Wales?
As a Member of Parliament who also represents a rural community—220 square miles of glorious Hampshire countryside—rural crime is at the top of my list, too. The hon. Gentleman will know that across the police and crime commissioners community significant effort has been put into a rural crime network, and I will be keen to sit down with them in the months to come to see what more can be done. It is worth pointing out that although specific aspects of rural crime—whether that is poaching, machinery theft or whatever—are perhaps different, too many of our rural communities are now plagued by the sort of crime that we became used to seeing only in metropolitan areas. One of my key priorities is that forces that have large rural communities recognise that dealing with serious violence has to be top of their list, just as it is in London, Manchester or Liverpool.
The police must now play their part. To ensure that they deliver, we have attached a number of expectations to the settlement: first, we expect to see continued efficiency savings by the use of collaborative procurement through a new commercial operating model, BlueLight Commercial; secondly, we expect forces to work with us to develop an approach to drive maximum value from the funding spent on police technology; thirdly, we expect forces to use the uplift in their core grant funding to cover the wider costs and infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate and deploy the additional officers effectively; and finally, we expect forces to improve productivity through digital, data and technology solutions, including mobile working. Through the National Policing Board, the Home Secretary and I will personally hold the sector to account for the delivery of improvements.
I realise that the Minister will naturally focus his resources on uniformed officers—we understand that—but I wish to ask about technical capability, particularly in relation to revenge porn. I introduced a private Member’s Bill that would have made it a criminal offence to distribute people’s private explicit sexual images without their consent. That is now illegal, but it is not clear that the police have the resources or capability to deliver on the law, because thousands of cases are reported and only a handful go to court. There are also legal issues relating to the showing of malicious intent and not having anonymity of victims. Will the Minister ensure that the capabilities are there and work with other Ministers to ensure that the new online harms Bill enables more prosecutions of these hideous crimes?
The growth of online criminality in all its forms is alarming to us all, and not least to those of us who have teenagers or young people who are uniquely exposed to it in a way that perhaps we were not in the formative stages of our lives. The hon. Gentleman is quite right that the online harms White Paper will look at some of this stuff. There is no doubt about it: the police do not necessarily have all the capabilities that they need in what is a fast-evolving area of crime. We are having that conversation on an ongoing basis with the National Crime Agency and with policing more widely. There is, however, a wider sense that the platforms that enable these kinds of communications need to step forward, as everybody else in this country is going to step forward to tackle crime, and shoulder their share of the responsibility for making sure that our young people in particular but frankly everybody can live a life unmolested and untroubled by crime. It is certainly an aspiration of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that that should be the case. Crime cannot be solved by the police alone; it takes us all, in a sensible and civilised society, to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, whether in a commercial guise or a personal guise, to help them in the mission of driving down crime and making sure that we live in a safe country.
The 347 extra officers in Greater Manchester will be welcomed, particularly by my residents in Bramhall and Cheadle Hulme who have been really suffering and are very worried about the rates of acquisitive crime and burglary, sometimes accompanied by violence. I met the Greater Manchester Mayor and police and crime commissioner to ask him to submit a safer streets fund bid on my behalf, and I hope it will be successful. I am concerned that since July the police data for crime in our area has not been available because of a failure of the computerised system. Does the Minister agree that we need the reassurance of knowing the crime rates in our local areas before we can tackle them?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The police cannot fly blind; data is critical to their job. I well know the problems of Manchester and asked the chief inspector of constabulary to go and have a look at some of the issues there. I am pleased that my hon. Friend is encouraging the Mayor to make a bid to the safer streets fund. We know that relatively simple modifications to architecture or the built environment can significantly reduce some acquisitive crimes. I gather that, as long as residents use them, the fitting of gates to alleys can reduce burglary by around 40-odd per cent., and we know that better street lighting can reduce acquisitive crime by around 17%. There are simple things that can be done, and we have £25 million to show what can be done in the hope that Treasury colleagues will then see it as an investable proposition for the future that if we make small adjustments to the way that we live, we can “design out” crime.
The settlement demonstrates the strength of the Government’s support for our outstanding police. We are backing them to build a more secure Britain and empowering them to deliver safer streets for the people we all serve. Members should have no doubt that the settlement represents a new golden age for policing in this country and a dark day for criminality. I commend the motion to the House.
I listened with interest to the Minister’s presentation. In particular, I listened when he described the Conservative party as the natural party of law and order. Not all of our constituents would agree with that, having seen the relative cuts in funding and the spike in violent crime. I shall return to that later.
I wish to say at the outset that the Opposition will not be opposing the police funding settlement, but we remind the Minister that it is not just about the total settlement but about the police funding formula. For five years Ministers have been promising to revise the police funding formula, and I argue that that is a concern not just for Opposition Members but for Members of all parties. Ministers have had five years. Perhaps they can make greater haste in something that is so key to the effective fighting of crime in all parts of our country.
Although we are far from satisfied with the Government’s plans for policing overall, the Opposition believe that this is the first time since the Labour Government that there has been a funding settlement for the police that does not in real terms undermine them further, so in the circumstances it would be wrong to oppose this particular funding settlement. Let me be equally clear, though: I do not want to be cruel, but the Opposition have no confidence in this Government to restore policing to its proper strength or to tackle serious crime. I strongly doubt—I shall explain why—that the Government will even meet their own pledge to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers. I see Government Members who are new to the House looking shocked, but I remind them of this Prime Minister’s track record on policing and police recruitment.
When the current Prime Minister was Mayor of London in 2012—those of us who are London MPs remember that well—he sent a list of nine promises to every household in London. His political marketing claimed that it was his “nine-point plan for Greater London”. No. 4 on the list was:
“Making our streets and homes safer with 1,000 more police on the beat”.
I have to tell the House that this pledge was never met, even though it was signed by the current Prime Minister himself, so I do not think that his record on policing provides much confidence that he will meet his manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 extra police.
Secondly, I want to turn to an issue with the funding settlement, which is inadequate even in its own terms. When the Minister announced the funding settlement, the Home Office claimed that it was the biggest for a decade, but that was a decade of cuts in police funding—cuts made by Ministers now on the Government Front Bench. It is not much of a boast when the settlement represents an uplift only when compared with the cuts made in previous years.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that what the settlement actually means for West Midlands Police—the second largest police force in the country—is a funding gap of about £10 million, so it will have to make savings despite the settlement?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing some reality to the discussion.
The Opposition have learnt that police chiefs have also recently been told to find another £165 million in 2019-20 and up to £417 million in 2020-21 as a result of the overhaul of pension schemes recently announced by the Treasury. We of course support better police pensions, and indeed better public sector pensions in general, but we do so by arguing that they should be properly funded, whereas Ministers want the money to support them to come out of the extra moneys that they are announcing today. The amount provided in the funding settlement to cover the pension changes is nowhere near the amount it will cost the police. There is a real risk that, with this poor beginning, the Government will fail to meet their total recruitment target. I hope that Government Members are taking due note.
Thirdly, I want to question the Government’s entire approach to this matter, because although police numbers are a key factor, they are only one aspect of combating serious and violent crime. The Government’s goal must be to keep our citizens safe, but their track record is abysmal. I know that this set of Ministers like to pretend that the record of the past 10 years has nothing to do with them, but most of the Ministers now in office voted for the police cuts that have been made. This is continuity Toryism, and they are continuity Tories.
Is the right hon. Lady very proud of the Labour Mayor’s record on tackling crime in London?
As we know, the Labour Mayor is ultimately dependent on funding from the Government. Given the funding available, I am confident that Sadiq Khan has done the very best he can. The issue comes back to the totality of funding and the police funding formula.
The Tories cut the police and they should own it—cuts have consequences. But they also did much worse: they presided over soaring serious and violent crime, and an abysmally low detection and sanction rate—cautions or charges—even for some of the most serious crimes. The latest crime data for the year ending September 2019 was recently published. It shows a 7% rise in offences involving knives or sharp instruments recorded by the police. That is 46% higher than when comparable recording began—in the year ending March 2011—and the highest on record. That is the Government’s record.
Offences involving firearms hit a low in March 2015 but have risen since. Robbery offences are at a 10-year high. Fraud incidents are up sharply and now there are almost 4 million fraud crimes a year, often impacting on some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Over the long term, the trend in total crime had been downwards, but under successive Tory-led Governments since 2010 that overall progress has stalled. A key part of this is the fact that central Government funding for police and crime commissioners has fallen by 30% in real terms since 2010-11.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is also moving money from the most deprived areas to some of the wealthiest? For example, 50% of properties in County Durham are in band A, so the ability to raise a great deal of money locally is quite limited, unlike in Surrey or Woking, where, given the larger council tax base, further money can be raised. This is moving money from poor areas and giving it to wealthier areas.
My right hon. Friend raises a key point about the precept. Ministers like to claim that by generously allowing PCCs to raise a greater precept, they are somehow doing them a favour. The truth is that reliance on money raised by the precept hits poorer communities that have lower house prices harder. It is not equitable to be endlessly praying in aid the precept, rather than providing proper funding from the centre.
My right hon. Friend is being generous in giving way. To elaborate on her point, in Warwickshire there was a 12% increase in the precept last year, and I think we are now seeing an increase of another 5%. Of course, wages increases are way off those increases, so the public are facing a really regressive tax. It is unfair, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) explained.
The precept is a regressive tax, and the Government should think twice before making out that their increasing reliance on precept-raised funds is some sort of progressive move.
With a 6.6% increase for Surrey and a 7.9% increase for County Durham, does the right hon. Lady not agree that this is a down payment on the Government’s levelling-up agenda for police forces across the country?
What can I say—nice try?
The National Audit Office recently said that the Home Office
“does not know if the police system is financially sustainable.”
That is the National Audit Office talking about Home Office Ministers.
However, the Government did not confine austerity to police officer numbers; they also cut thousands of police community support officers and thousands of police support and administrative staff. That has had two consequences. First, there has been a huge detriment to community policing, which is often the first eyes and ears on everything from vandalism and petty crime all the way through to terrorist threats. Secondly, the cuts to admin staff, often dismissively called “backroom staff” on the Government Benches, have meant that police officers have had to do more of their own admin work, so less time is available for police work as such.
The consequences have been terrible, as most of our constituents know. Compared with the previous year, the proportion of crimes resulting in a charge or summons fell by one percentage point, from 8.7% to 7.4%—the lowest ever recorded. That continues a downward trend since March 2015, when 15% of crimes were resolved with a charge or summons. No category of crime registered a majority of prosecutions. The sad fact is that too much crime goes undetected, largely because of a shortage of police officers, and therefore unpunished, and the public are all too well aware of that. It is truly shocking that the very lowest prosecution or summons rate was in cases of rape, with just one in 70 cases leading to charges. In all cases of violence against the person, just one in 13 cases led to charges or summonses. As we have argued consistently, cuts have consequences.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. She is outlining the things on which all this extra money needs to be spent. In his response to me, the Minister suggested that the extra £10 million for Cleveland—that is half of what we have lost since 2010—should be used to tackle violent crime, but other areas where violent crime is actually lower get specific targeted resources from a separate fund. That is not fair. Does she share my bewilderment as to why Ministers seem to be blind to the needs of Teesside?
