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I beg to move,
That this House
supports the dedication of police officers in the City of London Police, the Metropolitan Police Service and the British Transport Police but notes the unacceptable trend in teenage murders in London, including the shocking figure of 27 murdered in 2007;
believes that Londoners' daily experience of crime, particularly lower level crime and anti-social behaviour, is now far removed from some official statistics;
is deeply concerned that violent crime in London as measured by the British Crime Survey is the highest of all the regions in England and Wales and that fear of crime in London is now also the highest of all the regions in England and Wales;
further notes the link between gun crime and drugs;
further believes that local communities should be given greater freedom to direct the efforts of their police force if streets are to be made safer;
and condemns the current Mayor of London for his complacent attitude to these serious crime issues.
London is the greatest city on earth. It is protected by the dedicated officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, the City of London police and the British Transport police, whom I have had the privilege of visiting during most of today. But it is also the city where the British Home Secretary, on her own admission, does not feel safe walking alone at night, and it is the city where 27 teenagers were murdered by other teenagers in 2007. Last month, a Labour Back Bencher, Emily Thornberry, said "I suspect that hardly any children in Islington have not been mugged at some stage."
London is the city where more teenagers are being mugged each year. The Metropolitan Police Service figures—not the Home Office departmental figures—show that the number of 11-to-22-year-olds reported to have been mugged in London rose from 19,276 in 2004-05 to 24,701 in 2006-07, an increase of 28 per cent. In Lewisham alone, 454 more muggings were recorded over the same period, an increase of 88.5 per cent. The Minister should note that those are Metropolitan Police Service figures.
According to the British crime survey, London has the highest level of violent crime among all the regions in England and Wales, and also the highest level of fear of crime. Londoners are twice as likely to be robbed as people in New York city. Violent crime has increased over eight years, according to official measurements of total violent crime and to measurements of violence against the person. The respective increases have been 15.3 per cent. and over 15 per cent. Those are the Mayor's own figures. Robbery has increased by just under 20 per cent. in eight years. In 2007-08 there were more than 37,000 incidents of robbery in London. Those too are the Mayor's own figures. The number of sexual offences was greater in 2007 than in 1999 to 2000, according to Metropolitan Police Service figures.
No, I do not, because of the statistics that I have just read out. The hon. Gentleman really ought to spend a bit more time listening and a bit less time mouthing off. If he reads Hansard tomorrow, he will see why he is wrong. Those statistics show beyond peradventure that violent crime is on the up in the capital.
I am sure that my hon. Friend has not had time yet to read today's Uxbridge Gazette, but when he does, he will find out that Hillingdon has London's third highest daily crime rate, and in the last year there were 6,925 violent crimes—or 19 a day—in that borough alone. Does he think that that is acceptable?
Following the intervention by my neighbour, my hon. Friend Mr. Randall, we cannot be complacent about violent crime, given that there have been five murders in Edmonton since Christmas and that London has the highest levels of fear of crime—according to Government figures.
My hon. Friend mentions police officers. Will he join me in thanking the police officers who protect us here in the House of Commons? They do a tremendous job. Does he also agree that more needs to be done to ensure that everyone respects police officers more?
I agree, and statistics show that offences against and assaults on police officers have risen in the past 10 years. That is a cause for concern and something must be done. That emphasises our point that there is more violence about, and whether it is against civilians or police officers, it is utterly unacceptable in London. Labour Members are way too complacent about that.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful and effective case—[Hon. Members: "No, he's not."] Labour Members do not like to hear the truth. My hon. Friend has highlighted the real problem. In my area of south-east London, there is a real and growing fear of crime. People know that violent crime is increasing and they want a new approach.
They want a new approach and they also want the Government to accept that, according to the British crime survey, fear of crime is higher in London than in any other region in England and Wales. That is a fact.
The statistics illustrate why Londoners rightly believe that they need and deserve tougher, more effective law and order policies. We have set out such policies in the past few weeks. But we can only satisfy that demand by Londoners if we give the police the tools to do the job. We believe that a London Mayor must chair the Metropolitan Police Authority for the first time, and I hope that my hon. Friend Mr. Johnson will do that in very short order. As a top priority, he will use his influence to cut red tape on our police men and women, so that they can get out on the streets and do the job that they so badly wish to do.
