Crime and Disorder Strategies

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th April 1999.

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Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood 12:00 am, 26th April 1999

If he will make a statement on progress in establishing local crime and disorder strategies. [809521

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office)

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 required the local authority and police in every area to formulate by 1 April 1999 a strategy for the reduction of crime and disorder over the next three years. Therefore all local crime and disorder reduction partnerships—more than 400 of them in England and Wales—should now have strategies in place and be starting to implement them.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Given the positive and pro-active consultation undertaken by both the police and local councils in developing these strategies, will my hon. Friend encourage local authorities and police to continue to liaise with local communities? For example, in my constituency the police in Fleetwood and local councillors are holding joint surgeries where they are continuing to listen to people's views. They are offering them confidential meetings if they have particular concerns to raise.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for sharing with the House the experience of her constituency. The evidence is that the partnership there to which she is referring between the police and the public is being replicated throughout the country, and forms the soundest possible basis for the reduction and prevention of crime.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

Why, when all the powers given to magistrates to handle crime and disorder are discretionary, are the Government insisting that youth offender referral orders are to be mandatory? Why has consideration in Committee of the youth offender reforms been postponed until the summer? Is it not clear from what we have heard today that the crime and disorder measures are based on only a handful of pilot studies and on only limited uptake by the courts, no matter what the Home Secretary says?

Does not all this make a mockery of the Government's claims that their policies on law and order are making a difference, especially when the only difference that the public can see is that there are fewer police officers?

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office)

Uncharacteristically, the hon. Gentleman has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The reality is that we are pushing forward apace with our welcome reforms of youth justice. Magistrates have benefited from the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and its provisions, in which they are active participants. They are looking forward to the opportunity of making references to the youth offender panels because they know that they represent the best chance of arriving at a concerted focus on the needs of young people before they are sucked into the criminal justice system. That approach is likely to bear dividends later. This is about concerted action to reduce crime and youth offending, something that the Conservative party failed to do when it had the opportunity to act. We are acting and Conservatives are moaning and complaining.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

The best way to counter crime in communities is to have partnerships within communities. Will my hon. Friend tell the House the best way forward in encouraging community partnerships to combat crime and disorder? More could be done in my area and there could be greater co-operation with communities if the lead came from his Department.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office)

My officials are certainly ready—as, indeed, are Ministers—to participate in the development of effective local crime prevention and reduction strategies, but we are singularly anxious to achieve recognition of the importance of growing such strategies locally. We are not about being prescriptive and imposing strategies from above, but we are about encouraging good practice and supporting it wherever we find it. We are giving £250 million to support the crime prevention and reduction strategies. Such sums were never available under the previous Conservative Administration.

The whole House would like to hear—perhaps from the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who speaks for the Conservatives on this issue—whether they are prepared to match that sum of money. We have heard about health and education, but we have heard nothing about their support for methods of reducing the effect of crime on our population.