I entirely share my hon. Friend’s concern that the people of Teesside do not appear to be treated fairly. Cuts have consequences—in Cleveland as well as everywhere else. Over the past 10 years, almost every conceivable social factor has contributed to rising crime. Ministers did not mention these things, but let me remind the House that youth services have been slashed, schools have been encouraged to exclude pupils, inequality and poverty have been made worse, some of our young people have become resigned to a life of zero-hours contracts, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation funding has been slashed. Mental health funding has been decimated, as, too, has the probation service, which we have seen in the probation activities in relation to recent terrorist activity. The criminal justice system is in crisis. Our prisons have become places where a person is more likely to become a hardened criminal, a drug user, or radicalised.
It is an abysmal record of failure. Ministers cannot expect their claims of being the natural party of law and order to be taken seriously when they have allowed the criminal justice system to fall into this state. It is no use these Ministers simply partially making good some of the police cuts that this Tory Government have made—that is all that has been claimed of this policy. They are not even restoring all the cuts that they have made since 2010. Effectively tackling crime is not just about funding the police properly, but about funding all those services, such as the youth service, education and the NHS, which help to bear down on crime. The Government do not intend to do that, and we on this side of the House believe that without a proper level of funding for the police force, for schools, for youth services and for the NHS, we will continue to see the negative consequences. There will be a spiral of violent crime, which causes so much fear in all our communities.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. Just before I start, may I remind the Opposition that we are in this plight because of the spendthrift ways with which they ruined our country?
You’ve had 10 years, man. Ten years.
Ten years is how long it was predicted to take to get this country back. I know the Opposition do not like to hear it, but that is the truth of the matter. [Interruption.] Yes, there was a banking crisis too, but the people of this country do not forget the spendthrift ways of the Opposition.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I will not give way, because others wish to speak. There are maiden speeches to be given, and I very much look forward to hearing them.
May I first pay tribute to Dorset police—the chief constable and all the officers who serve under Dorset police?
Ah, there is another Dorset MP in his place. The Dorset police do a fantastic job, as I am sure my hon. Friend would agree.
The aim of the police, in my view, is to prevent crime and to catch criminals—that is it. I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister to his place. He is doing a wonderful job, as he always has, and will be an extremely able Minister. I am sure he would agree that the police have more and more pressures piled on them, from looking after people with mental health issues to picking up wandering dogs. That is not their job. Their job is to catch criminals and to prevent crime. A lot of their time is taken up with doing other tasks. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for this increase in our funding, but I must remind him, as I have done in the past, that Dorset is near the bottom of the pile. We welcome the levelling up, but more levelling up is needed, and the funding formula, which Opposition Members have mentioned, definitely needs to be looked at.
Before I get on to the three points that the police and crime commissioner has asked me to raise, I would like to touch on minor crime. I will not speak for very long. We hear time and again about the effects of minor crime. As a journalist for 17 years, I covered those sorts of things, and I saw the damage that they did. One old lady, for example, lost all her belongings when a burglar stole her husband’s war medals. She died a year later from a broken heart. That is not a minor crime. It is burglary, which is very serious, and the effects of it are devastating. That is why we need more police officers on the beat. I understand that the nature of crime has changed and that more officers are now behind the scenes dealing with online crime and all those things. I get that, but that does not negate the need for men and women in uniform—not in yellow jackets. Can we get them back in their blue uniforms with the proper hats, please, so that we know what a policeman looks like? They stand for law and order. They are not a whole bunch of children on a sort of trail with yellow jackets all over the place. We need more officers on the beat, so that people can actually see them and the criminals who are about to commit a crime can see them. That means foot patrols in our cities, our towns and our villages. There is nothing that beats a foot patrol. I know that because I am an ex-soldier who served in Northern Ireland. That was our job—to deter the terrorist and, in the event, to catch them in the act.
Does my hon. Friend agree that in tackling crime, the police should spend far less time hounding members of the public for what they may or may not think on societal issues, such as in the case of Harry Miller and Humberside police, and far more time taking the side of the law-abiding majority and cracking down on the activities of Extinction Rebellion activists that we saw in Cambridge last week?
I absolutely concur with my hon. Friend. As my colleagues know, I am very forthright in my views. Why did those police stand there while those activists dug up the lawn? If I did that, I would lose my job, my reputation—everything. They did not. Why not? That cannot be right. This is why we need more officers, to catch these people who are committing minor crimes. Minor crime undermines morale in our rural environment, in our towns and in our cities. Antisocial behaviour is another classic case in point. We need the police officers to jump on it, and jump on it fast.
Let me turn to the three points that I quickly want to make. We have a huge influx of tourists, and the funding formula does not cater for that. I would welcome some clarity on that when one of the Ministers sums up.
As part of the uplift programme, we have 50 new officers, whom we welcome. This is very good news. This uplift will take place over three years, and we expect another 120—I hope they come—but the police budgets are confirmed only one year at a time. A multi-year settlement would greatly help forces to plan for the future. Perhaps the Minister can expand on that when he sums up.
My final point relates to cases of fraud against the older population, which is becoming far too frequent. Sadly, many elderly people—many of my constituents—have been done on the telephone by these awful people who go to great lengths to sound like a bank or whatever it may be. The PCC said that he is mindful of the current review of serious and organised crime and aware of the negative publicity surrounding the national agency, Action Fraud. Does the Government have plans to deal with fraud in a different and more effective way in the future?
May I conclude in the same way that I started, by praising Dorset police and all the brave men and women who keep us safe both in the day and at night?
May I begin by agreeing with the Minister and thanking all the people who work for our police force—not just the men and women in uniform, but the community support officers and the support staff? Certainly, I thank those individuals in County Durham who work under the inspiring leadership of Jo Farrell, the chief constable, and her senior management team. I have not yet had an opportunity to mention the former police and crime commissioner, Ron Hogg, who sadly died in December. Ron was a great public servant, not only as a senior police officer, but as a visionary police and crime commissioner. He will be greatly missed across politics in County Durham. He had dedication to not just policing but the community. That shows the best of our police; they are not separate from, but part of, their community.
The Government’s new strategy aims to create the impression that December 2019 was year zero—that they had no responsibility for, or involvement at all in, anything that happened before that. The Prime Minister and Ministers prattle on at great length, like a flock of constipated parrots, about how another 20,000 police officers will make all the difference, but they do not say what they had to do with our having fewer police officers on our streets today. We are also given the impression that these “extra” 20,000 officers—they are not extra; they are replacement officers, restoring the number that the Government took away—will somehow solve all our local criminal justice and crime problems, and will be the panacea.
Does the right hon. Member agree that there is so much more to policing with a small p than police officers? The best way to deal with crime—petty crime, knife crime and serious violence—is to deal with its causes, and to take a more holistic approach through health and education.
I do not disagree, and I shall come on to some of those points. Even if we get 20,000 more police officers, the population in this country has grown since 2010 from 62.8 million people to 67.2 million. The idea that 20,000 officers would make up for that difference, and enable local police to deal with the responsibilities and pressures on them, is absolute and complete nonsense.
Take the example of County Durham. I am glad that my new neighbour, the hon. Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), is here. Since 2010, Durham constabulary has lost 380 police officers. Through the money being provided by the Government, it will gain 226. There will still be 154 fewer police officers than in 2010. No doubt in this debate we will again hear a lot about levelling up—it is the in phrase. I doubt that in the police and crime commissioner elections, Conservatives will go around saying, “The Conservatives have cut 154 police officers in Durham,” but that is the fact. The issue is not just the numbers; it is also experience. We have lost a huge number of officers with many years’ experience. Since 2010, some have taken early retirement and others have left the force. The idea that we can replace that expertise and knowledge with new police officers is complete and utter nonsense.
Demands on our police are increasing; Members have referred to fraud and cyber-crime, and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) pointed out, there has been a withdrawal of services in other sectors as a result of austerity. Mental ill health, for example, is creating a huge issue for local police; unfortunately, in many areas, because of cuts, the police are the last resort when it comes to mental health, though they should not be. Youth services and other services that have been cut have led to the issues being generated on our streets.
Police do not work in silos. They are part of our community. The Minister said that the Conservative party was the natural party of law and order. I am sorry, but the record speaks for itself. Putting aside the soundbite of 20,000 extra police officers, let us look at what the Conservative party has done. There are 20,000 fewer police officers, and there has been a 20% cut in real terms to the police budget. We can have as many more police officers as we want, but if the court system cannot cope, it is no good putting police on the beat. In the last 10 years, 25% of the Crown Prosecution Service’s lawyers have been cut, and a third of its staff have gone. I am sorry, but dealing with crime in this country is not all about the police, and they would recognise that.
We can add to that the closure of courts. Since 2010, 162 courts have closed, and 50% of the courts estate has been axed. In my area, we used to have magistrates courts in Consett, Chester-le-Street and Durham. There is now one, in Peterlee, in the east of the county—not the easiest place to get to for those in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for North West Durham. That is a capacity problem, and it has also broken the key link between magistrates and their local area. I am not criticising them in any way, but those on the magistrates bench in Peterlee are not connected to many local communities. That makes a fundamental difference to their being able to understand the nature of the people who come before them.
I agree with the right hon. Member about Ron Hogg, who was very much part of the community in County Durham and was well respected. Does he agree that the police and crime commissioner is the essential link with the community, and that someone with police experience, like Ron Hogg, is exactly who should represent the community in our great county?
Ron was a very good friend of mine, but he was not a typical police officer. The hon. Gentleman may be trying to portray him as a hard-line “hang ’em and flog ’em” person, but Ron was far from that. We see that in his invention and implementation of Checkpoint, the alternative justice system, which is making a real difference in Durham. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the only qualification needed by the police and crime commissioner is being a former police officer, then I am sorry, but I do not agree with him. Ron played a variety of roles in his life, but what he brought to the post was a passion for community, and for making sure that the underdog was listened to; those were the important things. He was not afraid to take on those, including members of the Conservative party, who accused him at the last PCC election of being soft on criminals because he introduced Checkpoint. He was far from soft on criminals, but he wanted to ensure that the systems that he put in place solved the problem, rather than just getting a soundbite for a headline, which unfortunately is what the Government are doing.
Do we need more police officers on the streets? Yes, but we cannot get away from what has happened in the past 10 years. I am sorry, but it is no good the Minister saying that this is a great settlement; looking at what has happened in communities, it is not. Policing is not in a silo; the prison population, for example, is bursting at the seams, and if we do not soon get a system that enables people to be diverted away from prison, I am not sure how the system will cope. There is nothing worse than the victims of crime seeing perpetrators get away, not because the police cannot detect them, but because the court system is incapable of dealing with them.
If the Government wanted a new start, I would have preferred it if they had looked at the criminal justice system as a whole, instead of focusing on what would get them headlines. “Twenty thousand more police officers” is an easy soundbite to remember; “25% more CPS lawyers”, for example, does not have the same ring to it, because many of our constituents are not aware of the vital role that those lawyers play in ensuring that very bad people get taken off the streets.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the holistic nature of the system that means it needs to be looked at together. Does he agree that we should take a leaf out of the book of what has happened in Wales—and now, increasingly, in Cornwall, and in Devon, in my constituency—in looking at cross-working between fire, police and ambulance services? As he said, many crimes have some basis in health matters, particularly mental health matters, and therefore working together, given the services’ different strengths and weaknesses and their different geographical nature, would be a very good way of trying to look at this holistically and make best use of the resources that we do have.