Secondly, the public spaces of buses, trains and railway stations must be made safer, with more visible police and new sanctions for offenders, especially those guilty of antisocial behaviour—something that my hon. Friend has spoken about powerfully and in detail in past weeks. We support him in that.
Thirdly, the levels of knife and gun crime in this city are unacceptable and must and, I trust, will be tackled by more weapons scanners—we can show how we would pay for those—and the reform of stop-and-search powers.
I am grateful to Mr. Ruffley—not a London constituency. Did he—like Mr. Johnson, another non-London constituency—vote against introducing an automatic five-year sentence for possession of an illegal gun? Or is he, like the hon. Member for Henley, all words and no action?
That is a tired canard and it is not worth replying to it. We have gone round the track on that many times and the hon. Gentleman knows that it is a non-point. Londoners who are listening will not believe for a second that my party—the party of law and order—is soft compared with his lot, not just in the past 10 years but in the past 50 years.
The hon. Gentleman will try anything on; if he wants to try that, he can forget it. Let us move on to some serious debate.
Fourthly, we believe in reorganising the mayoral financial budget to deliver long-term funding for neglected rape crisis centres. Finally, we believe that the police service in London can be made more accountable to Londoners by giving local communities, for the first time in this country and in this city, online crime maps that show the true levels of crime in every neighbourhood, which can ensure that borough commanders are held better to account at monthly open public beat meetings.
On the first of those issues, tougher law and order priorities have to be set by a new London Mayor. The Mayor has the right to do that under existing legislation by chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority, but he currently does not bother to do so. Is that because he does not take law and order seriously? That is what we think. We believe that a new Mayor could drive a new policing plan drawn up in consultation with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that will, as a priority, slash form filling. It is unacceptable that officers in London spend more time on paperwork than they do on the beat—about one hour in five is spent on the beat compared with the time spent doing other things. That is not acceptable.
Even the commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has said that the police need "a bonfire of bureaucracy", yet Mr. Livingstone's current policing plan up to 2010 does not list that as any kind of priority.
As I am a London Member of Parliament, representing more than 100,000 Londoners, will the hon. Gentleman accept that although there are severe problems with which no politicians and police have yet dealt, such as gun crime and the deaths from such crime, he does this city no service by trading statistics that give a wrong impression in many respects and add to the fear of crime? Will he give a commitment that whoever wins the London mayoral election, whoever ends up on the Front Bench and whichever party is in government, his party will seek, along with the other two main parties, to agree the statistics? That would mean that this ridiculous debate, which goes on every year, could be put to bed and we could get on with discussing the issues rather than trading party political points across the Chamber.
The hon. Gentleman has made half of a good point, in the sense that there is confusion and a bit of argy-bargy about statistics. However, he should have listened carefully to what I was quoting, because he would have realised that the British crime survey and the Metropolitan Police Service are pretty objective sources of data, which the Labour party chooses to ignore when it suits them.
Does my hon. Friend agree with my constituents in Chipping Barnet that neither the Government nor the Mayor of London have taken any kind of effective action to tackle the growing problem of antisocial behaviour and crime on our bus network?
I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Solutions are surely what we should be talking about. They also represent a huge divide between the proposals of that lot on the Benches opposite and the constructive, well thought through and well funded proposals of the Conservative opposition in London and in the House of Commons.
Sir Ian Blair is right to identify the amount of paperwork as a problem for the police. How can we make some kind of dent in it? The Metropolitan Police Authority has talked endlessly about cutting the number of forms that need to be filled in, but it has never got around to doing anything about it. It is nonsense to say that it is not the MPA's responsibility, but the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing could have done much more in that regard. Moreover, any go-getting and serious Mayor who cares about law and order could play a key role in getting police chiefs to cut the amount of paperwork that police have to complete. It can be done.
The Government have been havering about one particular proposal that has been made, but we have stated clearly and unambiguously that we will abolish the stop-and-account form. No ifs, buts, maybes or promises of a review: we will cut it. In the Met area last year, 384,115 people were stopped, and the form involved is a foot long. Estimates vary, but it can take as long as 25 minutes to fill it in. On that basis, we believe that more than 160,000 police hours were taken up last year by the need to fill in a form that we will abolish when we come into power.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Leader of the Opposition was being extremely disingenuous when he held out a stop-and-account form? He allowed the carbon copy to fall open, but the form itself is not a foot long. The police say that it takes about four minutes on average to fill one in. Does he also accept that it is not too much to ask of a policeman that he spends four minutes establishing a rapport with the person being stopped and searched?
