rose to call attention to the contributions of the police and the Home Office in the identification, prevention, solving and reduction of crime; and to move for Papers.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am most grateful to those noble Lords who will be speaking in this debate. Their quality and experience almost, but not quite, make me feel sorry for the noble Lord who is to wind up on behalf of the Government.
For myself, I have no intention of dwelling on any particular case involving the police. Newspapers, television and the radio all inundate us with ever-growing horror stories. The trouble is that they are not plucked out of the air. The media report government figures which estimate that one in four people has been a victim of crime, and as a result the impact upon these people's lives can be immense and lasting. It is a worrying picture.
Last year the Government produced a new Home Office strategy on how to reduce crime. In it they talked about,
“a new relationship between the citizen, local agencies and central government”,
and emphasised the importance of working with local communities in addressing their concerns about local crime. I quite agree and hope that the steps they lay out, such as increasing the flexibility of local units, are implemented rapidly and effectively.
Listening to local communities can result in scarce resources being targeted more narrowly on the issues that matter most to people. Engaging those most affected by the crime can give people new confidence and trust, not only in themselves and in what they can do to make their world safer, but in the police. Without this relationship between the community and the police, no amount of top-down, centrally imposed reforms will ever have a significant impact on crime.
The Government have spoken much over the past few years about engaging with various existing organisations within a community as a way of engaging this trust and acceptance. Organisations such as a local church or school can all be routes through which the police can meet and get to know sections of the community they would otherwise not have access to. And, of course, charities and other independent organisations have the most enormous potential for adding to police capabilities. The Government have acknowledged the role these organisations can play within their initiative. In their strategy paper they state:
“The third sector makes a vital contribution to keeping communities safe. There are many excellent programmes and services being run by voluntary and community organisations”.
This is where I declare an interest. I am a board member of Crimestoppers, an independent charity which runs a free telephone line and encourages people to ring in anonymously with information about crimes or criminals in their communities. It then passes the information on to the local police force for the appropriate action to be taken. One of the most interesting aspects of the operation is that, although a reward is sometimes offered, only 1 per cent of eligible callers claim it. This simple idea has led to some truly remarkable successes. Since it started in 1988, it has contributed to 83,523 arrests or charges, the recovery of stolen goods worth £100 million and the seizure of drugs worth more than £145 million. On average, 17 people are arrested every day because of information received. Once every five days, one of those people is charged with murder.
Passing on this information is not the only way in which Crimestoppers helps the police. It also runs the Most Wanted website, where police services can publicise appeals for the most serious criminals who have so far escaped justice. To date, the website has been responsible for the arrest of 400 serious criminals. It also engages in specific projects in partnership with the police, such as Operation Pentameter 2, which is a campaign started in October 2007 in partnership with the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre and the police to encourage people to give information about human trafficking. An earlier incarnation of that campaign in 2006 shows what we can expect from this example of genuine partnership between the police and charities; 88 victims of trafficking were rescued and 366 people were arrested or charged.
I could continue the list of successes, but I shall resist. I shall not resist saying that the help that Crimestoppers has given the police has led to a recent surge in requests for its involvement, not only from local police forces but also from new national law enforcement agencies, such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, as well as regulatory bodies such as the Security Industry Authority and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. It appears to be universally agreed that Crimestoppers is a roaring success. And yet, this success is founded largely on private donations and the work of volunteers. The generosity of those who contribute their time and money to this organisation should not be underappreciated, but your Lordships who have worked in the charitable sector know how hard it is to rely on what must, by its nature, be an uncertain and fluctuating resource.
Not all the budget of Crimestoppers is funded by private donations. The Home Office has contributed up to £900,000 a year towards the head office costs since it applied for a grant in 2002. Unfortunately, that does not meet those costs fully, and the difference must be met from reserves of donated money. Nor is this income reliable. Despite hopes following discussions with Home Office officials, a three-year funding agreement, which expired this year, has not been extended, Crimestoppers is once again in the situation of having to return annually in the hope that another grant will be made. Noble Lords can imagine the effect that this uncertainty has on forward planning. Most organisations plan for the long term. Members of staff at Crimestoppers are specially trained to deal with the thousands of calls received each day, yet job security is not extended beyond a year for these highly trained individuals.
The limitations to Home Office support extend beyond administration costs. On occasion, the Home Office commissions Crimestoppers for specific projects. For example, the Home Office has recently granted funding for a communities campaign in Southwark and Lambeth to address gun and knife crime. This project, with the help of Crime Concern, local youth groups and the New Destiny Trust, has already doubled the amount of information coming in and the number of arrests made. But it is entirely dependent on the six-month government grant and, in a few weeks, this will come to an end and everyone will have to close shop and go home, thereby threatening an intelligence stream that has become vital in fighting knife and gun crime.
The Home Office should be well aware of the potential of Crimestoppers. As far back as 2001, a Home Office evaluation concluded that even Crimestoppers underestimated its own value. Another evaluation in 2003 concluded:
“A way of maintaining a reliable and constant stream of funding should be identified”.
The Government’s recent strategy paper claims:
“The Government is keen to support”—
“in ensuring that their role can grow: both in shaping and, where appropriate, delivering the way in which communities are protected and crime is reduced”.
I suggest to the Minister that this organisation has incontrovertible evidence of its enormous untapped potential to help the police in the reduction of crime. What more, I ask your Lordships, can a charity do to show its eligibility for government support?
I cannot think of a more appropriate way to end a parliamentary week than by examining the current situation concerning the police and the Home Office. As we speed our way home, we should remember that we are dependent on the presence, efficiency, and courage of the former, while we depend on the latter making the best use of its multiple responsibilities, which of course includes finance. The future of these bodies is our future; it concerns our loved ones, our homes, our travel and, most certainly, the future of this country. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for, and congratulate her on, securing this debate, which, because of its wording, covers a wide spectrum of subjects and will, I suspect, prove to be very interesting. I ought to declare at the beginning of my contribution that I will speak on roads policing. It is an area in which I have up-to-date experience, as I still go out on patrol, despite my grey hairs, and in which I continue to seek a better understanding from others who say that traffic officers are there only to issue speeding tickets. They are not.
It has been said on numerous occasions that “Most drivers aren’t criminals but most criminals drive”. That is still the case. The specialist traffic officer will observe a little something in someone’s driving or vehicle that leads to an arrest, which could be for something not connected in any way with the driving or the vehicle’s condition.
The drive for efficiency through local neighbourhood policing has tended to skew policing activity in favour of fixed targets and measurable performance which, in some ways, is not a bad thing; but the consequences of this has resulted in forces becoming detached from providing a visible and operational presence to deal with roads policing issues. But there is no target encompassing roads policing that the performance of chief constables is measured against. Is this another example of what gets measured gets done and what is not measured is ignored? I shall return to the subject of targets later.
Because of that, the number of traffic officers has been reducing year on year, with the result that they rarely have the time to patrol inquisitively but can react only to calls from the control room, be it an emergency or not. I ask your Lordships how many times they have driven on a motorway, perhaps for hundreds of miles, and not seen a uniformed police presence. There are, of course, HATOs but they are not police and have very limited powers. In many constabularies, the police only go out on to the motorways in marked cars if and when they are called to deal with an incident, and the criminals are aware of this.
Motorways carry the biggest travelling community in the land. Open European borders and increased continental traffic make our borders and roads network more vulnerable to breach by criminals and terrorists. Observant police patrols, which have the latest technology in their cars, are able to use their powers spontaneously to stop and apprehend offenders. If they are not there—as they most certainly are not—what message does that send out?
A few years ago, I did a course called Tactical Pursuit and Containment—TPAC—which, in effect, gave instruction on how to stop a vehicle, usually on a motorway, by boxing it in with a few police cars. Before the course started, I went out on patrol with an officer who was driving very carefully, as he did not know me. After we had been chatting for a couple of hours, he said something to the effect that I had attended more police driving courses than he would ever manage to do in his whole career. After that statement, he went into proper traffic officer driving.
Now, noble Lords may well smile at his comment but it brings into focus the loss of skills among roads policing officers, which has been creeping up over the years. I am assured by operational police officers that this seriously concerns them. Gaining the required range of abilities to tackle the full extent of enforcement requirements necessitates experience and knowledge, which are not being maintained. So, if the police are not able to enforce the law—especially some of the specialist legislation that requires detailed understanding and practical awareness of the law—who can?
At the moment, there are 43 forces that have different force requirements for their vehicles. I add my voice in support of the efforts of the Police Federation and the national police fleet managers, who are actively trying to get some national consistency with the procurement of standardised police vehicles that are factory-built to police specifications. It must make economic sense and bring about cost benefits if all forces collaborate more effectively in obtaining a vehicle built to police standards rather than do their own thing.
Local communities are important and need strong, robust policing but they stretch the length and breadth of the country and across all road networks. The transient population use all sorts of vehicles and, in one way or another, they contribute to the many examples of anti-social behaviour that we often hear about and the myriad offences that are becoming routine and unenforced other than through fixed cameras.
As the criminal fraternity use vehicles to get from A to B, it makes sense to assume that they know that the chances of their being caught on a major road are very small, provided that their vehicles do not come up on the ANPR for any reason. So why do chief constables ignore roads policing? The answer is simple. There are no targets and the vehicles detract from their financial budgets. Oh, and they fail to acknowledge the fact that a roads policing officer usually has a higher arrest rate for non-motoring offences than most other types of officer.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, in his recently published review on policing, mentions the needs of modern policing to deal with threat, harm and risk. Applying these three key elements from Sir Ronnie’s assessment to the problems on the roads, we still have an unacceptably high death toll. Approximately 3,200 people are killed on our roads every year, which equates roughly to the loss of people on eight jumbo jets. The serious injury figures are worrying and the drink-drive figures are no less acceptable, with around 550 people killed each year while under the influence of alcohol—that is, 10 people killed each week due to drinking and driving. The problem of drugs and driving is difficult to quantify but police sources tell me that the figures are equally damning. Correctly, concern is raised from many areas about the high level of male drivers under 25 being involved in this terrible carnage each year. These are crimes and most certainly not victimless crimes, yet the police are not generally asked to account in their neighbourhood policing plans for their activity and intervention in tackling this local and national problem.
