Private Notice Question
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the statistics published by the Home Office today which show an 11% increase in recorded crime in the year ending March 2018.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice.
My Lords, the Office for National Statistics has pointed to improvements to police recording and increased willingness of victims to report certain crimes such as sexual offences and domestic abuse as important factors in explaining trends in police recorded crime. However, there has been a genuine increase in serious violent crimes, so we have announced new laws to address them. The serious violence strategy represents a step change in the way that we respond.
My Lords, overall crime is increasing and violent crime, as the Minister has just said, is increasing at an alarming rate of more than 10%. The crime survey does not reflect this because of the underrepresentation of young men, who are predominantly the victims of violent crime. Nor are murder and manslaughter offences reflected in it. Crimes that are more complex to investigate, such as rape, are an increasing proportion of the total, requiring more police resources to investigate them. Meanwhile, the proportion of offences resulting in a court appearance fell from 11% to 9%, the lowest since comparable records began in 2015. Despite government claims to the contrary, central government funding for core policing continues to fall in real terms, with the number of police officers at the lowest level since comparable records began in 1996. At the same time, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said in its State of Policing report of 2017:
“On the whole, the inspections we have carried out during the past year show that the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service are improving”.
When will the Government accept that the continued, damaging, real-terms cuts to core policing budgets are helping to drive up crime, and when will they reverse them?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Question. I say at the outset that the Government understand that police demand is changing and increasingly complex, as the noble Lord said. That is why, after the Police Minister spoke to all forces in England and Wales, we provided a comprehensive funding settlement which will increase total investment in the police system by more than £460 million in 2018-19. That includes £50 million for counterterrorism, £130 million for national priorities and £280 million in force funding for increases in council tax precept income. He will have also heard the Home Secretary saying that he understands what the demands on the police have been, particularly over the last year with all they have had to deal with, and that he will prioritise this in the next spending round. However, the overall picture is that public investment in policing has gone up from £11.9 billion in 2015-16 to £13 billion in 2018-19. The workforce of the police has remained broadly stable over the past year. I add that many forces have indicated that they either plan to protect the number of police officers or will in fact recruit further in the coming year.
My Lords, we have seen an 11% increase in recorded crime, police officer numbers at a record low, only 9% of recorded crime resulting in anyone being charged or summoned to court, offences involving knives and sharp instruments up 16%, gun crime up 2% and murder and manslaughter up 12%. These are appalling figures. Will the noble Baroness tell the House what responsibility the Government accept for letting the public down so badly?
My Lords, I have said that the Government recognise the genuine increase in serious, violent crimes. I have talked about our serious violence strategy. This very week my honourable friend in another place, Victoria Atkins, will be going out to schools to talk about the initiative #knifefree and the importance of young people not getting drawn into knife crime. We have a number of initiatives around this, including Operation Sceptre. I have outlined not only the funding settlement for this year but the Home Secretary’s priority for the next spending round, because he recognises the sheer strain that police have been put under—the changing face of the types of crime that people are committing and, of course, the strain that they have been under in terms of terrorist attacks. I will say something about police numbers in relation to serious violence. At the national level, most types of serious violence were far higher in 2000, with higher police numbers compared with the 1950s and 1960s, when police numbers were far lower. That is not to denigrate the points made about the police and the pressure they are under. I take this opportunity to thank the police for the very important work they do in keeping our communities safe.
My Lords, I endorse what my noble friend says about the great work done by the police. I am particularly concerned about the position in London, particularly in relation to knife crime. Does she feel that there is more that the mayor and his team could do to help in the fight against this appalling crime?
My noble friend makes a very valid point. Many people have pointed to the increase in knife crime and moped crime around London. This is not solely a job for the police: elected people such as the Mayor of London have their part to play. As I say, there are a number of initiatives going on in this area. The police are doing some incredible work, but everyone has their part to play.
My Lords, as my noble friend has said, some of the statistics are very disturbing. There is a whole pattern, not just in knife crime and violent crime, but in the numbers of what we might call ordinary crime. Something like 80% of robberies are not solved or even subject to charges being made. I wonder whether Cressida Dick, the new commissioner, should produce in two or three months a real-time, online assessment of what targets should now be set by the Met to reduce these appalling numbers.
As I have said on many occasions, the targets that police set are for individual police forces to decide, depending on the challenges they have in their communities.
My Lords, the Minister mentioned increased rates of reporting. That is a point that she will have heard, as I have, many times over decades now as part of an explanation. I do not discount it as part of an explanation, but can she assure the House that every effort will be made to encourage victims to report and that ways will not be found to deter them?
The noble Baroness makes a very valid point. There is increased reporting and we do not want to discourage that. We have gone to some lengths to encourage victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse to come forward, as well as victims of FGM—as we heard in the debate that has just taken place—and victims of stalking. With all those types of crime, people were unwilling to come forward. So, yes, we are absolutely adamant that we want victims to carry on reporting those crimes.
My Lords, the police used to patrol on foot, both in the country and in towns, most of the time. As far as I can see, at the moment they patrol in vehicles, which does not give them the chance to know the young people in their area and to know where they should be and where they ought not to be, and so to prevent crime before it starts. Is there any likelihood of this changing?
I agree with my noble friend that the bobby on the beat is a very valuable presence on our streets, not only to make people feel safe in their community but to act as some sort of deterrent to criminals who may be on our streets. I go back to the point that I made earlier: it is entirely a matter for PCCs, together with their chief constables, to decide how to deploy resources in the most effective way that meet the needs of their community.