I direct the hon. Lady to the review by Sir Ronnie Flanagan that was published in the first week of February. I am sure that she has heard of it, but she should try to read it as well. In it, he talks in detail about the length of the form and how long it takes to fill it in. I agree with Sir Ronnie who, being a police officer and the chief of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, knows a bit more about these matters than anyone in this building. If she has a problem with the form, I suggest that she take it up with him.
A Conservative Government will get rid of the stop-and-account form, but we also believe that the stop and search procedure needs serious reform. An officer who stops and searches a member of the public will still need to record what we acknowledge will always be an intrusive procedure. However, not enough has been done by the Met or Ministers to put in place a system whereby the essential details of a search are radioed in to a police log at a call centre, where they could be taped.
Using that method, stop and searches would still be recorded, but in a paperless way. That would save time and bureaucracy and, under our proposal, a person unhappy about the circumstances of a search would still be entitled to visit a police station and request the information held about it. What could be easier than that? All that it requires is a bit of the political will so sadly lacking in the Labour party and in the London Mayor who, I believe, has held office for far too long.
With their new laws, targets and forms, this Labour Government have presided over piles of paperwork, both locally and nationally. The Minister repeatedly claims that 9,000 forms have been cut nationally, yet—amazingly—he refuses to publish the list. If his officials have counted that many forms, he must surely have such a list in his possession. Will he publish it today? I bet that the answer is no.
Earlier in his speech, the hon. Gentleman slipped in the remark that, if the Conservatives won the election, they would redistribute parts of the crime budget. That would be their prerogative, but the current Mayor has offered London boroughs some £79 million to help in the provision of youth facilities. In many cases, the areas that would benefit are the ones with the most gun crime. Would the Conservatives cut that money, or redistribute it away from those areas?
The hon. Gentleman asks a very long question, but it has a very simple answer: we will not cut that money.
London needs proper leadership from a new Mayor who is dedicated to helping the police, but the second problem has to do with how we can make trains and buses safer. In 2007, Mr. Livingstone stated:
"London's buses are a low-crime environment".
I am afraid that the facts tell a radically different story. Tube crimes are on the increase, public disorder offences increased by 33 per cent. between 2005-06 and 2006-07, criminal damage was up by 36.9 per cent., and sex offences on the tube were up by 14.9 per cent. The source for that, if anyone really wants to trade statistics, is the British Transport police's statistical bulletin 2006-07. I was with members of the British Transport police this very lunchtime, and they confirmed those figures to me personally. If any Labour Member wants to intervene on me, I am happy for them to do so. No? Okay.
Tube crime—up. Crime on the buses—up. The London assembly's transport committee found at the beginning of the year that overall crime on buses increased by just over 17 per cent. between 2004-05 and 2005-06. The source for that is the committee's report of January 2008.
I am grateful. If I heard him correctly, the hon. Gentleman was citing figures for 2004-05 and 2005-06. Actually, to give us a common baseline for the most recent year, the figures show an 11 per cent. fall in crime on London's buses. That selective use of statistics, which he accuses other people of, calls his entire argument into disrepute.
Not in the least, because no one in this House, and I hope that the hon. Lady is not an exception, thinks that crime on the buses or on the tube— [Interruption.] Is it higher or lower than when the Mayor came into office? Right, okay. I think we have the answer to that.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend.
Assaults on the buses are up. TfL's internal papers confirm that the most recent period showed a 10 per cent. increase in the number of assaults on passengers, staff and members of the public compared with the same period last year. The source for that is the surface advisory panel's documents of
Antisocial behaviour on the buses is also up. Under-18s travel free on the buses in London, which is a good thing, but we all know that a minority of under-18s abuse that cherished privilege. TfL's figures show that incidents of code red calls made by bus drivers in London due to antisocial behaviour increased from about 470 cases in August 2005 to 697 cases by the end of 2006. That is from the managing director's report.
I am sure that my hon. Friend also recognises that many of the victims on buses are young. Often, they hope that adults on the bus will get involved, but adults these days do not want to. They feel completely on their own when they are confronted with such problems on buses.