I used to go out on traffic patrol on a regular basis with a constable whom I have known for many years. I said that I would return to targets and I would like to read part of an e-mail I received recently from him which, to me at least, is very disturbing. He said:
“The garage has changed quite a bit, mostly because of management ... ‘decisions’ and of course the introduction of ‘targets’ for individual officers viz 14 arrests per year minimum, 150 endorsable tickets for No Insurance and at least 150 either seatbelt or speed tickets—you will note the absence of any tickets for defective tyres, steering, brakes or other vehicle condition or con”—
that is, construction—
“and use offences as these will be effectively torn up as they are not regarded by management as counting towards the totals!! So now we have the bizarre situation of traffic officers not being trained in vehicle examination or accident reconstruction techniques and often not wanting to be so trained! All this change of course depresses the older ‘trafpols’ such as myself and others like Pete, Paul, Alistair and Dave (who all send their regards by the way) as it seems we no longer perform such a wide safety and enforcement role, merely a ticket generating role but if we don’t meet the targets well—‘look for another post’ was the chief’s response!!”.
I conclude by providing additional food for thought. On 13 March this year, North Wales Police undertook an operation to target heavy goods vehicles using a certain road—just one road. The operation finished earlier than anticipated due to the high level of offending, with the check site becoming full despite vehicles being escorted to a secondary parking area: 59 vehicles were stopped and the offending rate, which covered a wide range of offences, was two out of every three goods vehicles stopped. Does this happen elsewhere in the country? Are there other road policing officers available to carry out similar operations in other constabularies? I wonder.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, on securing this debate. It is indeed very timely. I want to talk about the leadership of policing and workforce modernisation. We all admire the role which the police service undertakes on our behalf. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the work and dedication of those officers who serve the communities of this country with bravery and honour. So my remarks may disappoint some of those whom I have always supported, but after a great deal of thought and a huge amount of reading, I have come to the conclusion that things have to change—and fast.
In his report, The Review of Policing, Sir Ronnie Flanagan states:
“Policing is far too important to be left to the police alone. It is a public service and one that can only be effectively carried out with the support and consent of the public. Using and developing this engagement with the public is one of the most important challenges in modern policing and it is a challenge that must be met at all levels.
At the local level, the police service needs to engage with communities to understand their needs and respond to them. At the national level, it will require all of those who contribute to the public debate about policing—in political parties, in the media and within the ‘policing family’—to engage in an honest discussion about the future of policing.
To deal with the range of challenges that policing faces, difficult questions, such as where should the police service do less and where might public expectations be unrealistic, must be discussed in an informed way that reflects the importance of making the right, rather than the easy, decisions for the future”.
A number of years ago now, I was deeply involved in just these issues. As a member of my police authority for over 20 years and chairing it for eight years, I struggled with some of the issues we are facing today. Indeed, as a deputy chair of the Association of Police Authorities—to whose staff I pay an enormous tribute for their leadership in the issues facing all police authorities and in their determination to solve the difficult problems—we tried very hard to bring some of the modernising issues to the fore, especially in the area of human resources. Sir Ronnie has neatly addressed many of the outstanding issues that we still need to address, and we must get on with implementing the reforms—and quickly.
A long time ago, I had the temerity to address a conference of police authority members and chief constables, and I was talking about leadership in the service. I gently criticised the chief constables for being “much of a muchness”. Of course, the clear exceptions to that suggestion are to be found in your Lordships' House, but the argument was as valid then as it is today. Where are the leaders of a highly complex and expensive organisation—one that is getting ever more difficult to manage without major new skills being imparted to them—to be found? Times have changed, and the type of person now needed to run a huge public service such as the police has perhaps changed as well. Now, chief constables have to contend with even more, especially under the performance regimes of recent years. Barry Loveday, reader in criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth, writes that,
“emphasis placed on performance regimes by government only results in the demise of leadership within these services. Performance measurement in effect allows no opportunity for leadership while helping to create what has become an apotheosis of managerialism ... under a performance regime there is no requirement for leadership skills”.
Reforms are on the way and the National Policing Improvement Agency, the APA and others have great interest in the area, but how can we be assured that the leaders of the service in the future will be able to meet the harsh challenges coming their way in the next few years? There is no more money in the coffers, a huge pensions bill to fund, a shrinking workforce, greater public expectation and so on. What will be offered by way of training for the people who will head up the organisations? Many years ago, I was told by a number of chief constables that they had no need for further training once they had made it to the top. In fact, I was vilified for even suggesting that they might need anything at all. I only hope that today’s chief officers see that differently. Crime may have fallen by a third since 1997 and confidence in the police may have risen since a low in 2003-04, as Sir Ronnie states, but much more needs to be done to sweep away some of the practices that have been endemic in policing since before 1981, when I first became interested and engaged in these matters.
That leads me to talk about the area that may well be most contentious, but that we have a duty to address—workforce modernisation. Twenty per cent of officers’ time is still spent on paperwork. I am delighted that the Home Secretary has made money available for the handheld computers for police to be able to input information, and that they will need to do that only once. However, that is only a small part of what is needed if we are to see real changes in policing structure and make-up. In his paper “Policing a Liberal Society” published by the Institute of Economic Affairs, John Blundell writes:
“‘The average PC now spends 75 per cent of each shift engaged in nonsense which has little to do with catching criminals or helping victims,’ says an anonymous police officer who writes a blog critical of the amount of time police waste on red tape.
Only one in 58 police officers is out”,
I apologise, my Lords—a slip of the tongue. The paper reads:
“Only one in 58 police officers is out on patrol at any one time in some police force areas—that’s about four per town of 90,000 people—yet England and Wales has a record 143,000 officers.
Only one in 40 in some forces is available to respond to 999 calls.
In 2004/05, the Metropolitan Police spent £104.4 million on investigating robberies and house burglaries and almost as much—£101.9 million—on non-incident-related paperwork.
A man cautioned for being ‘in possession of an egg with intent to throw’ and two children arrested for being in possession of a toy pistol are among trivial offences police officers have pursued in a bid to meet government targets for crime detection”.
So what might the answers to these thorny questions be? We are, I hope, going in the right direction with neighbourhood policing and the support now being given to PCSOs. Perhaps now another area needs serious consideration: that of mixed-economy teams. To explain these teams, Barry Loveday, again dealing with workforce modernisation in the police service, gives just two examples of excellence in the pursuit of this goal:
“In Surrey 26 police constables have been replaced by five mixed-economy teams and one constable … Each team is made up of one constable, three investigative assistants and one administrative assistant. Experience suggests that these are providing ‘powerful evidence’ that the chief officer ought to reduce police officer numbers and increase the ‘overall head count’. This can be expected to increase the number of service delivery hours provided to the public substantially”.
He goes on,
“an analysis of 700 reported crimes was to demonstrate the current problem of the mismatch of skills. It found that only 10-20% of crime incidents required the skill of a detective, while 60% involved taking statements or handling property. Nearly a third of the cases analysed appeared to require only ‘personnel assistant type skills’”.
In the Bexley pilot, we find—I am sorry about all these quotes—that,
“the use of police staff in the role of Investigative Support-Officers … has proved to be highly effective. The first significant change followed an internal evaluation of the investigation and management of crime. A decision was made to end the system where individual CID officers were made fully responsible for investigating individual cases ‘from cradle to grave’ and were also responsible for setting up ID parades and collecting witness statements etc”.
It is my understanding that this pilot was so successful that it was shut down. Can the Minister throw any light on that? If he is not able to do so today, I would happily receive a response in writing.
At the beginning of my speech, I quoted Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s report, and now quote another of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Police, Mr. Robin Field-Smith, who says that, properly, workforce management,
“is the whole spectrum of business process engineering from workforce modelling, based on demand management and dynamic intelligence, through costed resourcing, career planning, effective leadership and management, appropriate reward and recognition, and a proper support system, geared to improved service delivery and with a clear customer focus … We are not starting with a clean sheet of paper, so there is the issue of handling obsolescent or obsolete practices, aligned to unhelpful cultures. There is also an issue of language, either where different terms mean different things, or where the impact of particular terminology is not thought through”.
We must look at basic command units—BCUs—to deliver the local and particular service demanded by our communities. In order for them to do that, power must be devolved from the centre, including the resources to enable a BCU commander to perform effectively. Will chief constables give up that power? The question needs addressing at the very least, so I ask the Minister whether he is aware of any changes within the service that will change the structure of policing. Will the long-awaited Green Paper do so? When will that be published?
In any reform it is necessary to get the balance right, ensuring that protection against serious crime is balanced with the reassurance role now expected by communities. We also need a more skilled and specialised workforce for our fight against international criminal activity and terrorism. We need leadership at all levels, complex problem solving, using coercive powers and negotiating with partners, which will take up more and more time. Flexible team structures will be needed to ensure effective and efficient action. What do police officers actually do and what do police staff do? There need to be changes to training and development. There appears to be a consensus now that training and development programmes are not quite right and need rebalancing.
There needs to be proper reward for skills. Effort and performance need to change. It should be about not just the length of service but competence and delivery. If someone is a good neighbourhood officer, why not keep him there and reward him properly to reflect his experience and skill? Finally, perhaps it is time we looked at the whole issue of warranted officers, but that must be for another day and another debate.
We support our police in the work they do on our behalf. The job is demanding, can be dangerous and is often extremely unpalatable, but society has changed completely since the days of “Heartbeat”, and we must now help the police change for the future. Enlightened police officers know that this must happen and are anxious for change. We have been shown a way forward by many eminent academics and policing professionals. All we need now is the will to take that change forward.
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and congratulate her on securing this debate. Our association goes all the way back to the 1970s, when I was a very young and, no doubt, rather callow divisional commander in Cambridge and she was already flying high a large flag on the local authority scene in Cambridge. It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. I endorse what she said about Crimestoppers. I have long admired what it does and the way it achieves results. I declare an interest because, as many of your Lordships know, I served in all ranks in the police up to 1997.
We face an acute problem. Despite government reassurances that volume crime is falling—as indeed it is, for which the police and the Home Office can take credit—public confidence remains stubbornly and understandably low. Only 42 per cent of people believe that the system is effective in bringing criminals to justice; only 40 per cent believe that it deals with cases promptly and efficiently; and, even worse, only 34 per cent believe that it meets the needs of victims.
More than half of criminals apprehended by the police do not go to court; most of them are dealt with by caution, on-the-spot fine or cannabis warning. This growth in non-court dispositions has led a number of senior police officers to criticise the Home Office’s preoccupation with targets to increase what are termed “offences brought to justice”. They say that this preoccupation with targets has led to a police culture of neglect of the serious. On 13 November 2007, in a front-page article in the Times, Richard Ford reported at length about this. He quoted a senior officer who said that the target-driven culture was diverting the police from investigating more serious crime and was causing a concentration on minor, easy-to-detect offences. The officer called for an improvement in the way in which the police deal with violent and sexual attacks, as well he might, because the number of under-18s committing violent crime has risen by 37 per cent in only three years and the number of those in that age group committing robbery has increased yet further, by 43 per cent.
