Easter Adjournment

Part of Deferred Division No. 85 – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping PPS (Rt Hon Jack Straw, Lord Privy Seal), Leader of the House of Commons, Parliamentary Secretary 4:32 pm, 29th March 2007

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made that clear.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East also talked about the reorganisation of the criminal justice system. He is a distinguished member of the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs. I shall ensure that those issues are pursued and that he gets replies to them.

Mr. Jackson spoke about the importance of the justice system. I have visited Peterborough prison over the years—I know it well. [Laughter.] In a former life, I used to spend a lot of time in prison, but I had the keys, so it was okay. He is right to say that prisons are an important part of the spectrum of managing crime. He went on to talk about the importance of having a sufficient number of prison places. There have been 19,700 new prison places since 1997, and a further 8,000 are planned by 2012.

The hon. Gentleman was also right to talk about the importance of police on the streets. Again, police numbers are at a record level. There are an extra 14,000 police under this Government, backed by new police community support officers, and that figure will grow to 16,000 this year.

I will pursue the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes about recruitment difficulties. She also made important points about antisocial behaviour and the need for neighbourhood policing.

The right hon. Member for West Derbyshire mentioned police financing as well. As what he said concerned the east midlands and affects my constituents and me, I will pursue it vigorously. He was right to point out that the five police authorities in the east midlands are not receiving their quota under the present formula. He and I, and others, have already pursued that vigorously with the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, my hon. Friend Mr. McNulty. My hon. Friend has agreed to visit the east midlands special operations unit, where we have both been fairly recently. That will provide an ideal opportunity not only to press for funds for the unit—£8 million of Home Office grant may well disappear next year—but to press the wider issue of fairness of funding that the right hon. Gentleman raised.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes emphasised the importance of seaside towns. The Government have an excellent record for large-scale regeneration projects. All over the United Kingdom, cranes can be observed and the work can be seen taking place. Where we have not been so successful, and need to be more sophisticated, is in areas with relatively small pockets of deprivation. The Select Committee has produced a report, and the Government will respond in due course—I hope favourably, because seaside towns need an adequate infrastructure.

My hon. Friend also talked about fireworks legislation. We have made progress, but the matter must be kept under review, and I am keen to do that.

Winding up the debate for the Conservatives, Mr. Vara spoke of concern in the House about oral questions. The Leader of the House is pursuing that issue, and the issue of written questions, extremely vigorously. I will ensure that we try to improve in that respect, and I also undertake to write to all Members to whom I have not responded today.

Two strong themes emerged from the debate. Both the hon. Member for Peterborough and the hon. Member for Southend, West spoke of the importance of community and voluntary groups. They are vital in providing care services and a range of help throughout all our constituencies, and we cannot thank them enough. A number of Members mentioned campaign groups, in Canvey Island, in West Derbyshire and in Cleethorpes. One of the things we must do as a Parliament is connect their activities, their legitimate concerns and their voices. We must ensure that their voices are heard and responded to in this place. Unless Parliament can have greater connection with the public, we are on a slippery slope.

A number of Members also said, "Let us all have a good holiday". I hope you have a good holiday, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I hope the staff have a good holiday. I remind my hon. Friends in particular that five weeks from today will be 3 May, the day of important elections in Scotland, Wales and local councils. I hope that Opposition Members will have a peaceful and relaxing time, and I hope my colleagues are diligent, hard working and successful in their efforts.