I agree deeply with my hon. Friend's profound analysis of what is going wrong on London transport. The 100 per cent. tolerance of so-called minor disorder and minor crime on the buses and the tubes is aggravating more serious criminality on the streets and leading to the real scandal that a person is twice as likely to be mugged on our streets in London today as in New York. That is because we have 100 per cent. tolerance of so-called minor crime.
As ever, my hon. Friend gets it absolutely spot on. Like many on the Conservative Benches, he has learned the lesson that if one cracks down on so-called low-level crime in a zero-tolerance fashion, that inevitably leads to a cut in much more serious offences, as night follows day. That is what the empirical evidence around the world demonstrates. It is taking my hon. Friend to speak out and say that London needs a Mayor who believes in that policy. The current Mayor clearly and palpably does not.
Are not my hon. Friend's last point and the point made by my hon. Friend Justine Greening reinforced by the extraordinary development that, when a London headmaster wrote to the Mayor complaining of abuse of the free travel pass leading to attacks on the school pupils for whom he had responsibility, the Mayor's response was to have the arrogance and temerity to describe that decent headmaster as a Victor Meldrew? What sort of political lead is that from the Mayor of London?
It is no kind of leadership and my hon. Friend's point, like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney, speaks to arrogance and complacency about antisocial behaviour in public spaces, especially in London transport settings.
From the start of the travel pass scheme in September 2005 until July 2007, only 394 bus passes were permanently withdrawn from under-18s despite the fact that there is clearly a problem, as has been demonstrated both in Putney and in Bromley. The TfL behaviour code defines antisocial behaviour in ways we would all recognise—using offensive or threatening language, smoking, playing music very loudly, damaging or defacing photo cards, physical or verbal abuse, unlawfully carrying a weapon and drug use. TfL figures show the staggering statistic that 65 per cent. of Londoners have experienced or witnessed antisocial behaviour on buses or tubes in the past two years—two out of three Londoners. That is a fatally depressing statistic of which Mr. Livingstone should be wholly ashamed.
We need a new London Mayor to tackle that level of dissatisfaction.
It is not surprising that the Mayor is not in sympathy with the naturally law-abiding citizens of London because in earlier years he preferred to spend time with Sinn Fein rather than with Ulster's police force. London people were prepared to forgive him that and give him a chance. They hoped that he had changed; but as he has shown that currently he prefers the company of homophobic, hate-filled extremists to that of people interested in community safety we can see why his character is not suitable to be Mayor of the city.
My hon. Friend makes a typically powerful point. The current London Mayor—I hope we do not have him for too long—is tolerant not only of low-level crime but of serious crime and he should go.
In addition to the sanctions we believe should be attendant on under-18s' antisocial misbehaviour, which breaks the behaviour code, there should be permanent withdrawal of their bus passes until they participate in a restorative justice programme to earn them back. That is an excellent and original idea proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley.
As well as those sanctions, we want more police visibility, which we can pay for in part by employing fewer press and communications officers. According to the Central Office of Information, Mr. Livingstone has more press officers than the Prime Minister, although as his popularity rating is almost as dire as the Prime Minister's we might wonder whether that is a good use of Londoners' money. Transport for London forecasts that it will spend £66 million on advertising, marketing and communications in 2007-08. It would be a sensible idea to cap that spending in real terms rather than going ahead with the £84 million requested by Mr. Livingstone. Those figures are from the Greater London authority group budget report, 2008-09. Under our proposal, £16.5 million of the money saved would be redirected to the existing safer transport teams and would pay for approximately 440 police community support officers, delivering more visible presence on our transport network—approximately doubling their strength.
Police support officers are valued by the Conservatives; they could particularly help to crack down on one of the low-level issues identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley—fare evasion. Why? Punish the smaller offences and the larger ones will diminish in number. The example that we have already mentioned is New York, but there are other examples in cities around the world.
In 2006, fare evasion in London rose from about 2.3 per cent. to 3.18 per cent on conventional buses, with a cost to the taxpayer of £36.7 million. On bendy buses, fare evasion rose by a much bigger amount, rising from 7.8 per cent. to 9.3 per cent. That is more than double the rate on conventional buses. Those are figures that my hon. Friend the Member for Henley has delved into, and they are quite worrying. The revenue loss on bendy buses alone was £8 million, and the total loss for all buses was in the region of £46 million. That is about £1 million a week in lost revenue. Every criminal who evades their fare and is not caught is a criminal who may have form for more serious offences, so the issue is not just about lost revenue.