It is no good starting to take money out of certain parts of the system such as mental health services or local councils’ support to local communities if we do not tackle, for example, the social care agenda. I will give the hon. Lady the example of an individual who has dementia or Alzheimer’s and leaves her home. That takes up a huge amount of police time. They are the responders who have to look for that individual. That ties up resources. I totally agree that there has to be a holistic approach, but it has to be joined up. Austerity was not that. Austerity was to see what the Government could slash out of the system and where. This Government have taken too much out of certain parts of the system.
If the Minister wants to get back the mantle of the party of law and order, he has to put money back into the court system, back into policing, and back into the probation service—because the Horlicks that was made of that system, in which we want to rehabilitate people, has put the thing back even further. Yes, a holistic approach is fine in talking about the structures of what policing, ambulance and fire services do. They already work very closely together. But that will not save money if we are taking big chunks of 20% out of the budget overall.
Let me finally turn to financing, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western). This is a debate that has to be had. How should our policing be funded? This Government have an approach that they have in local government as well—if anyone wants to wait until later on, they can perhaps hear my contribution to the next debate as well. The Government are moving away from centrally allocated moneys to locally raised finance. The argument behind this is that it is more democratic and allows local people to have a say. That is complete nonsense. It is about reducing the amount that central Government have to pay out and pushing the burden on to local taxpayers.
The Minister said that he will give local police and crime commissioners the freedom to raise the precept to a certain amount. That is holding a gun to their head. They have no option when they are faced with things such as the issue around police pensions referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), which they have to do to the maximum. That moves money around the country, from poor areas such as mine to the more affluent areas. In County Durham, under the way that the system works at the moment, because 50% of our properties are in band A, the ability to raise large amounts of additional revenue locally is limited compared with Surrey, or somewhere else that has a larger tax base and perhaps a larger number of band G and band H properties and so is able to raise a lot more money. If that continues, the ability of areas such as County Durham to raise revenue for policing will decline.
The big debate is partly about extra police numbers—yes, we do need extra police numbers: we need to restore the 20,000, and I look forward to the campaign by the hon. Member for North West Durham for the extra 154 police officers who are needed even to get back to where we were in 2010—but if we do not have a big debate about how our police are funded, then we will continue with this process that means that poor areas will get poorer, and the blame game that this Government want to play on the level of policing will continue. That will do nothing at all to help the professional people we rely on for our public safety at local level or to protect the communities that we all represent.
I call Laura Farris to make her maiden speech.
It is an absolute honour to make my maiden speech today, 100 years to the day since Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat in Parliament, made hers. It is also an honour to make this speech as the MP for Newbury, succeeding Richard Benyon, who represented us for 15 years. Richard was totally dedicated to the community. He was a brilliant campaigner who, during his time in this House, slashed rough sleeping, championed mental health services, secured transformative upgrades to the train service and, after some devastating winters, brought in permanent flood defences that have protected thousands of homes during the battering we have seen over the past fortnight. He was an outstanding Minister at DEFRA and a true environmentalist. Whether it was protecting global marine life or introducing beavers to the River Kennet, there was no issue, big or small, that he would not fight for. He is missed in Newbury. Even now, 10 weeks after my election, there are people who have taken the trouble to look up their new MP, written out my email address and begun their email with, “Dear Richard”—I think perhaps more in hope than expectation.
It is the honour of my life to represent my home in Parliament: where I was born and where I grew up. That place is in my bones. The constituency takes its name from the town but it includes two others, Thatcham and Hungerford, surrounded by a web of west Berkshire villages that run approximately from the west of Reading to the Wiltshire border. It is home to Vodafone, the constituency’s biggest employer; the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston; and the famous racecourse, of course. As of last week, I can add that we boast the best pub in the country—the Bell at Aldworth.
Ninety-five per cent. of our schools are good or outstanding, but the thing that I am particularly proud of is the quality of provision for special educational needs. We have Mary Hare School for the deaf, which has the largest sixth form for deaf students in the country and sends many of them on to further education and university. We also have The Castle School, which provides an outstanding education for children with particularly complex special educational needs.
It is a beautiful part of the world. If you go up to the Berkshire downs in Lambourn to see the racehorses training at dawn, you will find country that is as wild as Dorset, but if you plunge down the pathways that link the villages of Bucklebury, Stanford Dingley and Frilsham in the east, you will find woodlands that are as mythic as anything in English folklore. It has context in the story of this nation. During the civil war, there were about 48 hours when the history of England was determined on the battlefields of Newbury. It has felt the smack of resistance during the Greenham peace camp and the pulse of insurgency during the protests over the Newbury bypass. And it has experienced catastrophic human tragedy—the Hungerford massacre, the dark day in 1987 when that little town endured the mass shooting of 17 people.
Those incidents took place during my childhood and are scored deeply on my memory, because at the time it was my father who was the MP. He served the seat for 18 years until 1992, and he was the MP when I was born. The way that he supported, defended and championed that community, particularly through its darkest hour, shaped my entire view of public service. I am not the first daughter to take her father’s seat—it has happened once before: on the Labour Benches, in the seat of North West Durham—but it is the first time that it has happened in my party. Nearly 30 years have passed since my father died, and I was young when he did, but he sparked a passion for politics, and he always taught me to think freely and to keep testing my ideas. I think of him every day that I walk through these corridors and I am proud to follow in his footsteps.
This debate concerns the new funding settlement for the police. My constituency welcomes the £33 million for the Thames Valley police, from which we will benefit and which will lead to 50 new police officers. Before I entered the House, I worked as a barrister with a specialism in employment law, and I bring that interest to Parliament. I saw that, as with so many sectors of work, the primary challenge in employment is not always recruitment but the retention and development of staff in a modern society.
One of the great challenges we face is the age of our workforce. In the last 20 years, the number of people working beyond their 60s has quadrupled and, with an ageing population, that trend is likely to continue. I noticed in the cases I worked on that there was a fundamental divide between those who felt that, by their late 60s, they had earned the right to retire, and those who found the suggestion of retirement an insult and felt that there was still a place for their skills and experience in the workplace. While we must, of course, respect personal choices, the fact remains that those who wish to continue working into their old age are sometimes treated as an eccentricity or an indulgence, rather than people of vigour and capability. There is an imperative for us to recalibrate our attitude to the potential and prospects of older people in the workforce.
We also need to think about the way we work. I am delighted that my party’s manifesto raised the possibility of making flexible working the default for all jobs. For too long, flexible working has been confined to women, usually linked to motherhood and—tacitly, perhaps—to an inferior participation in the workplace. But all the research shows that, regardless of gender, the benefit that employees most value after their pay is the ability to work flexibly, whether in terms of location or hours. We know that flexibility has a crucial role to play in the retention of women, the reduction of the gender pay gap and the equitable distribution of home and childcare responsibilities, all of which I know to be core objectives of this Government’s one nation agenda.
I conclude by saying that, in the cases I worked on, I saw that, for so many people, their job—which they had usually lost by the time they reached me—was about so much more than pay. It was fundamental to their sense of self, in terms of what it said about their talent, their dignity and their place in the world. So I will always fight for the jobs and security of my constituents, and it will be their opportunities and their aspirations that will guide my work in this House.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Newbury (Laura Farris) on her excellent maiden speech, which was thoughtful and thought-provoking. I lived and worked in Thatcham in the early ’80s. We may not agree on everything in our time here, but what she says about the area is absolutely true, and listening to her description of it brought back many happy memories. I think we have all seen that she is a truly worthy successor to Richard Benyon.
I welcome the Government’s commitment to beginning the process of restoring police numbers, although it is only fair to remind the House—including the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax)—that it was the Tory party, aided and abetted by their then friends the Lib Dems, who in 2010 embarked on the disastrous course of cutting police resources by 20% and ignored the warnings that it would lead to a rise in crime and undermine the police’s ability to cope. Those warnings have been repeated by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services, the Public Accounts Committee, the Home Affairs Committee and the chief constables of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, who all acknowledge that the cuts have undermined the police in the battle against crime.
When confronted with that, the Government often cite—as the Minister did today—the need for the police to change because of the changing nature of crime. I accept the need to change as crime changes, but it is easier to manage such change if there is not a constant preoccupation with managing cuts, which is the problem that most police forces are living with. The cuts have made it harder to recruit new people with the skills and talents needed to tackle modern crime. They have made it harder to acquire new equipment and technology and, as we have heard from a number of people, they have led to collateral demand or cost shunting for the police, whereby reductions in other services because of austerity place extra demands on the police; mental health is a particularly good example.
I acknowledge that the police have tried to deal with these resource shortages. They have tried to redefine the issue of visibility with new initiatives such as online reporting and telephone interviews, but that approach falls down because of staff shortages. The chief constable of my force in the West Midlands said last April that what is “cheesing off” the public is the police’s inability to get to grips with “the routine stuff” and the failure to return calls and follow up reports from the public. He simply does not have enough resources to do the routine stuff. That is seriously undermining public trust in the police, which is exacerbated by the switch to reactive policing because of the reduction in neighbourhood policing.
I want to raise two areas of particular concern: fraud and retail crime. Only last April, HMICFRS reported concerns about the lack of a national fraud strategy, which I am sure the Minister is aware of. It said that the disjointed approach to fraud was leaving
“fraudsters feeling they can act with impunity”.
Last week, I was alerted to a fraud affecting a 68-year-old retired teacher who has been robbed of £157,000—money he built up in his pension pot—in a scam where the fraudster hacks and mimics the email of solicitors engaged in house conveyancing. The response he received from the City of London fraud review team seems to be more concerned with how quickly they can close the case than tracking the fraudster and recovering this poor gentleman’s hard-earned cash. That is not right, Minister—something has to be done.
With retail crime, we see a problem that is reaching epidemic proportions. Traders have lost faith in the police. The value of goods stolen must exceed £200 before most forces will take the matter to court. Meanwhile, more than 100 shop workers are being attacked daily while simply trying to do their job. Retail crime is costing us around £2 billion per year. It is serious, and it ought to be policed.
I welcome any extra resources, but the problem of relying so heavily on the council tax precept to increase police resources is that it results in areas such as the West Midlands, which has the second largest force in the country and a complex range of crime, only being able to raise an extra £8.2 million through the precept because of the council tax base. I urge the Minister to review the demands made of forces such as the West Midlands and to help us find a better way of funding some of that demand. I hope he will be willing to meet a cross-party delegation from the West Midlands to consider some of the pressures the force faces. As I pointed out to the shadow Home Secretary, even after an increase in funding, the West Midlands will still experience a funding gap of £9.8 million this year, so further savings—further cuts—will be required. As the Minister knows, there will be significant pressures in the coming year in terms of pay and price inflation, and the force is wondering how that will be managed.