In last Wednesday’s Question Time in your Lordships’ House, I asked the Minister whether he anticipated that the police’s task would diminish in the future. He did not answer that question, but he might have been aware of the Cabinet Office briefings to which I referred on 7 June last year in the last major debate on policing in your Lordships’ House. Those briefings forecast significant future trends that would affect the police, including a growth in low-aspiration cultures, as they put it, which I take to mean an extension of the underclass; continuing high reoffending rates; crime becoming more global and therefore more difficult to combat; and no real-terms rise in police budgets.
That debate was seminal and raised fundamental questions about the shape and nature of policing in the 21st century. Nine months later, however, we still await answers. In your Lordships’ House last week, the Minister was thin on detail when replying to questions on policing, but he was no doubt working to an impossibly tight Home Office brief to avoid detailed comment while further discussions took place and further responses were considered. We have been in the dark for months. First we waited for the Flanagan interim report and then we waited for the Flanagan final report. Now we are asked to wait for the Green Paper on policing that was due this January. We are still waiting.
Sir Ronnie’s final report is tightly focused. The Home Office terms of reference to which he had to work were concerned with only three major issues: reducing bureaucracy to free up officer time; embedding neighbourhood policing; and better resource management. All those are important, but there was no focus at all on altogether more fundamental issues that should necessarily have been addressed before any detail was considered. There was nothing at all about level 2 crime, which is the category that most affects the general public; nothing about the growing influence of central government; little about the place of local authorities and police authorities in accountability; nothing about the essential issue of structure, which has already been referred to in this debate; and nothing about dealing with major issues and events.
That list is not exhaustive—I could go on—but so far as we have been allowed to judge progress to date, I see only a continuation of Home Office micromanagement. One has only to turn to the glossary in Sir Ronnie’s final report and count the organisations, bodies, partnerships, assessment units, programmes and initiatives—I counted 29—that bear down collectively on the service. That is not so much a minefield as an area that should be signposted, “Danger: Unexploded Bureaucracy”.
However, Sir Ronnie did very well with a limited brief, and peeping out from under the skirts of the final report are occasional glimpses of some of the matters that I have identified. These critical issues are vital to the future efficiency and development of a service that for far too long has been subject to far too much interference and far too much constant, small-scale adjustment. Those adjustments have done little to advance the professionalism of the service, while major questions that go to the root of the problem have been ignored.
The growth of central government influence and control sits uncomfortably and paradoxically with the stated intention of central government that local involvement should be championed—an intention that seems simultaneously to diminish and sideline the local issue. How can local police divisions, which are now clumsily labelled BCUs, demonstrate real local authority while contributing at the same time to national initiatives and demands? What about the funding model, now that central government contributes so much more than it did even 10 years ago? What real role is envisaged for police authorities, as the police’s task becomes ever more stretched between the requirements for national and international responses on the one hand and local demands on the other? Is there not a case to revisit the question of regional crime squads after the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency or, at a lower level, the question of greater involvement of community and business partnerships, which have already been referred to in this debate, in the work of the police?
As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, said, where are the future leaders of the service to come from? Despite the Minister’s sanguine reassurance last week in this House, many experienced observers of the police scene remain very concerned about recruiting the best and encouraging the development of not only managers but leaders in a service that is urgently seeking a redefined role and direction. Only when those and other questions have been answered should we finally turn to the vexed question of the structure and the shape of the service—in other words, mergers and amalgamations. Form should follow function, not the other way around.
I hope that I have said enough to encourage the Minister to recognise that the police task is too complex, too multilayered and three dimensional and too fundamental and integral within society to benefit from further tinkering with peripherals. Those of us with a detailed knowledge of the service and with a concern for its future all hope that the Green Paper—shortly, one hopes, to be published—will demonstrate a new high degree of courage and vision that will set the service confidently on a new path.
I close on a point that is important to me, to the general public and to the Minister, given his special responsibilities in the field; namely, the London Olympics 2012. In the light of what I have said today, I ask the Minister to tell us now whether he is confident that the present structure and state of readiness of the police service in England and Wales are resilient enough, robust enough and flexible enough to provide a first-class response to the undoubted additional pressures and challenges that will arise in 2012. Those pressures will fall not only on London but generally throughout the country. I harbour serious doubts about whether we could cope as we stand at present. We have four years to do something not only about the lower-level, volume-crime issues that this debate is primarily concerned with, but about the much more important and obvious challenges that 2012 could bring. Within the bounds of sensible discretion, I hope that the Minister will feel able to help us on this fundamental point, for much will turn on his assessment of that situation.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Trumpington for initiating this debate. I certainly echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, on her apposite and deserved remarks about Crimestoppers. In following the noble Lord, I am once again aware of how fortunate this House is in having the benefit of the advice and experience of senior police officers such as him and the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, who is also to speak in this debate.
I shall speak about cybercrime. This is against the background of the phenomenal rise in the use of the internet. I am sure that your Lordships will be aware of the statistics. In 2007, 15.2 million households had internet access. Additionally, people are purchasing goods over the internet in greater numbers than ever before. In 2007, 53 per cent of adults purchased goods or services on the internet. The Office for National Statistics shows in its latest e-commerce survey that in 2006 internet sales increased by 29 per cent to £130 billion. The rise in internet banking has been even more dramatic. The numbers using these services rose from 6.2 million in 2001 to 17 million in 2006.
At the same time there is evidence that internet users are feeling increasingly unsafe. In a recent survey, more than one in five people interviewed felt that they were more at risk from crime on the internet than from any other crime. For them, internet crime ranked higher in their minds than the risk of having their homes burgled, having their cars broken into or being mugged on the street.
An estimate produced by online identity experts Garlick suggests that 3 million offences took place last year—one every 10 seconds. Yet nine out of 10 offences go unreported because victims believe that the police will be unable or unwilling to investigate. Sadly, that view is reflected within the police. In 2007, a report to the Metropolitan Police Authority from the commissioner suggested:
“There was an unspoken public perception that e-crime is so pervasive that the police service does not have the capacity to investigate each individual allegation”.
In fairness to the police, I should add that the same report noted that many organisations were unaware that their computers were being compromised,
“making it difficult to establish definitive financial harm”.
In 2001, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit was set up in response to the threat of online crime. This provided a useful link between police forces and business. The NHTCU worked well in combating national and international serious and organised high-tech crime, including serious offences such as fraud, blackmail and extortion, online paedophilia and identity theft. However, at the start of 2006, the NHTCU was absorbed into the Serious Organised Crime Agency as SOCA e-crime, despite criticism that that would leave a yawning gap between local forces and national policing—misgivings that were not misplaced. The widespread opposition to this move was predictable.
In April 2007, the ring-fenced funding for computer crime units in each police force was cut off. Since that date, online financial fraud can no longer be reported to the police directly. It first must be reported to the financial institution concerned and it is up to the bank or credit card company to decide whether the matter should be reported to the police. It is a cumbersome procedure, which distances the victim from the prosecuting authority. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on how the Government now regard these changes. All this adds up to the inescapable conclusion that the Government do not consider cybercrime to be a serious offence. I understand that 33 offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 are not listed as serious crimes under the new Act, although, for example, salmon poaching is.
Between 2001 and 2006, there were only 88 convictions under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which is a derisory figure. As a further indication of the low priority accorded to cybercrime, police databases do not now distinguish between crimes committed electronically and those committed otherwise; Home Office prosecution figures do not make that distinction, either. The Government have little knowledge of the number of criminals brought to justice for cyberspace crimes.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s security Statement yesterday and the fact that attention is being given to cybercrime in the international context. We must all be aware of the huge damage reaped on the Republic of Estonia—almost certainly at Russia’s instigation—when the whole operation of the state came to a halt for quite a period.
Lest my charge of government inaction on this matter appears to be substantially negative, I advise your Lordships that my party has, on the initiative of my right honourable friend David Davis and my honourable friend James Brokenshire, put forward proposals in some detail in a paper. I shall highlight one or two of the most important proposals. First, there would be a real show of leadership by the appointment of a single Minister for cybercrime reporting to the Home Secretary and by the establishment of a police national cybercrime unit to work closely with the SOCA e-crime unit. As part of the law enforcement process, there needs to be a cybercrime unit within the Crown Prosecution Service and, significantly, the restoration of the important role of the police in the reporting loop, so that once again financial fraud can be reported online to the police. All that is to be instituted after consultation with industry and users. The paper concludes:
“Cybercrime is a growing and serious threat to individuals, business and government. It is a problem that will continue to escalate as technology changes. The Labour Government has failed in its duty and remains with its head stuck very firmly in the sand. Conservatives will take action and treat the online threat with the priority that the future security economic and personal interests of this country demand”.
I hope that the Minister can reassure the House that the Government are treating this growing and menacing threat with urgency. If they feel able to adopt some of the policies that we have put forward—with considerable publicity and, I hope, constructively—we would be delighted to have some of our foxes shot.
I now turn to the DNA database. The role of DNA in crime detection has, as your Lordships will be aware, been highlighted by the conviction of Steven Wright for the murder of five women in Suffolk and of Mark Dixie for the murder of a woman in September 2005. In both cases, DNA samples were crucial to the convictions. In the latter case, Dixie was convicted five months after the murder only after samples had been taken following a minor scuffle in a pub.
These two incidents have highlighted the need to strike a delicate balance between the continued development of the National DNA Database and the rights of individuals. Two examples of the sensitive matters currently under debate in various forms—one case involves an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights—are the routine sampling of children and the retention of samples from those arrested but subsequently released. This country is a, if not the, world leader in the development of its National DNA Database, which is currently led by the inspired initiative of Mr Tony Lake, Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Authority and the chief police officer within ACPO responsible for DNA. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, for arranging a useful and constructive meeting with Mr Lake. It is all the more important, therefore, that this sensitive subject should be fully debated—a view that I know is shared by ACPO—and I hope that there will be an opportunity for your Lordships’ House to play a significant part in that debate.
My Lords, without reservation I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for giving us the opportunity for this debate. Her helpful and constructive remarks set the tone for what is proving to be a reflective occasion.