TFL deploys about 300 revenue protection inspectors on its entire bus network, about 200 revenue control officers on the underground, and about 200 traffic enforcement staff. Considering that there are about 7,700 normal buses and about 300 bendy buses, there is a minimal chance of people being caught, and offenders know it. We hope that a new London Mayor will be able to direct the Metropolitan Police Authority to investigate, in partnership with TFL, giving revenue protection inspectors new and better powers, including, for the first time, the power to take names and addresses, so fare-dodgers can truly be held to account.
I should tell the hon. Gentleman that we have police community support officers on our buses already. I am all in favour of dealing with what he calls low-level crime, but no one could take seriously what he and his party's mayoral candidate say about policing in London and about chairing the MPA unless they answer the serious questions that they are trying to dodge. Why did he and Mr. Johnson vote against mandatory five-year sentences for illegally carrying a gun? Why did Mr. Ruffley vote against antisocial behaviour legislation? Admittedly, the hon. Member for Henley makes a very good game show host, but I do not think that he is a serious candidate for London Mayor.
I am afraid that that was not a serious intervention.
Moving on from buses to suburban railway stations, the London assembly's transport committee recently expressed its dismay at the "glaring loopholes" often
"left in the security net" in relation to suburban railway stations. Many outer London station platforms are often unmanned by quite an early time in the evening.
As I have said, I had the privilege of visiting the British Transport police today; I was with them up until this debate started. They cover a huge rail network, which extends way beyond London, with a mere 427 fully warranted officers and 303 PCSOs and support staff. In 2003-04, just over 15,000 offences were committed at overground stations, but by 2005-06, that figure had risen to more than 19,300. We propose that about £3.1 million earmarked for the MPS advertising and spin doctor budget be released to fund approximately 50 extra fully warranted officers.
Those new officers could patrol suburban station platforms, particularly the stations with the highest levels of crime. We are talking about not just the inner city but the outer parts of London, which, sadly, the Mayor treats with arrogant disdain. He seems to think that his heartlands are in the allegedly tough, hard areas of the inner city. We want some attention to be paid to the suburbs of this great city, and the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley would ensure just that.
Closed circuit television has been deployed and used by the London authorities, but we believe that more can be done. We propose that £150,000—a modest sum that could be found from the more wasteful parts of the Mayor's already rather wasteful budget—be used for a CCTV trial for 20 of the most dangerous bus routes in London, lasting approximately six months. The capital cost for new equipment is about £3,000 to £3,500 a bus. Running costs for the cameras, aside from the capital element, would be about £45.
My hon. Friend anticipates me. Our proposal is for instant access real-time live CCTV. It has taken my hon. Friend to come up with this innovative idea. The Mayor has had eight years in which to roll it out. Instant access real-time live CCTV would be particularly useful where a code red call is received. We could then prioritise calls that required emergency police assistance. Subject to the trial working as we believe it will, police officers would have the ability to dial into the system to see what was going on in real time, using mobile technology where that was available.
The police could also record the footage in real time and use it as instant evidence, rather than having to wait for the bus companies to send them recorded footage, as they do at present, which wastes huge amounts of time. I heard only this morning that one of the problems—an evidential problem—is that often the Crown Prosecution Service will not charge until it has reviewed the CCTV evidence, which can take weeks to reach the CPS and the police at the station. Everybody knows that. My hon. Friend has a solution to the problem; the Labour party in London has had eight years and done nothing about it.
Has the hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to see the evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee in our inquiry on the surveillance society? He is right. There is a demand for more cameras, but there are additional costs in viewing the footage. It is not just a matter of installing the cameras and making sure that the footage is viewed live. The resources are needed to enable people to look at that footage before they make the decision to prosecute.
The right hon. Gentleman is right, but he surely recognises that viewing must take place anyway. We argue that real time gives advantages, and that waiting three weeks for the hard copy to arrive through the post is not acceptable. I am not entirely sure that I understand his point.