I genuinely welcome the Minister’s efforts, and I hope he is right that this is a down payment. I hope we are about to embark on a sustained period of increasing police resources, as well as a constructive review of how policing needs to change. I hope the Minister will consider how we fund the extra demands being made of forces such as the West Midlands. I hope he will take on board the impact that the decline in neighbourhood policing is having on the public. I hope he will look again at neglected areas—what Chief Constable Thompson of the West Midlands calls “the routine stuff”—and respond to the growing problems of fraud and retail crime.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate about police funding, which is a particularly important issue for North Devon. North Devon faces significant pressures because of its relative isolation and rurality, and policing is no exception. Our police officers have a large geographical area to cover, different types of crime to prevent and limited opportunity to co-operate with other forces. This, on top of the fact that North Devon welcomes over 6 million visitors a year, means that our police need all the support they can get.
In this context, I welcome the increase in the budget for Devon and Cornwall police—up 7.4% for 2020-21. This will help to fund the recruitment of 141 new officers, on top of the 176 through the police precept, while still being able to deliver on the 2.5% above-inflation pay increase that our officers thoroughly deserve. It is also good that the work of our police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez, will be supported.
I was glad that the Minister made reference to a greater focus on technology, and Devon and Cornwall has been at the forefront of that. Our police force was the first to have a dedicated drones team that can help to tackle rural crime, locate a missing person or help the police view hard-to-reach areas. We also have the country’s first “digital search dogs” team, who are able to identify technology such as sim cards to track the evidence left by some of the worst and most serious criminals. When policing an area as large as North Devon, innovation is a necessity, and it comes as no surprise to see Devon and Cornwall take the lead.
Due to the unique circumstances of North Devon and the south-west peninsula, there are a number of long-standing issues that need to be addressed so that Devon and Cornwall police can see even greater benefits. The relative isolation of Devon and Cornwall police makes co-operation with neighbouring forces difficult. For example, only 10% of our force area lies within 7 miles of another force. This obviously limits the potential for cross-force co-operation, which might otherwise be a way of relieving some of the pressure on our officers.
Over the summer months, North Devon and the south-west see a swell in population. While our economy depends in large part on tourism, which I am only too glad to see continue, that does present challenges when it comes to policing. During the summer, the police see an 11% increase in the number of crimes committed, a 14% increase in the number of incidents and an 18% increase in the number of high-risk missing people. However, funding for our force remains considerably below the per person, per day average across the rest of England and Wales, and that is before we take the higher summer population into account.
North Devon has historically received less money than I believe it should, and this is a broader issue that affects a number of policy areas, whether it is schools, health or policing. I am glad that this Government are committed to levelling up every region of the UK, and we have made much progress towards a fairer funding settlement, but in my mind there is still some way to go. Our police force has shown itself to be innovative and determined, but there are some pressures that cannot be mitigated through innovation and determination alone.
I would like to end by reiterating my welcome for the additional funding. Despite the challenges that North Devon faces, the police grant report will represent a significant improvement in support for the police. I know Ministers are conscious of the issues we face, but I would love to extend an invitation to the Minister to come to North Devon to see for himself the triple impact of tourism, isolation and rurality.
It is a great pleasure to be able to speak in this debate, and to follow some excellent contributions from both sides of the House, particularly the speech of the new hon. Member for Newbury (Laura Farris). I have a slightly odd connection with Newbury. In fact, I used to sing in a group with the son of the late MP for Newbury, David Rendel, so I heard many good things about the constituency, and I have spent some time there myself. It was an excellent speech, and I look forward to seeing her contribution in the months and years to come.
I want to speak today about a series of issues arising from my interactions with the police both locally in my own constituency and in relation to some of the concerns we have explored on the Home Affairs Committee in the last couple of years. I will raise some concerns with Ministers that I hope the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), can address in her remarks.
First, I want to thank South Wales police and pay tribute to them for their work and that of police forces across Great Britain. I have had the privilege of engaging with them not only through the work of the Home Affairs Committee, but during the last year through taking part in the police parliamentary scheme. I have been able to get an insight, behind the scenes, into the day-to-day reality for our officers on the ground and on the frontline. That has included everything from meeting members of the National Police Air Service and hearing some quite harrowing tales of their experiences dealing with the Grenfell tragedy, right through to taking part in a unexpected but quite serious police chase down the M4 going after a dangerous individual. The police interceptor was sent to apprehend them, and I happened to be in the car at the time, which certainly brought home to me very directly the risks and challenges our police officers face every day.
I want to pay tribute to the work in my own local community. Just this afternoon, I have seen an excellent example of that. Two of our local PCSOs, Neil Crowley and Sa’ipolu Uhi, were actually in a partnership meeting in Cardiff bay, discussing tackling county lines, as well as knife violence, serious violence and drug dealing locally. In the middle of that meeting they were called out to deal with an incident of off-road disturbance happening in the Canal park in Butetown. That shows the many challenges and the many directions in which not only our police officers but our PCSOs are taken.
As a fellow Welsh MP and an MP who is also involved in tackling drug trafficking, may I welcome this motion to approve the police grant report, which will increase funding for extra officers throughout England and Wales? For North Wales police, this means a 10.4% increase, which equates to an additional £10.8 million. North Wales police is a force to be reckoned with, and it has been tackling drug rings on Ynys Môn and the surrounding area, but it needs our support. I would also like to thank the Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service for meeting me recently to hear feedback from my meeting with a police chief inspector at Llangefni police station. My hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) mentioned co-operation—
Order. Interventions should by their very nature be brief, so could the hon. Lady just bring her remarks to a close, please?
I would like to conclude by thanking the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) for allowing me to make this intervention.
Having been through these experiences myself in the past, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will show the hon. Lady some generosity of spirit. Of course, we all welcome more resources for the police in Wales, whether that is in south Wales or north Wales, but it is important—I want to come on to this—to put those in context.
I raised this with the Minister during his remarks earlier, but the reality is that while new resource has been granted to Wales, we have seen a decline in the number of police officers from 3, 400 to 2,800 since 2011, yet the increase promised in this new uplift is just 136. The Minister talked a lot in his speech about levelling up and remarks made by Conservative Members have been about levelling up, but I would like to see some levelling up when it comes to Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. This is an issue that I, the chief constable of South Wales police and our police and crime commissioner, Alun Michael, have regularly raised with Ministers in private, and I hope the Minister will take it on board.
The reality is that Cardiff, as a capital city, does not receive the same funding that Edinburgh, London or Belfast receives. Yet, it is a seat of government and increasingly a seat of major national events—from the Champions League final to major concerts and other major events—and, quite rightly, we want to ensure that those events are safe and can take place, and that they bring in extra resources and extra tourism to south Wales, which is absolutely fantastic. We are all behind that, but the reality is that they often create pressures and demands on our day-to-day policing that, for a capital city and a city location, are significant.
I say that having seen some of the real demands, whether it is dealing with extremism from different ends of the spectrum, county lines, knife crime or serious violence, and of course the challenges we all face across the country, whether it is domestic violence, hate crime or violence against individuals from particular communities. The reality is that there is often a lag or a hang-over effect from dealing with major events in Cardiff, and I urge Ministers constantly to look again at the funding formula for Cardiff and at why Cardiff is losing out compared with other capital cities across the UK.
It is a fact that the South Wales police grant has actually been cut by a third since 2011, which is the highest cash reduction in Wales when we compare it with other centrally funded public services. We have not seen the covering of other costs in this settlement today—I am thinking, for example, of the end of the police transformation fund and the fact that we used to get £3 million a year for capital costs, which are of course significant in a city location, and which this year is down to just £0.26 million. The capital city underfunding sees us short-changed by about £4 million. I urge Ministers to look at that and to look at the context of the particular challenges that we face.
I want to come on to just three areas in particular, which have wider ramifications, and not just for my own area. First, I welcome today’s decision by the Home Office to proscribe two serious extreme-right organisations, Sonnenkrieg Division and System Resistance Network. That is something that I and others have been campaigning on in both public and private for some time given the risk that these neo-Nazi, sick, twisted organisations pose to citizens up and down the country—I have also had activities locally in my own patch. I welcome what the Minister had to say about extra resources for counter-terrorism, but we must see this in the round. We need to have the dedicated officers on the ground to provide that crucial intelligence and those crucial community relations, which are needed to ensure that these groups do not have an impact, but that if events do happen—as they did, regrettably, in Grangetown in my constituency where some sick, neo-Nazi, racist graffiti poured all around the south of Cardiff—the police are able to get out there and reassure communities. So we must look at this as requiring both specialist officers—I have worked closely with and am full of praise for them—and the wider policing family that sits around them. It also needs the Home Office backing them up. When concerns are being raised within the police, and by myself, others and external organisations, the Home Office needs to act quickly on these organisations; they must not linger, allowing them time to potentially commit further offences.
My second point is on serious violence and knife crime, which I have spoken about many times not only in the Chamber but also in Westminster Hall and the Home Affairs Committee. We have seen some very tragic events in south Wales recently—not on the scale that we have seen in London and elsewhere, but certainly not of a character that we would have seen in our communities some years ago. We have all united as a community to speak out against those who would carry knives or other weapons and engage in serious violence locally, but again that requires a holistic approach. It requires not just those crucial police officers on the ground, which we want the Home Office to be funding, but that wraparound, too. When the funding to Wales has been cut, resulting in cuts to, for example, our youth services, that has an impact. I am full of praise for what Cardiff Council has done, particularly on this front and also the fact that we have taken a public health approach locally and are working to develop a violence reduction unit locally with the Home Office. Those are important steps forward, but we cannot just look at these things in isolation. They require interventions across a wide range of services to ensure that we are not only dealing with the consequences when they happen, but also getting upstream and preventing young people from being caught up in drug dealing and serious violence.
Related to that, I have a particular concern regarding the online, or digital, world. The Minister made some light-hearted remarks earlier about the internet, but there is a very serious side to this. He will no doubt be aware that there have been some disgusting videos glamorising knife violence and drug dealing and the disposal of evidence by young people, filmed in my own constituency, which organisations such as YouTube have refused to remove, instead justifying it on the basis of artistic expression. I am sorry to say that I have found yet more of those videos in recent weeks, which I have raised with both the local police and YouTube, but I have yet to see them taken down. I would like to see both the action taken as recommended in the “Online harms” White Paper and resourcing and training made available for police to enable them to deal with the increasing challenge that is posed by this material online, which is radicalising and grooming our young people in the same way that we have seen some of the extremist organisations doing so tragically in the past. Unfortunately, this is only going to become a larger area of work, and we need to ensure that both police and the wider judicial system are informed and trained and able to respond to that type of incident, because that is dragging our young people into some pretty horrific circumstances and glamorising that type of lifestyle.
The Minister for crime, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), is in the Chamber and she will know that we have spoken about this issue both in the Chamber and outside it, but I want to highlight the particular challenges around hate crime. She knows that I have raised particular concerns about hate crime directed at the LGBT+ community. There have been some pretty shocking increases in that. It is not just due to an increase in reporting; it is a real rise in those crimes. What steps are Ministers going to take to ensure that the police not only have the resources but the training and the back-up to be able to ensure that there are successful prosecutions. Sometimes we are seeing things being reported and not followed through to the conclusion, whether that is crime directed against the LGBT community or against other protected characteristics? These things can often have life-changing consequences for individuals and in the very worst cases lead to very serious incidents of violence.