It would be quite wrong to speak in a debate of this kind without placing on record a tribute to the police and security services for all that they do on our behalf. Their courage, commitment and professionalism which usually prevail are special assets for the nation. The quality of their service is often outstanding, not least that of senior police officers. To maintain high standards, the importance of accountability and monitoring and of independent scrutiny and investigation when things go wrong is great. But that scrutiny and investigation must be seen to be independent and it must itself be of the highest quality.
There has been emphasis in the debate on the importance of training. I would underline that and say that I believe that higher education has a vital role to play. There are many examples now of how that contributes to the development of the police services. I declare an interest because I professionally advise De Montfort University, which is involved in this kind of work, and I serve voluntarily in the governance of the London School of Economics, the University of Newcastle and Lancaster University. If this work is to succeed, it is important to have continuity—to be able to plan ahead so that proper resources are there. One cannot switch it on and off just like that.
A lot of emotion and sensational journalism surrounds crime. I hope that the House will forgive me if I take the opportunity of this debate to look at the facts for a moment or two, albeit that some calculations are obviously less statistically significant than others. The British Crime Survey arguably provides the most reliable measure of trends over time since it has a consistent methodology and is pretty unaffected by changes in the reporting and recording of crime. The BCS for the year ending March 2007 showed that over the previous 10 years all crime as measured by the BCS was down 32 per cent. Burglary was down 55 per cent, all vehicle thefts were down by 52 per cent, all household offences were down by 33 per cent, all BCS-recorded violence was down by 31 per cent and all personal offences were down by 32 per cent.
Figures for the year ending September 2007, compared with those for the year ending September 2006, are interesting. Overall level of crime remains unchanged at around 10.7 million crimes. The risk of crime, according to the BCS, came down by 1 per cent. Violence largely remained unchanged, but with a 2 per cent decrease. All personal crime saw a 6 per cent decrease, all household crime saw a 2 per cent decrease and vandalism was down by some 4 per cent. Domestic burglary did see an increase of 5 per cent, but theft from the person saw an 11 per cent decrease.
In applauding all that, as I do, we must recognise that the challenges remain great. Ethnic realities and perceptions and the implications of those for stop-and-account, let alone stop-and-search, people trafficking, prostitution, rape, gun crime, drugs and, some would argue, even more exactingly, alcohol, and of course youth-on-youth violence are all examples of those challenges. They are complex social issues necessitating effective law enforcement and highly imaginative, wider, sensitive and co-ordinated social policies. Education is often highly relevant and we must beware of criminalising significant numbers of the young.
It is impressive that the police themselves can be ahead of existing public opinion in understanding all that and working towards it. In recent conversations that I have been able to have with a few key police personnel—some still serving and some recently retired—the point repeatedly emphasised by them has been that successful policing depends critically on working with the community. In effect, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, in his important report, had that as a central theme. Public confidence and trust are vital. That is why in my home county so many of us welcomed the decision to keep the Cumbrian force as a Cumbrian force rather than seeing its dynamic drawn towards urban areas in Lancashire, which would have been inevitable had the forces been combined. Neighbourhood and local policing really do matter.
This priority of working with the community is nowhere better illustrated than in counterterrorism policy. Without trust and confidence where it matters, the task is made immensely more difficult. That is why—I hope my noble friend will forgive my taking the opportunity to make this point—some of us are totally unconvinced by the proposal to hold people for 42 days without charge, and totally convinced of the need to move forward on introducing at least some element of intercept evidence in court proceedings. Justice has to be seen to be done and procedures have to be as transparent as possible.
Quite apart from the human rights and natural justice concerns to which I hope we all subscribe, there is the issue of counterproductivity. I believe that counterproductivity is unforgivable, and whether it happens inadvertently is irrelevant. Counterproductivity undermines the efforts to contain terrorism. Some significant players in the police with frontline experience and operational responsibilities, with whom I have been fortunate enough to be able to speak recently, share this anxiety. To pretend that all those involved in the struggle against terrorism want detention for 42 days is just not what I have encountered. It behoves us to take the views of those in the police service seriously.
I referred earlier to certain crime statistics, and perhaps I may talk a little about what is happening to the police service in terms of personnel. Over the past, decade the police workforce has increased by 27 per cent. On 30 September 2007, the personnel of the police service totalled 231,822, of whom 139,170 were police officers, an 11 per cent increase on March 1997. Police numbers fell by 800 between March and September 2007. However, a decline of 0.6 per cent in officer numbers must be looked at in the context of the 0.8 per cent increase in police personnel overall during the same period, an increase of some 1,796. In any case, it was the first time there was a reduction in police officer numbers since March 2000 in the 43 forces in England and Wales. As forces more critically examine the roles of officers and look for ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness, their police staff are taking on more roles from police officers. In the past 10 years, police staff numbers, excluding police community support officers, have risen by 19,529 to 76,721, an increase of 34 per cent.
Of course the focus should not be on officer numbers, but on making the best use of officer time. Equally important is how policing is delivered. The workforce mix must reflect the best way to deliver policing. In this context, it is encouraging that many forces are already employing police staff in operational support roles that do not need the powers or training of a police constable, and surely that is exactly what should be happening. On a like-for-like basis, government grant and central spending on services for the police will have risen by nearly £4.8 billion, from £6.2 billion in 1997-98 to £11 billion, a 77 per cent increase which in real terms is more than 39 per cent. For 2007-08, the Government provided £350 million in funding for neighbourhood policing, representing a 41 per cent increase towards the cost of achieving the target of 16,000 police community support officers by April 2007, and towards having a dedicated neighbourhood policing team embedded in every area of England and Wales by 31 March. The three-year settlement for 2008-09 to 2010-11 for policing at least provides a background of stability and continuity, and I believe that it is altogether welcome that the Government achieved the target of 14,000 special constables by 2007.
I conclude by returning to the issue of counterterrorism, which preoccupies us all. The Home Office has provided record funding for counterterrorism policing. In 2006-07, it allocated £106 million of the counterterrorism specific grant to the ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters scheme and £142 million for the Metropolitan Police Service. I understand that in 2007-08 the Home Office plans to increase still further this extra funding by £95 million to the ACPO TAM scheme and by £45 million for the MPS. I welcome that, but I implore my noble friend and his colleagues to recognise that it would be tragic in this context to undermine it all by an ill-advised insistence on a totally as-yet-unargued extension to 42 days of the ability to hold people without charge.
My Lords, as the long years of this Labour Government draw to a close—I say at once that they are a Labour Government who have been a huge improvement on previous Labour Administrations for the simple reason that they have transformed themselves philosophically from old Labour to new Labour—I fear that the reputation of the Government for competence as the legacy for which they will be remembered is rapidly fading. There is an increasing apparent lack of political control over the bureaucracy, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Home Office. It has always been a difficult department to direct and control because it is very inward-looking and does not respond kindly to anyone else’s ideas. The great acronym, NIH—“not invented here”— motivates it very strongly.
I remembered that acronym when I introduced and secured an amendment to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 to set up a national register of firearms which could be accessed by any police force, as has happened for many years with driving licences. There was endless resistance from Home Office officials who were able to fight a successful battle against it until November 2007, when finally the scheme came into force. I am grateful not so much to the Home Office, but to a succession of Home Office Ministers who fought with me and my party, and with the Liberal Democrats who were very helpful on this issue.
The real problem is that Home Office Ministers tend to survive in inverse proportion to their effectiveness. We have had an awful lot of Home Secretaries. We had Mr Straw for four years; I think that he was rather good and I am glad that he is now in charge of the other half of the Home Office. On balance, the split of the Home Office has been a good idea. We then had Mr Blunkett for two and a half years. He had many of the right instincts and there was much affection and admiration for him. We had Mr Clarke for a year and a half, and it was rather sad that his career came to an end. The best Home Secretary by one measure was Dr John Reid, who was the first to come out with the profound truth that the Home Office is not fit for purpose. Others had realised and recognised this but there had not previously been a Secretary of State who had said it.
I am a great fan of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord West, because I am a great fan of Britain’s Armed Forces and you do not become the First Sea Lord unless you are pretty good. The odds against most Members of the House of Commons reaching that level are rather high, especially nowadays.
I always remember Ernest Marples, for whom I worked when I was very young—he was a most effective Minister and a true visionary in that he recognised the scope for applying technology in government long before others—saying that any Prime Minister faced a real problem in having to fill nearly 100 ministerial posts from a short list of about 350 who had been primarily selected for their pastoral inclinations rather than their executive talents.
Yesterday we had a White Paper on national security. I have not yet had time carefully to study it, but I have looked at it. Frankly, I am not very impressed. I think it is a somewhat bogus document. When you are trying to focus effort and get results, you cannot usefully put in one document all these different headings—terrorism, nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, trans organised crime, global instability, failed and fragile states, civil emergencies, drivers of insecurity—I am not sure what that means—challenges to the rule-based international system, which is a little obscure, competition for energy, climate change—which of course had to be in it; it has to be in everything—poverty, inequality, poor governance and so on.
I wondered why it had been produced and I thought that perhaps it was meant to balance our Prime Minister’s obsession with plastic bags. Think of a Prime Minister under pressure who is lucky enough to be given the chance of writing an article in the Daily Mail, which has a huge readership of those who are not his natural supporters. What does he write about? He writes about plastic bags.
I want to refer to two specific matters which are the responsibility of the Home Office and the particular responsibility of the noble Lord, Lord West. The first matter is identity cards and the second is border control. I have received many helpful Answers to Written Questions over several months which have raised certain specific questions.
Dealing first with what I see to be the primary problem with identity cards, the Government have made a major conceptual error and focused on the card. I support the concept of identity cards but they have focused on the card, which is a rather inflammatory thing anyway. What matters is that there should be a register so that the Government know who people are. A card which has on it biometrics is not sensible for a simple reason: if you are a serious criminal or terrorist you will ensure that the biometric details on the card match your own. You may say that a chip is not easy to forge—and many people would find it hard to forge one—but seriously bad people would be able to do so. Of course you want biometrics, but you want them in a central record which can be accessed online. There is no advantage in accessing the data on a card. It would be a great deal cheaper if people were to carry a card with a photo; I would have no objection to that. But the crucial thing is the number and that that number is linkable to a central record which authorised people can check and quickly find information. With modern data links, it would be every bit as rapid as it is for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, which works extremely well and has done for many years. It would be a great deal cheaper to have cards that did not have on them these biometric chips.
Biometrics are going to be a proper answer to identification, and growingly so. I have no objection to my fingerprints or DNA being held anywhere. The technology exists to ensure that central records can be firewalled—I am assuming a level of competence for the purpose of this argument—and the different data bases can be separated from each other. So instead of us all having a multiplicity of numbers—passport numbers, driving licence numbers, tax numbers, national insurance numbers, which are about the most insecure of all of them, national health numbers and so on—one number would be quite sufficient and you should get a net cost saving.