Thirdly, we propose that new measures on violent crime, particularly in relation to knife and gun crime, be taken. On the Mayor's own figures, 10 gun crimes a day take place in London, which is higher than when he took office. We believe that more should be done in relation to hand-held scanners. We all know that the British Transport police began Operation Shield in London to tackle the scourge of the carrying of offensive weapons, through the use of hand-held metal detectors and walk-through detection arches.
We have looked at the Metropolitan Police Authority reserve, particularly the contingency reserve where we believe that 2 per cent. of net revenue is squirreled away. The current budget proposal includes a reserve of about 2.4 per cent. We would reduce that to 2.3 per cent. That could release up to £2.5 million for more detectors. The British Transport police are using one model of metal detector for Operation Shield. The Met have a preferred model, AD11-2, which is a lot cheaper. Depending which option we went for, our £2.5 million, which we show we can provide, would pay for up to an additional 26,000 hand-held scanners.
Not enough cognisance has been taken by the current London Mayor of best practice established by the Association of Chief Police Officers. ACPO's Secured By Design standards result in a quarter less crime in housing estates than in non-Secured By Design housing estates. Those standards cut crime and the fear of crime. Despite Mr. Livingstone's two terms in city hall, there is not much sign of that being made a priority.
Our fourth proposal concerns rape crisis centres. Only one for the whole of London based in zone 5 is woefully inadequate and does not acknowledge the fact that sex offences have risen in the capital. There were 546 more sex offences during 2006-07 than in 2000-01.
We have a fifth and final proposal. We believe that the police service should be made more accountable to Londoners and we have said that for the first time there will be online crime mapping by street and neighbourhood. We have inadequate, unhelpful and difficult-to-access crime maps, of which the biggest two are in the west midlands and West Yorkshire. It is high time that the greatest city on earth had online access so that people do not have to read dodgy Government statistics, but can see crime street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. That will improve their confidence in police figures and allow them to hold their local basic command unit commanders to account.
We see a Labour Mayor and a Labour Prime Minister out of ideas and out of excuses when it comes to their failing crime record. The Opposition believe that it is possible to take the handcuffs off the police and give Londoners the law and order policies that they so richly deserve.
I promise faithfully, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I shall not call you Madam Deputy Mayor at any stage during our deliberations as I did some time ago.
What we have just heard was quite shameful and pathetic. Simon Hughes is right to suggest that whatever the failings of London, it does no one in the House any good to indulge in the sort of hysterical caterwauling that we have just heard, rooted in bogus statistics, invented to scare, petrify and frighten.
Absolutely not, given the hysterical nonsense that we have just had, and I will come on to why it was.
I will give way to my hon. Friend in a moment, but let me finish this point. Serious crimes are committed in London—
The hon. Gentleman will hang himself from his own mouth; that is not my business.
In 2001-02, to acclamation, the Government introduced the national criminal recording standards. The National Audit Office, all professionals, everybody, said that that was a far better way to count crime. Among other things, if there was an affray in London or elsewhere before the introduction of NCRS, however many people were involved, however many victims, it would have been treated as one crime. After the introduction of NCRS, they were treated as five victims and five crimes, quite rightly. The hon. Gentleman knows that. That is why making comparisons with before 2003 is utterly erroneous and utterly bogus.
I note that Mr. Johnson has left the Chamber. I hope that the crisis in Oxfordshire is momentary and that he will be able to join us again. He gave London about an hour in an Opposition day debate. Let us have the debate, but let us have it, as the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey suggests, on serious terms with serious figures.
In the annual guide to what one pays and what one gets, my Conservative-controlled borough of Westminster records as No. 1 in its top 10 achievements for 2007-08 a fall in total crime figures, including a 6.8 per cent. reduction in burglary. Kensington and Chelsea, a borough for which I am also Member of Parliament, also announces that burglaries have been slashed and says that Kensington and Chelsea residents are less likely to be victims of burglary today than at any other time this century, and that burglary figures have halved in just seven years. Does my right hon. Friend agree that even those who dispute the Metropolitan police figures, even those who dispute the crime statistics that were all welcomed in 2000, might pay some regard to figures that have come from their own Conservative local authorities?