I want to see action in a whole series of areas from this Government, and no doubt we on the Home Affairs Committee and others will continue to hold them to account. This does require that core resourcing, however. The Welsh Labour Government invested in PCSOs, whose numbers have been cut elsewhere in the country, including in England. There is close partnership-working between the commissioner, the Welsh Government, our local councils, our health boards and others to ensure that we are all working together to tackle these challenges, but that needs to be backed up with resources from the UK Government and from the Home Office, because without that, we will, particularly as a capital city, lag behind and struggle to meet some of the challenges we face.
Finally, I would not normally bring up this sort of thing, but it has concerned me. I am fully respectful of the right of the royal couple, Harry and Meghan, to choose a different path for themselves, but I understand that there are some quite serious concerns being raised about the costs of policing and protection for them, which could apparently be spiralling to tens or hundreds of millions of pounds. I find that deeply concerning, because when we look at some of the challenges facing our own communities people will rightly ask, “Where’s the money for our police officers? Should we be funding that security overseas?” I think that is a very reasonable question to be asking.
It is a very special moment for me to be making my maiden speech exactly 100 years after Lady Astor made hers. I would first and foremost like to thank the people of Hertford and Stortford for their huge trust and the great responsibility they have given me, putting me here to serve them; it is truly the honour of my life. It is also a huge pleasure to be able to pay tribute to my predecessor, Mark Prisk. He was a dedicated Member of Parliament and a great public servant who represented constituency and country with diligence and dignity for 18 years. He served in Government as a business and enterprise Minister and as Minister for Housing, and was our trade envoy to the Nordic and Baltic nations and Brazil. He was also a stalwart of the parliamentary choir—one achievement that, fortunately for anyone who appreciates music, I will not be trying to emulate. Mark will be missed both in the constituency and in this place, and I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing him and Lesley all the very best in the future.
I am incredibly privileged to represent Hertford and Stortford, a mix of beautiful countryside and market towns and villages—a special place which manages both to be ancient yet contemporary, vibrant yet tranquil, and traditional yet progressive and which has a deep, deep sense of community. We have historic Hertford whose castle once hosted our very own Parliament in 1563 when London was seized by plague, and which boasts the country’s largest, and unquestionably most magnificent, toothbrush collection; and we have beautiful Bishop’s Stortford, an ancient staging post and centre of agriculture and beer making. Wonderful Ware is a famed coaching town and home of the eponymous great bed of Ware, one of the V&A’s greatest treasures—and big enough, reputedly, to accommodate at least four couples. And we must not forget stunning Sawbridgeworth, mentioned in the Domesday Book and once home to Anne Boleyn.
With great transport links to London and, thanks to nearby Stansted airport, to the world, we are an integral part of the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor, bursting with talent and creativity, home to the globally renowned Henry Moore Foundation and successful businesses large and small. But, in the beautiful words of Rudyard Kipling:
“Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing—‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade”.
We must work to preserve what we cherish. I will be a strong voice for our farmers and our rural heartland, and for the residents of our towns and villages who are experiencing and facing unprecedented development. I am adamant that if we must build, we must build beautifully. We must build in an environmentally sustainable way, and in a way that means all my constituents continue to benefit from outstanding public services and infrastructure.
This responsibility I undertake proudly and with a certain sense of wonderment, because my family has made a journey from workhouse to this place. My great-grandmother was born in a workhouse. My grandad was a docker in the east end of London. My dad was a policeman. I went to a grammar school and became the first member of my family to go to university when I won a place to read history at Cambridge. My parents are my inspiration. I know they are proud of me, but I do not know if they know how proud I am of them and how very grateful. If you will indulge me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to say thank you Ivan Ford and thank you Mary Ford. Now you are in Hansard forever and that is my tribute to you. I would also like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my lovely husband Chris and my wonderful son Matthew, because without their love and support I could not do any of this.
I am the proud daughter of a policeman who was on duty during the coronation procession, who was outside the Iranian embassy when the SAS burst in, and who has his own bravery award, so it is a particular pleasure to speak in this debate. It will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that I greatly welcome the Government’s commitments to police numbers and funding, in particular the £15.9 million additional funding for Hertfordshire police. I know from experience that our police officers face challenges and dangers that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and they need and deserve our support. One of my first priorities as a Member of Parliament was the restoration of a police station in Ware and I am delighted that that is going to happen. It is great news for our wonderful local police and for our local residents.
After a 17-year career in finance and business, I took a career break to look after my son. During that time, I served as a magistrate. On my very first day, a boy walked in making his first ever appearance in an adult court. He was 18 but he was tiny, as he had been malnourished since he was a baby. He was grey and haggard, as he had regularly been given heroin by his parents to keep him quiet at night. By then, of course, he was himself a drug addict. He changed me and he inspired me. I am here to make a difference to people like him: the boy whose name I do not remember, but whose face I cannot forget. I want to be a champion for social impact bonds. I have seen them in action and I know that they can change lives: getting young people into work and education, getting people off the streets and improving children’s social care.
In Hertford and Stortford, we have a strong Quaker history, with a traditional of philanthropy and belief in our communities. Social impact bonds honour that tradition. I believe capitalism is a force for good and that businesses across our nation want to and do contribute to the communities of which they are a part. We can harness that force, while at the same time empowering the families, communities, charities and social networks that make up civil society, what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons”, to enable them to help themselves and to help each other. This is just one of many things I would like to do while I am here, and I have things to say about a lot of other things, but if I can make even a small contribution to my wonderful constituency and our great country, my time in this place will be well spent.
May I start by paying tribute to two very fine maiden speeches we have heard tonight? The hon. Member for Newbury (Laura Farris) captured in poetic terms the beauty of her constituency. She also captured the tragedy of Hungerford. I know parts of her constituency well. For many years I represented, in the old Transport and General Workers Union, the workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. All I would say is that her dad would be very proud of her. Likewise, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) captured the beauty of her constituency with references to Rudyard Kipling. She came from a modest beginning and battled adversity to come here to the House of Commons. Her mum and her dad must be very proud of her.
The first duty of any Government is the safety and security of their citizens. I have to say that the record of this Government over 10 years has been one of lamentable failure. In the west midlands, we have seen: £175 million cut from the police budget; 2,100 police officers go; remorseless pressure to cut costs over a 10-year period; and some of the finest officers in the police service I have ever met forced out under the A19 regulations, having served for 30 years at the age of 50, 51 or 52. The statistics are stark and the human consequences are tragic: knife crime up 17%; violence against the person up 29%; possession of weapons up 28%; and sexual crime up 15%.
I have seen the consequences in my constituency, like all Members. In the Frances Road area of Stockland Green, I will never forget meeting 70 residents in the street who were terrified in the community in which they had grown up: the rapid growth of houses in multiple occupation in their community; rising crime; antisocial behaviour; and rising drug crime. One woman said, “Jack, my great-great-great-grandparents bought the house in which I live. Now, I am afraid to go out at night.” Her young daughter added, “If I want to go during the day down to Slade Road to get a bus, I won’t go by myself. I ask my mum and dad to take me.” Erdington High Street has seen a growth in aggressive begging, drug crime and shoplifting. In Perry Common, a restaurant was attacked by machete-wielding gang of 30. Three sixth-formers from St Edmund Campion School have been attacked outside the school, including one by a machete. In the Castle Vale area, there has been a rapid increase in car theft. At its most tragic, there have been shootings and killings. A young man was shot dead in Church Road. Another young man was shot dead in Goosemoor Lane.
In Erdington and Birmingham, we are blessed with some outstanding police officers. I pay the warmest of tributes to the work that they do, often in the most difficult of circumstances. For example, in the Slade Road area Sergeant Jim Reid and Helena McKeon are police officers of the very best: deeply popular in their community, growing up in that tradition of neighbourhood policing. There is our local leadership in the form of Chief Superintendent Matt Shaw and Inspector Haroon, or “Harry” for short. Together, David Jamieson, our police and crime commissioner, and David Thompson, our chief constable, do a great job in difficult circumstances, but theirs is an unenviable task, because the pressures have mounted remorselessly. As numbers have fallen, demand has increased. That has taken a very heavy toll on the police service, including sickness and breakdown.
I say to the policing Minister that one would have hoped for some recognition of what 10 years has meant to communities such as Erdington, but there is not an ounce of contrition. Instead, the policing Minister says, “Rejoice!” I invite him to come to tell the people of Erdington, who are facing that wave of rising crime, to rejoice. They would ask, “What planet does he live on?” Neither is it true that somehow the wrongs of the past 10 years are about to be put right. An announcement has been made about putting in excess of 2,000 police officers back into the service and on the beat in the west midlands. If we look at the statistics, however, it is not 2,000 or 2,100. We will be 900 police officers short. The simple reality is that even at the end of this three-year period, we will be 900 police officers down on where we were back in 2010.
I also hope that the Government recognise that what took years to build will take years to rebuild. Neighbourhood policing in our country was the creation of the police service on the one hand and—forgive me for saying—of a then Labour Government on the other. The notion of neighbourhood policing involves police officers rooted in their community, not just tackling crime, but diverting people from it and gathering intelligence, including on serious wrongdoing. That has been done terrible damage by the sheer scale of the cuts that have been imposed on the police service.
The hon. Gentleman does know, does he not, that when we came to power, as widely advertised, there was “no money” left? Does he have any sympathy at all for the fact that we had to clear up that terrible mess?
Under the hon. Gentleman’s Government, national debt has doubled, but it also comes down to this simple reality: ultimately, political choices were made back in 2010. Choices were made about cutting the police that should never, ever have been made. I stress again what I said at the start: the first duty of any Government is the safety and security of their citizens. Is the hon. Gentleman seriously defending a cut to the police service of 20,000, which has had such catastrophic consequences for our country? I hope he is not.
It will take years to rebuild, but rebuild will must, because those relationships of trust and confidence are absolutely key. It will be necessary too, in the spirit of neighbourhood policing, that we see, for example, the rebuilding of youth services in cities such as Birmingham. We have had 43 youth centres closed in the city. That used to be an absolutely key part of working with the police to divert young people from crime.
Neighbourhood policing is key for one other reason. I remember that Mark Rowley, the former head of counter-terrorism, made an outstanding speech where he said that it is not just, for example, the security services, but intelligence gathering that is crucial to counter-terrorism. It is about relationships of trust and confidence in communities, whereby people come forward and say, “I think it’s him who is engaged in acts of terrorism.” We are talking about not just acts of Islamist terrorism, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) said, the rise in right-wing terrorism in our country. I stress again that the rebuilding of neighbourhood policing will be absolutely key, and that is not just about more police officers.
In conclusion, of course it is true that any increase in the number of police officers is welcome, but—forgive me for saying this—the Government need to reflect on the consequences of their actions. As a result of what has happened over the last 10 years, many, many people in my constituency, in Birmingham and throughout the country have paid a very heavy price. That is why I finish with what I said at the start: the Government have failed in the first duty of any Government, and that is the safety and security of their citizens.
I pay tribute to the Thames Valley police force for its tireless work in keeping our streets safe and thank the Minister for increasing our funding—we will be putting it to good use. I thank my friends and long-suffering family who are here tonight and my colleagues and hon. Friends in the House who are sitting beside me as I make my maiden speech.