I have said much of this before but I have been unable to persuade the Home Office. However, that failure does not necessarily convince me that I am wrong. I think it would be a great deal cheaper and more efficient to have a central register of people with merely a card as the first thing to prove identity.
Moving on to the crucial issue of border control, the United Kingdom is not a member of Schengen and I think we are right not to be. But the premise on which we are not a member of Schengen is that, because of our geographical design, it is easier for us to defend and protect our own borders without being in Schengen. The Schengen borders, by definition, are not points at which people can be checked. But this argument, which I support, is undermined by the fact that our borders are not properly controlled.
Before the British left Hong Kong in 1997, there was there full electronic border control which worked extremely well. That was 11 years ago now. But we still do not have it in Britain. When you have your passport swiped as you come into Britain, the officials are checking to see whether you are on the watch list, on which there are about a million people. It is quite useful. But there is no record kept that you have arrived—if you are not on the watch list you walk straight through—and, therefore, if you allow a certain number of people to come into the country for a limited length of time, there is no way of knowing that they have left. Amazingly, no record is made of people’s departures. If you do not have a record of someone departing, the chances are you do not know whether or not they have. And if they are meant to depart by a certain date, that does not seem to be a very sensible system.
The e-borders system of control is not expected to come into full force until 2013. We had a wake-up call on this with 9/11 in 2001. There has been plenty of time to get it right and it is not acceptable that our e-borders control will not be introduced until 2013-14, when it will be complete. I ask the Government to make a new attempt to bring this forward much more rapidly.
I come now to the question of passports. Around 250,000 passports are reported lost or stolen every year in the UK. The cost of checking to make sure that they have been lost or stolen is considerable, and I have no reason to think that the agency concerned does not do that quite carefully. However, the charge made for a lost or stolen passport is exactly the same as the cost for getting a new one. It ought to be a lot higher, if only as a great deterrent against losing a passport. When I put that to the Home Office, the answer was, “Oh, it wouldn’t be fair if you had looked after your passport and you lost it and then you had to pay more for a new one”. That is in one of the Written Answers. I could say the same if I am silly enough to leave my suitcase in a train—but you insure your suitcase. A passport is just as insurable as anything else. If the Government had proper fees for replacing lost or stolen passports, not only would that be a deterrent but it would give the Home Office some extra money that it very much needs at the moment.
I thank my noble friend Lady Trumpington for giving me the chance to make these points.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in expressing gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for securing this debate, in which she has already highlighted the role of Crimestoppers, together with the part played by that charity in the prevention, solution and reduction of crime and, in turn, the support given to and received from the Crimestoppers Trust by the police and the Home Office.
In the introduction to the most useful note produced by a member of the House of Lords Library staff to assist noble Lords in today’s debate, there is an acknowledgment that,
“there are a variety of initiatives … within the criminal justice system, which supplement the Government’s crime strategy”.
One of these, which is of particular relevance to today’s debate, was Working in Partnership to Reduce Re-Offending and Make Communities Safer—I emphasise “make communities safer”—which was published in March 2007.
The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has highlighted one such important partnership, the Crimestoppers Trust, which makes communities safer. So important is the work done by that community-based trust that I shall endeavour to put a little more flesh on the bones for the information of noble Lords. I fully support what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said about community involvement, and this is a prime example of it.
The partnership works in this way. The Crimestoppers number, 0800 555 111, is available on a 24-hour basis. That enables any member of the public who knows the identity of a person who has committed a serious crime, or knows details of a crime being hatched, to call. I am not talking about minor crime or offences such as shoplifting but crimes of magnitude, particularly violence such as murder, attempted murder, rape, child molestation, human trafficking, grievous bodily harm and drug dealing. It involves the police fully briefing the media on major crimes, giving, if available, descriptions of the alleged offenders. The media then publicise this together with the Crimestoppers number, and members of the public who have information on that or any other serious crime can then pass it on to police via the anonymous line. Some people may raise their eyebrows because the caller is anonymous, but Crimestoppers is a charity and that allows it to give anonymity.
The caller does not have to identify himself or herself as they would if they went straight to the police, so their identity is protected by giving them a code number or name that is used in all further communications. Police do not carry out arrests solely on the information provided, because they are fully aware that some mischief-makers might try to use the system to make malicious and unfounded allegations. Police must seek corroborative evidence through further inquiries; but the Crimestoppers information often points them in the right direction. People passing information that proves to be accurate and helps to prevent or clear up major crimes are entitled to a reward, as the noble Baroness has mentioned, but it is significant that few of those passing information are interested in such a reward. The majority do it because the system protects their identities and they are able to help clear up or prevent a major crime without going straight to the police and, in criminal parlance, being branded as a “grass”.
I declare an interest in Crimestoppers. First, I am a trustee of Crimestoppers and am a member of its national board. Secondly, I have recently been invited by Kent Crimestoppers to become a patron and I have accepted. That will entail attending its meetings and encouraging and helping those members of the community, the volunteers, who operate the Crimestoppers system.
I return to my point about people not going to the police and coming to Crimestoppers instead. They do that because in some extreme cases, if they go to the police and it becomes known that they have done so, it will be regarded as betrayal and might result in serious bodily harm against them. It is not unknown for a member of an offender’s family to make a call to Crimestoppers because they were fearful that the offender was on the brink of being drawn into an even greater criminal network. They take the Crimestoppers path as the most effective way to help put a stop to the situation before it can escalate into offences that potentially carry lengthy or even life sentences.
The Crimestoppers scheme, as we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, began in this country in 1998. Although I had by then taken on the job of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, I can claim no credit for the scheme having been adopted throughout the Metropolitan Police area and the extraordinary successes it has subsequently achieved. My predecessor, Sir Kenneth Newman, had set the ball rolling, together with a youngish businessman who had seen the system working in New Mexico and had brought the idea to the UK. That businessman is now a Member of your Lordships’ House. Although some might not like his political benefactions or his business successes, it is not putting it too highly when I say that I firmly believe that if it had not been for him and his support for Crimestoppers, some young people may well have died from brutal and inhuman criminal attacks.
I have one example. In November 2001 a 10 year-old girl was abducted from outside a community centre in Ashford in Kent. The child was taken to nearby woodland where she was viciously assaulted and raped. Yes, a 10 year-old girl. A full DNA profile was obtained from the residue on the girl’s body, but that did not match with anything on the national DNA database. Kent Police then carried out intelligence-led screening of 2,000 men from a local estate who volunteered their DNA samples, but again no match was found.
Some eight months later, a 30 year-old woman in Earlswood, Surrey, was out walking. She was beaten to the ground and raped. DNA low copy number technology was used to obtain a partial profile, which was found to match the profile discovered after the 10 year-old had been assaulted and raped in Ashford in November the previous year.
Two further attacks, one on Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common, and the other on Epsom Common, led to the setting up of an inquiry and surveillance operation involving six police forces: Kent, Surrey, the Metropolitan, Hertfordshire, Thames Valley and the West Midlands. Due to the locations of the offences, the inquiry came to be known as the search for the M25 rapist. Around 350 officers from the six police forces were involved. A second screening of a further 1,000 men, based on police intelligence of likely suspects, was undertaken but, again, no DNA match was found.
In October 2002, a 14 year-old girl was raped in Stevenage. Fortunately, although seriously traumatised, she was able to help police compile a picture of her attacker which was distributed to the media, together with the Crimestoppers number. An anonymous caller contacted Crimestoppers with information, which led police to the house of Antoni Imiela, a 38 year-old railway worker living in the village of Appledore in Kent. Although the information was initially given to Crimestoppers anonymously, the person who informed it then told the press that she had done so. A DNA sample from Imiela was taken by detectives and forwarded to the forensic science laboratory, but before the result was known, Imiela kidnapped and indecently assaulted another 10 year-old in Birmingham. He was arrested as soon as the sample that he had given detectives was found to match the DNA profile from the first assault and rape of the 10 year-old child in Ashford one year previously.
After Imiela’s arrest, the widespread investigation team was reduced from 350 officers to 30. More than 100 scientists in five forensic science laboratories had worked on the case and the lengthy investigation was estimated to have cost well in excess of £2 million. Imiela was subsequently convicted of seven rapes, and the kidnap, indecent assault and attempted rape of yet another 10 year-old girl. He was given seven life sentences.
Bringing that case to a conclusion through a partnership between police, the media and the public via Crimestoppers may well have saved other small girls from having their lives ruined by this vicious rapist. That one case alone, not to mention the calls to Crimestoppers in its short life that have resulted in more than 700 people being charged with murder or attempted murder, must justify the money that has been invested in it. But it cannot continue with only the sustenance of charitable donations.
In a recent case, police discovered the body of a young man in his 20s purely as a result of information from Crimestoppers giving a precise location. The body had practically decomposed and had been partly eaten by animals, with parts removed. The subsequent investigation has resulted in five people being charged with murder.
Within Crimestoppers, we are grateful for the support shown by the Home Office. I am aware that the director of the scheme is of the clear view that the Home Secretary is, as one would imagine, wholly supportive. However, that charity, while having helped to bring to book some of the country’s most violent criminals and many hard-drug dealers, has yet to reach its full potential in helping clear up and prevent the most vicious crimes such as murder, attempted murders and brutal rapes of our young children. I ask for the continued and active support of the police, the media, the Home Office and the general public for Crimestoppers in its endeavours to make society safer for all.
The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, mentioned the police’s most-wanted list, which is put on a website by Crimestoppers. Kent Police maintains its own most-wanted list in conjunction with Crimestoppers. Just a few weeks ago, a predatory paedophile saw the list and his own description on it. He knew that the game was up, went straight to the police and gave himself up. That shows the worth of what that community-based charity is doing.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Trumpington on securing this debate and those who have spoken in it. I knew about Crimestoppers because of its work in Lambeth. The cases just illustrated by the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, underline its value to society. I add my voice to those saying that it should be properly funded, because it is becoming an essential part of the police intelligence effort to catch criminals. There can be nothing more sensible than a well organised charity doing work that benefits society as a whole.
It is many years since I was involved in UK policing, first on Merseyside and then nationally during my years at the Department of Transport, but I endorse strongly the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, about preparations for 2012. I do so with a little background knowledge of the trials and tribulations of the South African police force in preparing for the World Cup in 2010. A great many aspects of policing will be thrown up in 2012 by the sheer numbers of people not only entering this country but travelling across the boundaries in Europe. My private information is that neither here nor in South Africa have all the boundary problems started to be thought through.