I agree, and my own borough is in the same position. The Opposition motion states:
"That this House supports the dedication of police officers in the City of London Police, the Metropolitan Police Service and the British Transport Police", which we all do. However, there is a fine line when politicians play foolish and bogus statistical games, which, by the bye, is to treat Londoners as idiots. There is also a fine line on traducing the work of not only every single policeman and woman who is out on the beat in our capital city, but every council of whatever hue working through crime and disorder reduction partnerships to secure those figures. Does that mean complacency? No, of course it does not. Does it mean that there is not a whole lot more to do in a range of areas, which I shall discuss later? Of course it does not.
Let us get serious about London. I do not blame Mr. Ruffley, who is from Suffolk and who could not care less about London. However, London Members should be serious, because it does not do London justice to play around with bogus figures.
I commend the Minister on his approach. I am not here to defend the current Mayor in the election campaign or to speak in favour of Labour policy, but a former Labour Home Secretary sought to establish an agreement across the parties with the Office for National Statistics on crime figures. Does he agree that it would be worth while to seek to do that again? Will he condemn those people in any party in any London borough who seek for party political purposes to misrepresent crime generally, and violent crime specifically, as going up, when it is going down, which increases the fear of crime among ordinary people on the street?
Many of the recommendations in the Smith review came out of that cross-party initiative on criminal statistics, which included Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, and has been implemented on my watch. Some of the recommendations have not been implemented, because there are difficult issues surrounding, for example, the definition of an assault—it involves harassment and other areas. Grown-up politicians in this House now agree on the figures. Let us—mayoral candidates and otherwise—debate the policies and the substance, but we should not debate the basic statistics, which is utterly shameful.
My constituents are not idiots, and they probably tune out the ding-dong on statistics. However, they are genuinely concerned to read that Hillingdon has the third highest crime rate in London and that crime is running at the record level of 72 crimes a day. They also recognise that public finances are considerably stretched. Will the Minister guarantee that numbers of sworn police officers will not be cut in the borough of Hillingdon and that there will be no review of the policy of full-strength safer neighbourhood teams across every ward in the borough?
I can give that guarantee, but only if Ken Livingstone is Mayor on
Returning to the hon. Gentleman, Hillingdon council—it is one of his rather than one of mine—has stated that
"crime figures are at a 5-year low. Personal robbery is at its lowest for 3 years, vehicle crime is at its lowest for 5 years and assaults are at their lowest for 5 years."
The hon. Gentleman should join me in congratulating Conservative Hillingdon on all it has done working with the Metropolitan police under the Mayor's tutelage to achieve those figures.
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the Mayor of London on not only the significant increase in the number of police officers in London, but the introduction of safer neighbourhood teams across the capital, which have made such a difference to crime at a local level?
Absolutely. In terms of the pace of introduction, that took place in the teeth of Conservative opposition. Conservatives said that it could not be done London-wide in the original time frame, let alone a year early. As an outer London, suburban MP—my constituency is next door to that of Mr. Hurd—safer neighbourhood teams are making as much of a difference in the outer London suburbs as they are in inner London. The notion that the past eight years have all been about a zone 1 mayoralty is nonsense.
In my constituency in Brent, murders decreased from 10 to four in 2006-07, which is the reality of the extra investment that has gone into the police. The Opposition need to discuss statistics in terms of the reality for people on the ground. That is still four murders too many, but there has been a huge reduction. Will my right hon. Friend discuss the British Transport police? When Transport for London took over the Bakerloo line, there were 50 additional British Transport police, the stations were cleaned, the number of guards was increased and fare evasion was cut by more than half.
Again, I agree; my hon. Friend has mentioned another dimension. I agree absolutely that four murders are four too many—27 young people murdered are 27 too many. But again, Londoners should not be treated like idiots. If Boris Johnson is the Mayor on
If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, did not correct me, my right hon. Friend the Minister for London would have, according to the press—I probably owe her a fine. If the hon. Member for Henley becomes Mayor on
Will the Minister acknowledge that crime statistics from whatever source—a council, the Metropolitan police or the Home Office—have their limitations? They relate only to recorded crime. Does he acknowledge that a large amount of crime goes unreported?
Yes, of course I accept that; that is partly what the changes to the national crime recording standard are all about. However, I do not accept entirely fallacious comparisons before and after significant changes in the statistics. I agree with the import of the hon. Lady's observation: we should not be squabbling about statistics, other than when they are as flagrantly abused as they have been today. We should, and I want to, look to the policies and substantial ways in which we collectively—Tory borough, Labour borough, Liberal Democrat borough and all Members of this House—can deal with the issue so that London remains, and improves as, the best city on the entire planet.