Many of my hon. Friends have referred to the fact that today is the day that American-born—[Laughter.] I thought I would mention that—Nancy Astor gave her maiden speech, and I am delighted that it has only taken 100 years for an American accent to once again become moderately acceptable within the Chamber. Nancy Astor was famous for her quick wit and her ability to break down class barriers. She would work across the House to fight for social justice issues and I hope to do the same. Like Lady Astor, I have a shared passion for reform of our criminal justice system, particularly prisons, and breaking the cycle of reoffending and crime that so many young offenders find themselves in. I also want to fight for our veterans and police—men and women who have risked their lives to keep us safe and free.
Someone who was also a determined fighter is my predecessor, the right hon. Dominic Grieve. I pay tribute to his life of public service, his time as Attorney General and his devotion to his family, church and personal beliefs. I would like to thank him for his 22 years of service to the people of Beaconsfield and to this House. I hope that we can now begin to heal the divide and work for the good not just of the few, not just of the many, but of everyone who wants to live in a truly United Kingdom.
I will be working for the good of everyone, but I will of course be working for the good of Beaconsfield just a little bit more. With its amazing towns and villages, who could ask for more? It showcases all aspects of British life, whether it is the picturesque market towns of Marlow and Beaconsfield; or the historic villages that date back to the Domesday Book, like Taplow, Denham, Hedgerley and Burnham; or the iron-age hill fort in Gerrards Cross; or the rich history of the three—count them, three—distinct villages within the Ivers.
Beaconsfield has been home to influential thinkers, artists and entrepreneurs of the day, from William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania—I thought we would do an American theme today; why not?—whose estate sits within picturesque Stoke Poges; to Barry Gibb, lead singer of the Bee Gees; to Pinewood Studios, a global leader in the creative arts.
I should mention that Beaconsfield has always voted to elect a Conservative Member of Parliament. Not only are the people of Beaconsfield incredibly sound in their voting choices, but some of the greatest Conservative minds have lived there, from Edmund Burke to Benjamin Disraeli. It is because of the way that a one nation Conservative party is constantly embracing the future that an immigrant working mum with a foreign, strange accent has now been given the glorious opportunity of representing the best constituency in the country.
I congratulate the three Members who have given their maiden speeches today, including, lastly, the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey)—100 years later, another American made a very good contribution. Her predecessor was much respected across the House and I am sure from her contribution that she will be too.
We have seen the Government again trumpet that this is the best police settlement for a decade, which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) quite rightly pointed out, is extremely rich, given that this is the decade when the Conservative party has been in power and has brought us some of the most drastic police cuts that we have seen.
In Gwent, which is similar to other forces across Wales, council tax payers are paying almost half the budget of Gwent police through the policing precept. No local force or police and crime commissioner wants to ask local taxpayers to pay more, but there has been little choice during the 10 years of Tory austerity. I have said this before, but it needs emphasising: Gwent police have seen their budget cut by a staggering 40% over the last decade. As my right hon. Friend rightly said, even with the extra cash, the damage of the last decade will not be reversed by the settlement. In Gwent, Operation Uplift will take officer levels only back to where they were in 2010, if that.
As well as the loss of officers over the past decade, most forces have had to reduce their support departments, facilities and other functions that are absolutely vital to the successful training and deployment of police officers. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) said, the loss of expertise, long service, skills and talent is keenly felt.
Today Gwent police, like other forces across the country, are still faced with uncertainty over their funding, particularly the long-term funding of new police officers under Operation Uplift. The 2020-21 settlement apparently includes the consequential costs of the programme—things such as cars, body armour, information and communications technology and uniforms—but provides no clarity about how this vital equipment will be funded in future years. This is a crucial omission, especially given that the bulk of the new officers will not be recruited until years two and three of the scheme.
We need clarity about the training for new officers and how it will be funded after the first year, and answers on the apprenticeship levy for Welsh forces. Gwent police and other Welsh police forces have paid in excess of £2 million towards the apprenticeship levy each year since it was introduced in 2017. After pressure from the police and crime commissioners in Wales, including our local PCC, Jeff Cuthbert, the Home Office advised it would provide Welsh forces directly with their share of the levy from 2019, but Welsh forces have yet to see any of that money. I ask again: please will Ministers look into this and tell us what is going on?
I would also like the Government to provide more detail on the funding for police community support officers, who play such a vital and often unsung role. Across England and Wales, the number of PCSOs fell by almost 7,000 between 2010 and 2018. In Wales, their numbers would have been even harder hit, had not the Welsh Labour Government, who have no responsibility for policing, stepped in to fund 500 PCSOs. This is most welcome but it is yet another case of others having to step in to plug the gap left by the Home Office.
The Government still need to address the pensions issue, which others have raised. John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation, has highlighted that the police funding formula needs to be revisited for future years to ensure a fairer allocation of officers across all forces. The underlying issue is that behind the headline announcements, the Government still have not produced a long-term plan for funding our police. Yes, we need more officers on the beat, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham pointed out, we also need investment in police control rooms and custody suites, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, victims services and, crucially, the diversionary activities and targeted intervention to prevent people from committing crime in the first place. We also need to acknowledge the increasingly complex nature of policing, given the scale and complexity of new criminality, a lot of work on which goes unseen.
In the recent Opposition day debate on police, I cited the example of Gwent’s early action together team, which has transformed the way the force responds to children and vulnerable people. It has trained more than 1,300 officers to deal with complex vulnerability issues and offer families help and support at the earliest opportunity. It is the sort of scheme I am sure the Home Office would want to get behind, yet the police transformation fund, which has paid for that work, is to be cut. I urge Ministers to reconsider this decision for the sake of the vulnerable people whom this fund is potentially helping to turn away from crime and antisocial behaviour. This focused early potential should be funded at a national level.
Any increase in funding for our police forces is welcome—of course I welcome any increase in police resources—but this settlement does not go far enough and is defined by short-termism. The Government now need to concentrate their efforts on devising a long-term strategy for police funding. Like other hon. Members, I pay tribute to Gwent’s officers and admin staff, as well as Chief Constable Pam Kelly and PCC Jeff Cuthbert, both of whom were in Newport East on Friday, for the amazing, often unseen work they do, day in, day out and under great pressure, in order to keep us safe. I spoke at much greater length in a debate a few weeks ago about their work on serious and organised crime in Newport East. Let us never forget, though, the impact of the Government’s cuts over the last decade on the stress levels and workload of existing police staff. That should never be underestimated.
We have had three excellent maiden speeches this evening from my hon. Friends the Members for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson), for Newbury (Laura Farris) and for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey). I am sure they will work hard, both inside and outside the House, for their constituencies, and I look forward to working with them.
I welcome this motion to approve the police grant report, which will increase funding for extra officers throughout England and Wales. For North Wales police, this means a 10.4% increase, which equates to an extra £10.8 million. North Wales police are a force to be reckoned with, tackling drug rings on Ynys Môn and in the surrounding area, but they need our support. Their drugs raids are targeted and effective, and these brave officers have risked their lives many times to protect others. A constituent of mine was telling the story of a local man who was tragically found dead because of drug and alcohol abuse, and while we must get to the root causes—the lack of work and the hopelessness felt by many—we must also equip the police to do their job. That is not just about safety and security; it is about saving precious lives. It is also about alleviating the burden on our A&E departments by setting up facilities for drug and alcohol abuse so that our hard-working nurses and doctors can focus on emergencies.
I would like to thank the Minister for Crime and Policing for meeting me recently to hear the feedback from my visit with the police chief inspector and inspector at Llangefni police station on Ynys Môn. I look forward to welcoming him to my beautiful island. When we met, we agreed we needed maximum collaboration between law enforcement agencies across borders. Unity is key in the fight against this devastating trade. Last week, I had the privilege of meeting the group Prison! Me! No Way! which came to speak to students in Holyhead and Llangefni. It is an excellent initiative between Anglesey Youth Service, North Wales police and the Welsh Guards.
I want to make sure that North Wales police recruit many more new officers as part of the nationwide recruitment drive. I also welcome the Government’s commitment to giving greater support to the safer streets fund. As a mother, I can relate to all those parents who worry about where their children are at night, especially where there are no community venues to keep them amused and off the streets. In many ways, police officers are picking up the pieces of a loss of social cohesion and a lack of provision for our young people. As the new MP for Ynys Môn, I have witnessed wonderful community spirit at first hand. From helping my family to settle into a new home, to helping to set up my new office in Holyhead, neighbours have offered advice and friendship. My whole team has felt the warmth of the community, and the support of our local police has been invaluable.
I am determined to make life better for young people and for working people trying to do their best for their families, and I want to work together with the police on the island and beyond to help protect our young people and our communities. I am delighted to support this motion, which will have a positive impact on frontline policing on Ynys Môn and across north Wales.
I join others in paying tribute to the three excellent maiden speeches we have heard this evening, but particularly that from the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson). As a fellow daughter of a police officer, I was particularly moved by her speech, and I look forward to working with her on all matters relating to policing over the coming months and years. I also join others in paying tribute to our incredibly dedicated and brave police officers and police staff across the country, not least in West Yorkshire, under Chief Constable John Robins. They work incredibly hard to keep us and all our communities safe, and I pay tribute to them for the work they do.
The uplift in funding is incredibly welcome, not least because it is essential. Since 2010, West Yorkshire police has lost 1,200 frontline officers and 800 members of staff, which has undeniably had an impact on their ability to do the basics, let alone respond to the increased complexity of crime and the social challenges that are now the responsibility of the police. I have spoken at length in this Chamber about my experiences of being out with officers in my constituency and how one particularly harrowing experience led to the Protect the Protectors campaign. I welcome the investment in technology and advances in forensics that stand to make the police more effective, but I know that in almost every aspect of policing the number of boots on the ground really does matter.
West Yorkshire police is the fourth largest force in the country, taking in Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield districts. The Leeds district alone is bigger than 12 other police forces. As part of the police parliamentary scheme, I spent Friday night policing Leeds city centre, an area that regularly welcomes over 100,000 people on a night out, and I again pay tribute to the work that officers do there to keep us safe and maintain law and order over the course of a night. We have diverse communities and an awful lot to offer, but, sadly, that sometimes presents challenges with which many of us will be familiar. Our district encompasses a number of Prevent priority areas, and its socioeconomic characteristics and pockets of deprivation increase policing needs. It includes urban areas such as Leeds and Bradford, but also covers some of the sweeping rural areas that straddle the Pennines. The police grant must recognise the pressures that result from complex, evolving crimes such as cyber-crime and human trafficking, and the demands involved in preventing the sexual and criminal exploitation of children and conducting missing persons inquiries. That is why the review of the police funding formula will be so important. It was due in 2019, and the Minister said in his opening speech that it would take place in “years to come”. I urge him to get on with the process as quickly as possible.
In West Yorkshire, we also face challenges relating to firearms and serious and organised crime. Policing priorities have rightly changed to reflect increased awareness of exploitation in all its ugly forms, from child sexual exploitation—of which nearly 6,500 instances were recorded last year—to human trafficking and child criminal exploitation, but although the resources allocated to such exploitation have also increased, they have not yet increased sufficiently to meet the demand.