I shall concentrate the rest of my remarks on the contribution of the police and, indirectly, the Home Office to the identification, prevention, solving and reduction of counterfeiting. It may not be immediately obvious to all your Lordships, but counterfeiting is a growing crime of enormous importance. Regrettably, it is closely linked to other national and international crime, especially drug trafficking and money-laundering. Lest your Lordships should think that this aspect of crime is far less important than others, perhaps I may explain that counterfeit goods in this country and across the world are posing increasingly serious threats to personal health, hygiene and well-being, be it in pharmaceuticals, food or skincare products, and to businesses micro, small, medium and large.
Counterfeiting is causing severe loss of revenue to Customs and tax authorities in the developed as well as the developing world. While this issue is generally regarded as one for Trade Ministers and business, because global trade is now a massive loser of as much as $2,000 billion a year from counterfeiting, it is high time that we paid more attention to it. The OECD estimates of the cost to business are for more than $630 billion a year, but the cost to Governments in lost revenues, the cost to police and the cost from the health consequences of counterfeit pharmaceuticals cause the sum to more than double that cost to business.
We all know that these issues are not popular ones, but my interest in fighting counterfeiters has developed over recent years because I see the effects of the failure to fight these criminals. That is why I ask the Government to give expert backing to the efforts of those police working with Interpol to set up exchange of information that can lead to the detection not only of the counterfeiters themselves but of those involved with them. Interpol is working closely with the World Customs Organisation, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the International Trademark Association and Business Action to stop counterfeiting and piracy. Having spent some time at the fourth global congress on anti-counterfeiting and piracy last month, I am now more aware than ever of the growing dangers of counterfeit products and their interconnection with the drug traffickers and money-launderers and with every sort of crime.
Another group of persons is usually not heard of, but I shall term them the “counterfeit goods brokers”. They are people who are not involved in the production and never go near the products themselves. Those brokers, and the shippers who assist them, are a new link between the counterfeiters, wherever they may be, and the merchants who buy the goods cheap. This links with what my noble friend said about cybercrime; much of the counterfeit brokers’ activity is now on the internet. However, there are brochures and two annual conferences purely for these brokers to put on show their counterfeit wares. There is much more that we could do that is out in the open but is not happening at present for the lack of resources and lack of interconnection of those resources.
In this regard, I mention the success that Interpol has had since 9/11 in the exchange of passport information between more than 100 countries. We now have an information network on passports, which, although it does not solve the problem of stolen passports being reused, is certainly very helpful to police forces across the world. We need to set up something similar for counterfeit goods, for the counterfeiters and for those who are bringing real sadness and trouble to others. Interpol is well engaged in this. It uses techniques from developed nations to train police forces in how best to fight the counterfeit battle, but without a database on the information we shall not make progress. Interpol plays a critical role with industry to deal with fakes of every kind.
This is no cottage industry run by lovable rogues. I know all the stories about fake Louis Vuitton handbags not doing anybody any harm, but that is a tiny proportion of what does the harm. This is serious crime that is run worldwide, with organisational structures that mirror those of conventional business companies. I speak not only of fake CDs, DVDs, computer programmes, mobile phones or even cars, as we saw recently in the media. I speak also of electrical goods that cause fire, such as circuit breakers without a piece of metal to break the circuit; I speak of building materials that weaken structures and, in a recent earthquake zone, caused far more damage than would have been anticipated because the concrete was not properly made. I speak of fake gypsum boards and glass that is not shatterproof but is sold as cheap windscreens, of fake foods that cause illness and of household goods and fertilisers. I speak, above all, of fake pharmaceuticals, which do not cure but kill. The head of the Nigerian bureau fighting this crime lost her sister through fake insulin.
We have a planned anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, which will help Governments in the task, but it is only by equipping our police force to work with Interpol as well as other agencies to apprehend the counterfeiters and the fraudsters that we shall decrease the worldwide trade in counterfeits and the pain and death caused by them to many people. Interpol’s help to the World Customs Organisation and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, as well as to business organisations, needs renewed recognition by the G8 to create global collective action. The G8 summits in 2005, 2006 and 2007 recognised that this huge global issue requires strong and sustained action by Governments. To beat counterfeit crime and to assist in the quicker and better detection of drug runners and other fraudsters, I ask the Government to give greater active support to Interpol in the important work that it does, much assisted by the police forces of the United Kingdom.
My Lords, I warmly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for bringing forward this debate, which is particularly timely. Yesterday we had the Statement on the national security strategy, which mentioned the police only once. I appreciate that the Statement concentrated on other things, but when there is a national emergency of any sort it is to the police that people turn first, because they are in the front line of dealing with such emergencies.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, commented that this was going to be a very reflective debate—and he was absolutely right. It has been reflective of lessons learnt and has looked into the future, which is why it has been particularly interesting. Some speakers have touched on the future, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, who spoke about counterfeiting. That is often an overlooked crime, given the effects that she graphically described. It links in, as she said, with other crimes and is often not a stand-alone crime. I think, for example, of the recent problems of people selling counterfeit DVDs. They are themselves often the victims of crime in that they have been duped into coming into the UK—having paid sums to do so as an illegal immigrant—and are then further exploited in selling counterfeit DVDs. Counterfeiting is much understressed.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, emphasised cyber crime. Most of us have probably had personal experience of that through so-called “phishing” e-mails. There are campaigns on many ways in which the public can protect themselves against various crimes, but I have not seen a government campaign warning of the dangers of replying to e-mails which encourage people to reveal their bank details, although individual banks make an effort to pursue this. It is astoundingly common for people to respond to those e-mails, which suggests that a campaign against them should be initiated.
An area that has not been mentioned, and on which I should like to dwell very briefly, is that of domestic violence. It is depressing that this is still one of the commonest crimes in this country. It accounts for 16 per cent of all violent crime, it has more repeat victims than any other crime and on average, shockingly, 35 assaults will occur before a victim even phones the police. It still claims the lives of two women a week and 30 men a year. It affects a very large number of people in this country, not only direct victims but children who live in violent households. Is the Minister satisfied that there is enough standardisation of response across all police forces? While there have rightly been calls for a local ability to respond to local demands, that needs to be balanced with standard reporting so that we can see exactly how each force is performing.
Gaps remain in the area of domestic violence that need to be filled. There is also a gap for which the Government are responsible because of their decision not to allow any recourse to public funds for women who do not have legal immigrant status but who are still subject to extreme domestic violence and have no option but to stay with the perpetrator of that violence or else to live on the street. While I appreciate that these women are illegal immigrants, this matter needs to be looked at—this has been commented on by Amnesty and other organisations—but the police’s hands are tied with regard to this very difficult issue.
There are two ways of preventing crime. First, one can try to remove opportunity and temptation. The police campaign encouraging people to lock their cars and use identification marks on their possessions has been very effective. Police forces run very good campaigns to encourage people to use the newer technologies such as SmartWater to identify goods. Secondly, one can try to prevent people offending and reoffending although I am sure that the police must feel deeply frustrated about that. I do not want to take up time quoting prison statistics because I am sure your Lordships are well aware how high reoffending rates are, but I must point out that however well the police do their job it is being fundamentally undermined by a system of failing rehabilitation.
Last week the Minister, Beverley Hughes, talked of targeting 1,000 children worst offenders with substantial intervention support. But as her Written Answer of 11 March shows, there are still about 96,000 other young people offending. It is shocking that each year there are 97,000 first-time entrants into the criminal justice system. This is a really big problem.
I want to highlight a scheme that seeks to prevent crime. Community Action Through Sport, which runs over the county border in Cornwall, recently came to my attention. It is the brainchild of Chief Inspector Julie Williams, who had had a lot of complaints about the anti-social behaviour of young people in the town centre. A dispersal order was about to be introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour Act. However, she chose to take a very different course and set up a scheme that rewards young people for their good behaviour. Depending on the level of their good behaviour, they are awarded a sporting activity. If they help an old lady who falls over while getting off a bus, they might get a free swim in the local swimming pool. The chief inspector has forged a partnership between the local authorities and sports providers to reward young people who behave well, and publicise that in the community.
The scheme has had another big benefit in that the perception of crime has plummeted in that area. Noble Lords mentioned that the perception of crime is a problem and a preventive scheme of that sort is extremely valuable and important. The chief inspector has to run the scheme in addition to doing her day job. It received some funding from the lottery which has enabled a full-time project officer to be employed to spread it further. This illustrates the difficulty of getting money for measures to prevent crime as opposed to it all being spent on locking people up.
Important contributions were made to the debate. I was pleased that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, devoted his speech to talking about traffic crime; he highlighted how many deaths occur a year due to traffic crime and speeding. Coming from a rural area, I know that that is one of the crimes that people most fear. I live at the end of the north Devon link road, on which a shocking number of deaths occur each year. People rely on the police to be in the front line in trying to persuade people to cut their speed on that road. When I talked to school pupils in the area as part of the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme I discovered that they were not worried about terrorism—one would not expect that in north Devon—but they were worried about dying in a car accident. This is a very real problem and I am glad that the noble Viscount highlighted it. The police have wide support on this issue, even from people who know that they are speeding and should not.
A theme that ran through this debate was that political will is needed to shape the future of the police. We have had the Flanagan report and noble Lords have highlighted comments made by, among others, the Police Federation, that cutting central targets will allow police officers to deliver the type of policing that local communities want and will eliminate the ridiculous arrests that officers are often compelled to make to satisfy Home Office diktats. Those comments were echoed around the House by noble Lords who have great experience in these matters.
The policing community and local communities are now holding their breath to see whether the Government bring forward a Green Paper that responds to the wide consensus about what is holding back the police and local communities from forming the sort of bond and partnership that they want in order to address the issues that they face. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give the House some confidence in terms of a timetable to address that.
There were some other very insightful and detailed speeches, from which I learnt a great deal, for example about Crimestoppers from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and from the noble Lord, Lord Imbert. The noble Baroness touched on the role of the media, and it is critical. Apart from “Crimewatch”, which is a factual programme, there is “The Bill”, which everyone watches. That counteracts somewhat the effect of the red tops, which is often to make people unduly concerned about crimes, because they perpetuate the fear or perception of crime that the police are working so hard to overcome.
We have had a very valuable debate this afternoon, and I thank the noble Baroness for introducing it.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Trumpington for having introduced what has been a fascinating and wide-ranging debate; and for opening it with such stirring support for Crimestoppers.
She is correct in saying that it has made an immense contribution to the reporting, investigation and prosecution of crime, and that was completely underlined in the excellent speech by the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, who gave an absolute demonstration of the value of having an independent organisation to which people can turn. The fact that it is funded largely by charitable donations ensures that it has that independent element in the fight against crime. It is probably fortunate to have the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, as a trustee, and my noble friend Lady Trumpington as a board member. She is a particularly doughty fighter for any cause that she supports, and she is certain to do so for the interests of Crimestoppers. It is clear that it must continue, because people are very hesitant about reporting directly to the police, so something that has anonymity is clearly useful and must be maintained. I hope that the Government will find a way to make sure that the grant that it needs and the small grant that it gets carries on so that there is no danger or threat to it.
It is ironic in the face of the success of Crimestoppers that another arm to the reporting of crime has just been broken off; that is the non-emergency phone number 101. The pilots of this scheme had been very successful and had demonstrated that the police, local authorities and others could work together to tackle problems. I understand that the cost was about £45 million, which is probably a drop in the bucket of the money spent on the police service, so there must have been other reasons why it was stopped. Perhaps the Minister, in response, could tell us what they were. It was another way of people being able to report crime without getting too personally involved.
It is very difficult to wind up after such excellent speeches on such a variety of subjects. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for tackling some of the interesting aspects of Home Secretaries and the Home Office, and particularly for making sure that his fingerprints were planted all over the ideas about plastic bags, which the Prime Minister seems to have got involved in. His point about e-border control is very important, and I hope that we will have an opportunity to return to it. The question of e-border control and the Olympics was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and we will need to look at it again.
I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman for raising the very difficult question of cybercrime, which is something which we are all very aware of and probably pretty terrified about, particularly when more and more of us are using the internet for personal transactions and are putting quite a lot of personal information on to it. I am also grateful to him for questioning the retention of DNA by the police, which is another difficult subject with huge implications. The more that the retention of DNA can be seen to solve crime, the more pressure there will be to log everyone’s DNA. We already know that there are moves to share DNA information across Europe. We are going to begin to build up the arguments about the value of the collection and retention of DNA versus the civil liberties issues that are bound to be raised.
We will all have been interested in the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, with her practical experience about the leadership of the police. It is always worth hearing the noble Lord, Lord Dear, on policing. His knowledge of the police force is encyclopaedic. I hope that the Minister listened carefully to what he said, because it was germane to the report by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, which we hope that the forthcoming Green Paper will address.
The report has been with us now for several months, and there was an interim report before that, so what was being proposed has not been silent and the Home Office has not been unaware of it. It is taking a little too long for the Green Paper to arrive. I hope that when it does arrive it will pick up the issues and recommendations made in Sir Ronnie’s report, particularly to limit the bureaucratic impositions and targets, which are mostly government inspired, which are preventing the police from fulfilling their prime roles of keeping the public safe and apprehending crooks.
It is certainly true that the general perception of the public that the police are not visible in the places where they are wanted in and around the local patch remains. I hope that the Home Secretary’s undertaking to pursue Sir Ronnie’s recommendations about reducing paperwork is already being implemented. I recall that Sir Ronnie was going to oversee the reduction in bureaucracy and report back at six months and then give a one-year review on the progress. How that is effected depends on when the six months starts. Has it started? Or is it to start once everyone has had a chance to trawl through the Green Paper and wait for legislation? I hope it is the former, and I hope very much that the effort to reduce the great burden of bureaucracy has been started and that Sir Ronnie will be able to report within the timescale—which will really be by the end of this year—that something significant has been done.
My local authority—I declare an interest as a councillor—and the local police have embraced the benefits of police community support officers, and I want to say something about that. The council has provided funding to ensure that there is now a PCSO presence in all the wards in the borough, and the police co-ordinate PCSO activities with their own officers. Neighbourhood policing, which was very much the thrust of Sir Ronnie’s proposals, is proving to be very successful. The PCSOs are a very obvious presence in the borough. On many occasions, they are accompanied by their police colleagues, but on others they work on their own. Less serious crime is being contained as a result, and the police community support officers are becoming a welcome part of the local communities where they are based. The main thing is that the turnover is not great, so the support officers get an opportunity to get to know the local people and are welcomed to their streets. As a result, residents feel more confident. If we can now ensure that the red tape for the police is reduced, we could see a real improvement in the numbers of police on our streets.
My area of London is relatively small. It is governed by a very enlightened local authority, which is able to co-ordinate with the police to make this system work. However, in general, the Government’s manifesto commitment to provide 24,000 police community support officers has not been met, and it is now unclear whether even the new commitment to 16,000 such officers will be met. It would be interesting to be told by the noble Lord the Government’s current view of PCSOs and their future within the Government’s thinking.
As I have made clear, I am in favour of the concept of police community support officers not as a substitute for the police, but as an adjunct to them and as a real opportunity to provide the neighbourhood security that everyone wants. I do not say that the idea cannot be improved upon. For example, PCSOs have only a citizen’s right to hold someone they have stopped; they do not have powers of arrest, but their presence is proving to be very beneficial.
Finally, I want to touch on the vexed question of drugs. My noble friend Lady Chalker spoke on the international counterfeiting of drugs; but internationally the counterfeiting and the trafficking of drugs have a horrendous effect on people who take them in this country. If there is an area of crime that brings with it degradation, this is it. Our courts are full of petty criminals who are lured into taking drugs for a number of reasons, thereby filling the pockets of the drug pushers, but destroying their own lives. On a rough rule of thumb, I would say that some 30 to 35 per cent of cases in magistrates’ courts involve shoplifting or petty theft, and all of those are based on drugs. It would also be fair to say that a considerable percentage of cases where local authorities have to intervene to protect children, because of an inability of a parent or parents to provide even moderately reasonable care for their children, are the result of drug use. I should mention that I am a magistrate involved in the adult and family courts.
Whatever courts do, the prognosis for those caught up in this terrible addiction is dire, and the future, without professional care, is bleak. Each person needs a full-time treatment programme to bring control of their addiction and to provide support while total abstinence is achieved. If it is not achieved at the end of the day, their addiction starts all over again. Addicts need help to push them towards a more useful life. These days, the courts try not to send people to prison. Prison has one of two effects on them—either they get more drugs and the sentence has no effect at all, or they come out of prison having been treated, but there is no proper handover to community services to maintain and support the treatment. It is incontrovertible that the best form of treatment for drug users is residential care. There are residential units, but not enough of them—and often the units that are there are not being used. A government-led initiative on that could help enormously. There is nothing to be gained by any of us if a large number of minor felons are high on drugs and never get off them. That is bad for our country and it is a problem that we need to resolve.
All speakers have rightly paid warm tributes to the police. There may have been slightly fewer warm tributes to the Home Office, but I associate myself with the tributes to the police in recognition of the service that they provide and the complexity and difficulty of their work. People in this country are conscious of their police force and we should be grateful for the support that people get from them in tackling all levels of crime.
My Lords, I join in the general thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for raising this useful debate. Indeed, it was daunting for an admiral to look at the expertise among the speakers on this subject. I have learnt a great deal today and I am sure that all of us have found the debate very useful. I hope that I will be able to answer the bulk of the questions but, if not, I will come back to try to answer them.
It is worth saying that during the past 11 years the Government have revolutionised the crime-fighting and policing landscape. As a Government, we have provided record levels of funding—as my noble friend Lord Judd articulated—delivered record numbers of police officers and introduced police community support officers. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said how useful they are. We have created new powers and new partnerships, delivered against challenging targets—to which I shall return—and invested in new technology; all of which have seen crime fall by a third since 1997.
We have transformed policing by introducing neighbourhood policing teams as a means whereby people become engaged in setting local priorities and making their communities safer. A number of speakers touched on that. It is an important area and an important route to go down. In April 2008 we will mark the real start of this new approach, whereby every person in England and Wales is able to contact a dedicated team for their area. Again, my noble friend Lord Judd raised that point, but neighbourhood policing was raised by almost everyone.
However, we must not delude ourselves. We look ahead to some real challenges. Not only must we continue to cut crime and make communities safer, but we need to secure the confidence of communities in doing so. A number of speakers alluded to the fact that that confidence is not necessarily there. We are serving a public that, quite rightly, expect and deserve better information, improved accountability and timely and effective solutions across all of our public services. In tackling crime, one of our greatest challenges is meeting the needs and expectations of the public, winning their confidence and bringing them in as part of the solution. A number of speakers touched on that issue.
Although crime has fallen by a third during the past 11 years, there is no doubt that the general perception is that it is rising, as a number of speakers have said. It is remarkable, but that is the perception. This matters because when crime falls, but people do not believe it, it means that they do not recognise the action that has been taken or the progress that has been made. This means that they are less likely to work with us by reporting and preventing crime. I shall consider the importance of Crimestoppers in a moment. There is no doubt that this frightfully important perception matters. It does not matter whether it is real or not; somehow we have to change that perception. We have to change the perception that the police are not visible enough.
That is why we have put public confidence at the heart of the Home Secretary’s strategic priorities for policing and the new Make Communities Safer PSA. This new PSA places a stronger focus on more serious violence and provides greater flexibility for local partners to deliver local priorities, with an emphasis on increasing public confidence through improved quality of service from the police.
That was an important initial burst on where we have come from and I shall now deal with some of the specifics. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, touched particularly on neighbourhood policing and I hope that my comments have shown that we are focusing on that. We will roll out neighbourhood policing teams in every area by the end of this year. This marks three years of hard work by forces and the rollout is only the start of this story. The next phase is to ensure that such teams are embedded into core policing activities and that effective partnerships are developed with other community safety agencies to tackle local priorities. It may be worth mentioning that I am going to Cambridge, and a number of Ministers are going to various other areas, as part of a nationwide rollout of neighbourhood policing to meet those involved, together with PCSOs, and to talk about the safer neighbourhood strategy. I hope to learn a lot more about it because I think that it is absolutely the right way to go.
The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, spoke about the third sector and Crimestoppers, and the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, gave a compelling speech about the things that have been achieved. The noble Baronesses, Lady Chalker and Lady Hanham, also talked about that. I know Mick Laurie, the director, very well. He is an ex-Army general, who worked for me for a number of years and he is a very good man. Indeed, shortly after coming to this post, I talked to him about this specific issue because I was interested in knowing whether there was some roll-on in terms of counterterrorism that might be of use, and whether people were phoning up about other people whom they suspected of being involved with extremists, and so on. I know that Mr Laurie recently spoke to the Home Secretary, who strongly supports, and recognises the quality of, the work done by the third sector in general and Crimestoppers in particular.