As we have heard from Members on both sides of the House this evening, a great many of the challenges facing the police relate directly to the pressures caused by cuts in other services. For example, West Yorkshire police responded to more than 20,000 cases of missing people in 2017, which is staggering and completely unsustainable. We have had a self-funded safeguarding uplift to meet that demand, but those officers have come from neighbourhood policing, so the numbers are down in all the vital neighbourhood policing teams with which I work so closely in my role as an MP—as we all do.
Like my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), I have been taking part in the police service parliamentary scheme, which is an incredibly insightful experience—especially as we look forward to debating, I hope imminently. the police powers and protection Bill—and I urge all MPs to do the same. During the recess last week I participated in two night shifts, one with PC Andy Barron, who deals with road policing in West Yorkshire, and one with Inspector Katie Woodmason, when I saw how people on a night out in Leeds city centre are kept safe.
I am sorry to say that the rhetoric in the Minister’s statements seems a world away from the reality of the conversations and experiences that I have had on the frontline. When I shadowed out-of-hours mental health service workers, I spent all night with two police officers who were unable to leave someone who had been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. They could not leave a young nurse on her own with a gentleman who did not agree that he should have been detained, and who was becoming increasingly aggressive. West Yorkshire police saw a 33% increase in the number of mental health-related incidents in 2018, which meant that they were required to respond to an additional 5,000 incidents.
Having started the Protect the Protectors campaign after shadowing single-crew police officers, I know that reduced numbers mean that officers themselves are particularly vulnerable to assaults when they are out on their own. I hope that the Minister is revisiting some of the resulting legislation, and will consider using any or all measures in the police powers and protections Bill to ensure that officers are kept safe. I also hope that the Minister who sums up the debate will tell us when we can expect the introduction of that Bill.
I know that the Government are looking into a number of complicated police pension issues that have been mentioned this evening. Perversely, owing to the changes in the thresholds at which public sector workers start to pay tax on their pension contributions, some senior officers are beginning to receive annual tax bills that are greater than their annual salaries. Unlike doctors, police officers cannot reduce their hours or withdraw their service to mitigate the impact of such bills. I understand that the Treasury is conducting a review of the issue with a view to shaping the next Budget. I ask the policing Minister to look specifically at how those perverse tax disincentives can be reformed, not least because it seems that police forces themselves are paying tax bills for individuals, who are reimbursed by the Home Office, which is reimbursed by the Treasury, to square off contributions to HMRC. In order to pay back the money in the long term, officers are realistically having to hand significant chunks of their pensions back on retirement in order to settle all the accumulated annual allowance taxes. There must be a better way of structuring police pensions to avoid that financial merry-go-round.
Police pension arrangements need to be much clearer, both for officers themselves and for the public purse. More importantly, we need to ensure that we do not haemorrhage experience and leadership in policing at a time when we can least afford it if we are to reach anything like the recruitment targets set by the Government.
The uplift in numbers reflected in this grant is incredibly welcome, but the settlement is for just one year, and does not reflect the increased complexity of crime in areas such as West Yorkshire. The grant provides for no inflationary increases, and core funding has increased only by the uplift funding. Therefore, all pay rises and non-pay inflation must be met by existing budgets. With that in mind, I hope very much that we will see the review of the police funding formula sooner rather and later, so that our police officers can do what they do best—keeping us and our communities safe.
I congratulate the four Members who have made maiden speeches this evening: my hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Laura Farris), for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson), for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) and for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie). They do not only follow Nancy Astor; they follow in the footsteps of four very distinguished former Members of Parliament, and I am sure that they will fill their shoes with aplomb.
When we look at the settlement for Suffolk on a year-by-year basis, comparing like with like, we see that it is reasonable: an increase of £9.2 million, from £125.7 million to £134.9 million. I shall therefore support the motion. However, the current basis on which the annual settlements are calculated short-changes Suffolk, and is in urgent need of review.
I will give way to my fellow Suffolk MP.
First, let me compliment my hon. Friend on his Ipswich Town socks, which are brilliant. On a serious note, however, let me say that on Saturday night there was a potentially fatal attack in St Matthew’s Street in Ipswich. Does my hon. Friend agree that if the funding formula is reviewed, there should be a clear understanding in the Government that it is not sleepy, rural Suffolk, and that in Suffolk we have some real issues and urban areas where we need to get on top of crime, and we need the funding to do so?
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I am about to set out the case for why Suffolk needs a far better funding settlement than it has at present.
Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary’s value for money profiles show that Suffolk has the third lowest staffing numbers per 1,000 of the population. Despite that, the county’s latest PEEL report reveals that it puts a higher proportion of its workforce into neighbourhood policing than the national average, that £152 per head of population is spent on policing in Suffolk compared with the national average of £192, and that 43% of Suffolk’s policing budget comes from local taxation. That is one of the highest percentages in the country.
There is indeed the challenge of rurality to contend with. Moreover, Suffolk has a high percentage of elderly residents, with approximately 13,000 people currently diagnosed with dementia. That creates additional safeguarding issues, and hence added pressure on the police. There are deprived neighbourhoods in Lowestoft in my constituency, and also in Ipswich, in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and they too need more support.
Suffolk has a long and porous coastline with 31 ports and marinas, and has for many years been a target for organised crime gangs involved in illegal immigration and the illegal drugs trade. The presence of the UK’s largest container port at Felixstowe, and the policing of the A12 and A14 routes to London and the midlands and north respectively, attract no additional support or funding.
Quite rightly, Suffolk constabulary has been collaborating with its neighbours in Norfolk in order to save money and reduce backroom costs. This collaboration, which began in 2010, has been successful and has yielded savings for Suffolk of £19 million. There is now very limited scope for making further significant changes. If Suffolk received the national average funding, the police budget would increase by nearly £30 million. If we received the same level of Home Office funding as neighbouring Norfolk, our collaborating partners, Suffolk’s grant would be £4 million higher. The case for reviewing the funding formula is strong. The Government have been promising a review since 2015, and I understand that at present it is intended that this should not take place until after the comprehensive spending review. I ask the Minister to provide, in her summing up, a more precise and, if possible, earlier timetable for carrying out this review. It is long overdue and Suffolk people are currently losing out.
It is a pleasure to follow the three excellent maiden speeches that have been made today, on the centenary of Nancy Astor’s maiden speech, and to hear such strong new female MPs speaking so powerfully about their constituencies. I concur with what my colleagues have said, particularly about the hon. Members for Newbury (Laura Farris) and for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson)—how proud their parents will have been of them and how touching it was to hear them speak about their parents’ public service.
We have had a series of greatest hits from the Opposition Benches today, including from several of my colleagues who are well known for their contributions to policing debates. I sometimes feel as though I could do their speeches for them, as this is the fourth police grant debate that I have had the privilege of responding to. I am pleased to have had so many excellent speakers on our side contributing so powerfully.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) spoke about the role of police staff and about how disappointing it was not to see any commitment to funding the reversal of the cut in their numbers. He mentioned how they contributed to victim support and how their loss has meant that the police have been forced to switch to a reactive mode of policing over the past 10 years, which has particularly destroyed neighbourhood and community policing. That refrain has been common among the contributions to the debate today, and we have really felt the loss of those people in our communities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) once again made the plea for Cardiff to have capital city status. It is baffling that it does not have it, when London, Edinburgh and Belfast all have that status and receive the funding that is attached to it. I hope the Minister will address that issue in her wind-up remarks. My hon. Friend also mentioned the proscription of two far-right groups that the Government have announced today. That is welcome, but it should be noted that far-right activity and terrorism have already moved on significantly from when those complaints were first made by the police. I concur with my hon. Friend that the Government need to be much swifter in responding to concerns raised about far-right activity.
I know the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) well, having visited it on several occasions to see the impact of the loss of policing and to meet some of his excellent local police officers, as well as former officers who have been forced out by the Government’s changes in the past 10 years. He talked powerfully about the increased demand and the heavy toll that it takes, not just on the police and their ability to respond but on sickness rates and the mental health of the officers involved. He asked, very fairly, what planet the Minister must be on in asking us to be grateful for today’s announcement. This is something that has been raised constantly: the idea that we should be pleased that the Government are rolling back even some of the cuts that have been made over the past 10 years, and the ridiculous claim that this is the largest investment made in a decade.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) paid tribute to the work of the Welsh Labour Government and their investment in PCSOs. She made an important point, which I do not think the Minister has addressed in previous debates, about the lack of clarity on funding for equipment such as cars, body armour and—the Policing Minister will appreciate this—lockers. She said that the settlement was defined by short-termism, and she is absolutely right. Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) spoke about the pressures of complex crime, from missing persons to child sexual exploitation. Like many Members in the debate today, she made the case powerfully for the reform of the funding formula.
I will come back to the funding formula later in my remarks, but it was telling to note the comments of the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who has repeatedly spoken out on behalf of his Suffolk force and described the unfair consequences of the funding formula. That also applies to Devon and Cornwall, and I have visited the local police force of the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) myself. I have heard about the digital dogs, and when I talk about them to other police forces they are really jealous about the innovation that has been made in Devon and Cornwall. However, it is quite clear that the funding formula needs to recognise the particular pressures of tourism on forces such as Devon and Cornwall, just as it needs to recognise the demand presented by serious organised criminality that is often masked by supposedly sleepy communities in areas such as Suffolk. In short, the funding formula must follow demand and not the complicated, obscure factors that currently play into it. As has already been said, the Opposition welcome the resources that have been announced today. The Minister knows that, although we have our concerns, which I will touch on shortly, will not be opposing today’s police grant proposals.
I want to start by talking about two opportunities that this announcement presents. The recruitment drive is a generational opportunity to change the make-up and composition of policing. We meet on the 21st anniversary of the publication of the Macpherson report, which was a searing account of how institutions had become divorced from the communities they served. Its publication served as a watershed moment in British policing. The report set targets for the police to reach 7% of the workforce being from the BME community within a decade, but 11 years on from that timeline, we still have not reached that target. Today the BME population in this country is almost 15% and the so-called race gap is now more pronounced than it was when Macpherson was first published. There is not a single chief constable in the country from a BME community, and at this rate of change it will take the Met 100 years to become truly representative. During the last major recruitment drive under the Labour Government, diversity increased, but not fast enough, and the fear is that that will happen again. We cannot wait a century for our police to reflect our society, so I urge the Home Office to use this opportunity of police recruitment to ensure that we see the necessary dramatic change within the next three years. That will happen only if the law is changed and targets are set.
As I have said, this is the fourth police grant debate that I have responded to, and over the past decade too much needless damage has been done. Political choices have led to police-recorded violent crime more than doubling in recent years, and to the loss of 21,000 police officers—far more than under any other Government since the war. Those choices have also led to the loss of 16,000 police staff—the people who keep the police service functioning, who go to the scene to help with investigations and who help to put evidence into a fit state for trial—and of nearly 7,000 PCSOs. The PCSOs are the eyes and ears of community policing, and they are integral to the voluntary intelligence at the core of UK policing. Economic crime is allowed to flourish unchecked.