We are committed to creating conditions to make the third sector thrive. It is crucial and people are getting involved in it. We are trying to develop funding arrangements that will give security—a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. In the current year, as noble Lords know, the funding for Crimestoppers is over £1 million, £900,000 of which is core funding, and £50,000 has recently been given to the Metropolitan Police to pilot a new service aimed at allowing young people to contact Crimestoppers anonymously. Therefore, we are trying to develop some of these issues.
We are implementing a new third sector skills strategy and investing more than £85 million of new resources in developing third sector infrastructure. As I said, I hope that we will be able to develop a funding line that will give Crimestoppers some security in the future. However, I can say that there is no danger of that stopping at the moment because we accept that Crimestoppers is extremely valuable and very important. As I said, the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, mentioned some cases that showed exactly the sort of thing that can be achieved. People’s involvement in this is very important. It is not just a matter for the police, the security services and the public sector; it is important to get people involved. The link to SOCA is also very important. As I said, it would be nice if there were some spin-off in the area of counterterrorism, but that is not the driver for this; the driver has to be within the crime sector.
My noble friend Lord Simon rightly raised the issue of traffic police and said how vital policing on the roads is. I agree entirely. Of course, decisions on the allocation of resources, including for roads policing, are matters for chief constables and police authorities. If we articulated too strongly exactly how things should be done, that would run counter to what we want in terms of what, in the military sense, I call “mission command”—that is, allowing people to get on with what they see as the issues within their own areas. However, my noble friend is absolutely right that these things are crucial.
My noble friend mentioned automatic number plate reading technology, which has been a huge step forward. It was originally developed in Northern Ireland and its use is now spreading here. It allows police officers to focus more effectively on criminals using the roads. The fixed site and mobile units are reporting significant successes in this area, which I think we all welcome.
My noble friend Lord Simon also mentioned police fleet management. This is not an area in which I am deeply involved but I share his concerns. With 43 police forces, we are talking about not just cars but a whole raft of issues—for example, communications and the very few helicopters that we can afford. It is not very clever if there is not always cohesion in moving forward on procurement so that we achieve the best value for money across all 43 forces, taking into account issues of compatibility and so on. However, it is good to see cohesion where we have been pushing for best-value reviews with police authorities. Thames Valley and Bedfordshire police are a classic example of where the forces successfully converged their fleet management. I think that this needs to be expanded, and my noble friend is absolutely right that this is something that we need to move forward on more.
We must never be complacent about deaths on the roads, which are an appalling and dreadful waste. The fact that the statistics for this country are better than those in a lot of places in Europe does not mean that we can sit back and say that that is fine. Such deaths are appalling. Over the past years, we have put a lot of effort into the problem of drink-driving, but it is dreadful to see that its incidence creeps up slightly. I think all of us in this House would say that we have to keep the pressure on that because of the devastation that it causes.
The issue of targets was raised, as were the problems that they cause. The new government targets announced on 9 October give much more prominence to tackling more serious crime, particularly the most serious violent crime and acquisitive crime. However, as was set out in our new crime strategy, launched last year, overall we are reducing the number of central targets and trying to give much greater flexibility to those at the front line to respond to local priorities. While government targets set the strategic direction for police services, it is for forces to exercise discretion in balancing those targets against local priorities. The Flanagan report stated that targets had achieved considerable successes and had moved things forward. From my experience in the Navy, I can say that, although it is sometimes very uncomfortable to have targets set for you—and they have to be cleverly worded—good leaders use them to ensure better delivery and do not use them as an excuse to say, “This is why we are doing something else”. I think that we have to be very careful in forming a view on targets because before we had them there was no way of measuring certain things. They can be irksome at times when you think that someone is monitoring you and that that person does not necessarily trust you and feels that you have to deliver something, but I am afraid that that is what a Government and a service have to demand to ensure that we get the right sort of delivery.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Dear, asked why Flanagan had not addressed things more widely in his review. We were very grateful to Sir Ronnie Flanagan for both his reports and, as I said, we will respond to the recommendations shortly. There has been an interim response but there will be a much more detailed one in due course. A number of speakers asked exactly when that would be available. I hope that the detailed response will be out very soon. Easter and other things will delay it but it will be issued very shortly.
A number of noble Lords talked about the Green Paper on policing. I will come back to that later but I very much hope that we will issue it before the Summer Recess. No doubt, my team in the Box are now shrieking with horror and are about to sprint out of the Chamber, but that is certainly what I hope will happen because it is a crucial piece of work. As a number of speakers said, it will have to address an awful lot of issues and we need to get it right.
The noble Baroness and a number of other speakers referred to bureaucracy and red tape. None of us wants to see excessive bureaucracy, but I fear that there has been too much of that within the police. Sir Ronnie’s report contains a package of measures to reduce unnecessary police bureaucracy that could save time equivalent to 3,000 police officers. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, we are implementing some of the things that she mentioned now. We are cracking on straight away because we certainly need to stop that sort of bureaucracy. It clearly upsets a number of officers, and I do not blame them. Again, I go back to my own experience within the Navy. It is amazing how people further up the chain start throwing out extra report forms to see what is going on, and that often stops people getting on with what they are meant to be doing. We need to look into that carefully. There is a place for certain reports, but we need to monitor the matter—we have to ensure that it does not get in the way of the job being done.
I admit to being caught out on the question of the Bexley pilot, and the Box has been caught out as well. Perhaps I may get back to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, on that point.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Dear, raised the issue of selection of senior police officers and touched on the requirement for training for senior police officers, which is extremely important. I am looking at my response, but I am not 100 per cent happy with it. I know from being part of a very large structured organisation that you have to go through that sort of mechanism very carefully. In military terms one has the Royal College of Defence Studies, the Higher Command and Staff Course and so on and I know that there are certain colleges in the police service. This is so important that we need to look at it quite closely so I should like to take it away for consideration. It is an important area and if it is not right, we need to get it right. Only by doing that will we have the right people to drive forward all the changes that we need to make.
On bureaucracy, I know that the Home Secretary wrote to the right honourable David Davis, showing how 9,000 forms had been abolished. That rather worries me because if 9,000 forms have been got rid of and everything moves on normally, then maybe things were not right. Thank goodness we are actually tackling that.
The noble Lord, Lord Dear, raised the issue of perceptions, which I have touched on, and their importance. He also mentioned targets and the police in the future. I understand where the noble Lord is coming from because there have been such huge changes in the world, and that is partly the reason why we have produced the national security strategy, on which I shall respond to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, later. Those changes have impacted on all areas of public life, not just on the police. It would be wrong to say that we have just tinkered with the police and that the previous Government, the Conservative Government, just tinkered with the police.
Over the years, a number of changes have been made. Although, in the Green Paper, we shall have to consider clearly where the police force is going, we cannot expect a root-and-branch statement of total change because every public sector area has had to change over the past 100 years. The changes that have taken place are not just tinkering. After the previous debate on this subject, I looked very closely at the possibility of a royal commission and it did not make sense—that was not the way to go—but I hope that the Green Paper will address some of those matters. I hope that we shall have an answer that satisfies this House and the police service that things are moving in the right direction.
I believe that our police force will be able to handle the London Olympics. That does not mean that we do not have a huge amount of work to do. I have just changed the structure of how security will be looked at for the Olympics. We have produced a proper risk assessment because there was not one before and stemming from that will be a fully costed and detailed security plan, which we shall have to amend as time goes on. Does that mean that there will be changes in certain areas? Yes, it does.
Various noble Lords asked what the impact will be on the whole of the United Kingdom when this event takes place. This is a gigantic event when one considers the sheer numbers of people involved. During the Games all sorts of other things will be going on. I believe it will be the Queen’s jubilee, or some such event, and there are the normal events such as the Notting Hill Carnival, Cowes week and Henley; they all have to be looked after in the same timeframe. Yes, I believe our police can do it and we are putting in place the right measures. It is highly complicated. The linkages and the interdependences are great but we shall get there. I have a number of people putting a great deal of effort into this. So far we are probably ahead of any other nation that has put on the Olympics. I have to admit that we have more problems than, say, the Games in Sydney where the geographic position made matters easier than it is for us in this country.
The noble Lord raised the issue of empowering local people. We will make local crime data available on a monthly and a consistent basis to people by July this year, which I hope will help them to understand community safety issues. I hope that covers that point.
I shall turn to the very good points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. Cybercrime is an issue about which I have been particularly worried. Perhaps in the past we have not taken it as seriously as we should have. The Government and I take this seriously. I have been in touch with the Cabinet Office to try to ensure that we start doing the right things. We have a range of public and private-sector initiatives which have been mentioned by a number of speakers: for example, there is Get Safe Online, which lets people know and understand this issue. The noble Viscount is absolutely right—I was not aware of this until I started to look into it—that this issue worries more people in the UK than many other crimes such as burglaries, muggings, car thefts and so on. It is a real worry and people are right to be worried.
We are taking the matter seriously—I must not call it unimportant as it is bloody important for people who lose things. The subject covers wider matters, such as security of the state as well. There are some real issues here; it is highly complicated and very difficult. One has to put against it the fact that we are probably the leading e-commerce economy in Europe and one of the leading such economies in the world. That is why we are so successful in a globalised way, but we have to get this right because if we do not we shall be in real trouble. I thank the noble Viscount for raising the issue. We have much to do.
The noble Viscount also raised the issue of DNA. That should be a debate in itself and I hope it will be. I will not go on about that but there is no doubt at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, mentioned, that DNA is a wonderful tool for getting people who have done dreadful things. However, there are so many other aspects to the subject that we need to debate them. I am sure everyone would agree with that.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for all the data and statistics that he raised.
I realise that I have gone on far too long but I would like to turn to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I thank him for his welcome and his unexpected accolade for this Government. I have never had a problem with bureaucrats; I can normally handle them quite well. I think his view of the Home Office is rather an old view of the Home Office; it is a very different place now. A national security strategy is very impressive. I have not been able to answer all the questions that have been put and I am sorry that I have not got on to the issue of counterfeiting because I wanted to touch on that. Perhaps I can reply in writing. I am aware that I have gone well over my time.
My Lords, I am greatly encouraged by the part of the Minister's speech which dealt with the future finances of Crimestoppers. I shall read and reread that part over and over again. Those taking part in this debate have more than justified my hopes. I thank them all very much indeed. I wish all noble Lords a happy Easter. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.