The recent conversion of the Government to the recruitment of officers has come far too late, and it is pathetic to talk about this being the largest increase in 10 years. The needless damage simply cannot be reversed, and the experience of lost officers is gone for good. Analysis carried out by Labour shows that even if all 20,000 officers announced as part of this settlement were allocated, more than half of police forces—22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales—would still have a net loss of officers compared with 2010. In the far more likely scenario that around 13,000 officers will be allocated to the frontline, 60% of our forces would still be down on 2010, with large urban forces such as Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands losing out substantially.
That will be exacerbated by the funding formula used to allocate that funding. Everyone knows that the formula is unfair, including the Minister, who set that out again today. It will create the perverse outcome that the forces struggling with the most serious violent crime will see the least recruitment. Greater Manchester is down 1,000 since 2010, Hampshire is down 700, Merseyside 600, Staffordshire 400, and the West Midlands 1,100. Surrey, by contrast, will see an increase of more than 240 on 2010 levels. That cannot be right. Again, today’s announcement should have presented an opportunity for the Home Office to revise the funding formula to ensure that it led to an equitable settlement.
What is more, Ministers have decided to stump up just £153 million of the £360 million police pension costs for 2020-21. This black hole is the equivalent of more than 3,000 officers, and if action is not taken, it is almost certain that police recruitment plans will suffer or that cutbacks will have to be made elsewhere, to police staff and capital. Will the Minister provide certainty to forces today, address the pensions black hole and ensure that the costs are not imposed on police forces?
The change in the Government’s approach today is undoubtedly welcome. Although they are not prepared to accept responsibility for the damage they have done, perhaps they can help address some of the consequences for police officers. Over the past 10 years, and in some of the most unimaginably difficult circumstances, our officers have fought hard to keep our communities safe, but it has taken its toll. In 2019, 2,175 officers voluntarily resigned from the police—the highest number since comparable records began in 1998—hampering police efforts to strengthen forces after nine years of austerity.
Last year, the police cancelled over a quarter of a million rest days, fuelling concerns of a mental health crisis in the police. The Police Federation’s most recent survey found that almost 80% of officers have experienced stress in the past 12 months, with almost half viewing their job as extremely stressful. A recent study found that one in five officers suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder—equivalent to 24,000 officers in England and Wales. For many, policing is coming at the expense of their mental wellbeing, safety and quality of life, and that cannot be right. I ask the Minister to commit to using the forthcoming police powers and protections Bill to tackle the mental health and wellbeing crisis in our police.
This has been among the most difficult decades for policing since the modern police force was founded. We can assure the Government that in the coming years we will be mindful of the promises they have made and determined to see that they are held to them.
I thank all Members on both sides of the House for their heartfelt contributions to today’s debate. We have heard stories of the terrible impact of crime on constituencies across the country—stories that remind us that crime is a story not of statistics but of human suffering. There have also been unanimous expressions of support for our police forces from Members on both sides of the House, and colleagues will not be surprised to learn that I agree with each and every one of them.
Indeed, in my previous career prosecuting criminals, I saw for myself the dedication, professionalism and bravery of our officers. Home Office Ministers see that each day as well. Every day, officers face more danger than most of us will see in a lifetime. In every situation, they act selflessly to protect the public and tackle criminality in all its ugly forms, and that is one of the many reasons why, as has been mentioned by the hon. Members for Halifax (Holly Lynch) and for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), looking after our police forces is so important. The introduction of the wellbeing service and, in due course, the police covenant will hopefully meet with the approval of the House as a whole.
As has been acknowledged today, the nature of criminality is changing. Our forces face new challenges, with new technology ushering in a new generation of crime, but our police forces are rising to the challenge. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) how her local constabulary has a dedicated drone team and, indeed, the country’s first “digital search dogs” team. As the owner of a puppy who seems to be obsessed with my remote controls, I look forward to visiting that team to see its work.
At a time when criminal activity is increasingly complex and when the scourge of serious violence threatens more and more communities across the country, we have a duty to ensure that the police have the resources they need to keep our people and our country safe. However, police funding is about more than material resources. We want to send a clear message to our police that this Government support them. This historic increase in police funding sends that message. Our unprecedented recruitment drive, the largest in decades, sends that message. And our clear commitment to combating the rise in serious violence sends that message.
As a female Minister responding to my opposite number who also happens to be a woman—with a female shadow Home Secretary, I am afraid the Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), is the odd one out—I am delighted that we have all had the chance to speak in this great Chamber on the centenary of the first speech by the first woman to take her seat in this place. We have had the benefit of two female Deputy Speakers during this debate, too.
I am also delighted that, in marking that important moment in this place’s history, we have heard three new female colleagues give their maiden speech. I look forward to them making their mark in this century. We heard delightful tributes to their immediate predecessors, Richard Benyon, Mark Prisk and the right hon. and learned Dominic Grieve, who are remembered fondly and with respect on both sides of the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Laura Farris), however, went one better and paid an even more personal tribute to a certain predecessor: her own father. It was very moving to listen to the example he set her, and I have no doubt that she will burnish her family’s proud record in this place and do him proud. She also raised the topic of flexible working, which the Metropolitan police are piloting to encourage a more diverse workforce and to recruit the best talent. This is an interesting challenge not just to those with childcare responsibilities but to the wider policing family, including those who have finished their 30 years’ service. I welcome the contribution she will inevitably make on this important topic.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) mentioned the famous toothbrush collection in her constituency and the enormous bed of Ware, which can apparently accommodate four couples at one time—there is a joke there somewhere, but I will not tread there.
My hon. Friend talked very movingly of her family’s journey from the workhouse to this House, and she put her parents and her husband on the record. It was an incredibly moving speech. She also told us of her experience as a magistrate and, in particular, of a poor young, emaciated, grey boy who had been injected with heroin by those who were supposed to love and care for him and whom she met as he appeared in the adult magistrates court for the first time. She made the point that such cases haunt those of us who have worked in the criminal justice system, so I very much look forward to working with her on this Government’s exciting journey of creating opportunity for all.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) said it has taken a mere 100 years for a “moderately acceptable” American accent to be heard in the Chamber—I think it is much more acceptable than that. Her message of unifying our country draws not just on the present day but on the great history of her constituency. It is a great history not simply because the good people of Beaconsfield have only ever voted for a Conservative Member of Parliament but because of her more distant predecessors, Edmund Burke and Benjamin Disraeli.
That ties in neatly with the fact that this one nation Government are working for the whole country, as demonstrated by this very good funding settlement. This is the second year that the Government have issued a record-breaking increase to police funding levels through a police settlement that shows our commitment to giving the police the resources they need to fight crime and keep the public safe.
The total funding being made available to the policing system next year will increase by more than £1.1 billion, with the help of police and crime commissioners using council tax. This increase will enable the police to bear down on criminals who are terrorising our towns and to reduce the number of victims of crime. It will provide £150 million in funding to fight organised crime and to continue cracking down on online child abuse. Tackling serious violence will be backed with £39 million, including £20 million for tackling county lines drug dealing. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie) spoke so eloquently about that and about the charity in her constituency, Prison! Me! No Way!, which does so much to tackle it.
Why is the Minister not just honest with the public? There is this idea that the Government are giving the record sums that she is mentioning, but that is just not the case. They are doing exactly what they did last year. Yes, extra funding is coming nationally, but she is asking my constituents and everybody else to pay more through their local precept. As I explained in my contribution, that means that areas such as mine will be at a disadvantage in terms of the amount of money they can raise compared with others. I just ask her to be honest with the public.
I am happy to explain again the way in which the funding formula has been worked out. The Government grant to police and crime commissioners will be more than £701 million and the money raised by precept, should PCCs take full advantage, will be £248 million. I know that this is one of the great debates between our two parties, but I make the point gently: there is no such thing as a magic money tree. This is taxpayers’ money; there is no Government money.
I am going to move on.
This funding settlement is a good deal for the police and our law-abiding citizens, and a bad deal for criminals. It means the police will have increased resources to employ more officers to tackle serious and organised crime, and protect the public from terrorism. One way in which this battle is to be fought is with the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers over the next three years. The additional £750 million for the recruitment of officers means that £700 million will be made available to PCCs for the recruitment of an additional 6,000 officers by the end of March next year. I wish to clarify one point. The shadow Home Secretary made a point about the Prime Minister’s record in London. Police numbers in London were almost 1,000 higher when he left office as Mayor than when he began and, importantly, crime fell, particularly murder and youth murder. Surely that is the most important statistic of all.
I will move on to the funding formula, if I may, as many colleagues have raised this issue. It is still the most reliable mechanism we have to distribute core grant funding to forces, but we are aware of the concerns about the current formula that have been voiced by the policing sector and in this place, including by my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), and we have stated that the current arrangements are out of date. My hon. Friends the Members for South Dorset (Richard Drax) and for North Devon articulated the particular pressures that tourism brings to their constituencies, and the PCC for Devon and Cornwall has made this point strongly to the Policing Minister. He is, of course, considering that and other points about the future form of the funding formula.
The right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) rightly raised concerns about the criminal justice system as a whole. We have to ensure that the system as a whole works for victims, witnesses and those who are most vulnerable. It is intricately connected as a system, and we were pleased to announce in our manifesto not only the royal commission looking at the criminal justice system as a whole, but more funding for the Crown Prosecution Service and up to £2.5 billion on further prison places to ensure that those criminals who are prosecuted and convicted serve time, thus keeping our constituencies safe.
Will the Minister give way?
If I may, I will move on to the point about Cardiff, because the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) raised the point about Cardiff capital city grant funding. South Wales police will receive £312.4 million next year, if they utilise their full precept flexibility, which is an increase of £21.1 million. We recognise the impact that serious violence has had in south Wales, which is why we have given the force £1.2 million of additional funding this year from the serious violence fund. The Policing Minister is happy to meet him and other colleagues to discuss this generous settlement for South Wales if that meets with his approval.
The subject of serious violence has rightly been raised by hon. Members from across the House. We are determined to crack down on this crime, which is why we are changing the law so that the police, councils and health authorities are legally required to work together to prevent and tackle serious violence, to ensure a whole-system response to this pernicious problem. To support that effort, the Home Secretary announced in December that 18 police and crime commissioners will receive an additional £35 million to continue to fund violence reduction units, which are specialist teams that tackle violent crime in their local areas. We are also improving stop-and-search powers, giving more than 8,000 police officers enhanced powers to crack down on violent crime. We all want it to stop and through the various measures I have mentioned we will enable that to happen.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) raised the issue of fraud, which we are absolutely committed to doing more to combat. We have pledged to strengthen the National Crime Agency so that it can tackle the threats that we face from fraud, county lines gangs, child sexual abuse, illicit finance, modern slavery and people trafficking. We are moving at pace to recruit the 20,000 extra officers to fight all forms of crime, and an ongoing review of serious and organised crime is under way to consider the powers, capabilities, governance and funding required to bolster our response to today’s threats, including fraud.
In conclusion, I thank Members again for their contributions to the debate. This settlement shows our comprehensive commitment to all areas of policing. Every police force in England and Wales will see a significant increase in funding. We are tackling serious violence, fighting serious and organised crime and delivering the largest expansion in police numbers in a generation. There can be no doubt that this settlement represents the start of a golden era for policing and a dark day for crime.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) for 2020–21 (HC 51), which was laid before this House on 22 January, be approved.