I am very grateful to the Minister; I shall not intervene on him again. Many of us, across the parties, have tried to deal with crime in this city. It is still far too high, although it is going down. Some of us find it absolutely amazing that on a day when the Conservatives have chosen the subject and time of this debate, and allocated only three hours to it, the person whom they put forward to speak on this issue does not even give London the courtesy of being here for those three hours. That is absolutely disgraceful and symptomatic of a completely irresponsible Johnny-come-lately attitude on the part of Mr. Johnson.
Let us be fair: the hon. Member for Henley gave us 40 minutes, which probably stretched his attention span. Let us not be unduly ungenerous.
To square the circle, Mr. Johnson was hardly here the last time we debated policing in London—nor was he here for the housing debate that we had immediately before this one. I want to put to my right hon. Friend the point that I wanted to put to Mr. Ruffley. My right hon. Friend talked about the safer neighbourhood teams; does he also welcome the safer transport teams?
In Barnet, we have a team of 22 officers and police community support officers. My borough commander has praised it as effective in combating crime, providing reassurance and collecting intelligence. Will my right hon. Friend condemn Brian Coleman, the Greater London assembly member for Barnet and Camden, who described the new team as a gimmick when it was introduced? How does that square with what the Conservative party says about safer transport teams? It now says that they are a good thing.
I am afraid that we get that sort of thing all the time. Much of the antisocial behaviour legislation that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds prays in aid as somehow magically discovered by the hon. Member for Henley was dismissed at the time of introduction as an utter gimmick that would not tackle the real issues in London's boroughs. I fully accept what my hon. Friend says and happily condemn Brian Coleman in all sorts of ways, including for the reason given by my hon. Friend.
For the record, I should say that £140 million a year is being spent by the Labour Mayor on transport policing. That means 1,200 officers in the transport operational command unit, 450 additional uniformed officers in safer transport teams, as my hon. Friend mentioned—mostly rooted in outer London suburbs such as his borough and mine. There are more than 700 uniformed British Transport police officers on the underground and docklands light railway and 100 such officers on the overground rail system in London. They provide reassurance and rapid deployment to crime hot spots. Furthermore, the Government have put in place a whole series of antisocial behaviour powers specific to the BTP, with the Mayor working very closely with it and the Metropolitan Police Service in that regard.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has yet had time to read "Enfield Council News", which tells us, as I am sure that he will be pleased to know, that the overall reduction in crime in Enfield has been 5.3 per cent. Perhaps more important than that percentage figure is the fact that that means that there are 1,386 fewer victims of crime. That is a very important figure. Not all Conservatives are as decrying or churlish about that success in fighting crime as those in the Chamber. The cabinet member for community safety and the voluntary sector, who is a Conservative member, says:
"This is excellent news. Our colleagues in the Met have been working extremely hard to make sure that those who commit crime are caught and brought to justice swiftly and effectively".
I echo those words. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the degree to which this is being replicated across London boroughs?
I can tell my right hon. Friend that it has been replicated across London boroughs. The most interesting thing is that three of my hon. Friends in the Chamber are from outer London boroughs—the areas supposedly being starved of resources and attention by the Mayor. I am afraid that I am a rather impatient man, so I did not wait for the latest edition of "Enfield Council News" but went on to the website, which refers to offences having fallen by nearly 10 per cent. between 2003-04 and 2006-07—a trend that continues in 2007-08. That matters in terms of substance, as it goes on to talk about notable changes such as motor vehicle crime being down by 17.6 per cent., residential burglary down by 8.9 per cent., and sexual offences down by 22.5 per cent.
I thank the Minister for giving way in his ever-courteous manner. Given that he claims that the Government have had so much success and invested such a large amount of resources, why were 27 teenagers murdered in London last year as opposed to 17 the year before? How is that a measure of success?
That is almost beyond contempt and quite shameful in the context of 27 times pain and tragedy for local families. The notion that the record level of police officers who are on our streets would, if somehow further increased, reduce those tragedies is complete and utter nonsense.
Order. May I suggest to the House that we try to lower the temperature a little? Nothing is gained by personalising these matters or arguing for ever about statistics. I know that other things are happening outside this Chamber, but the House should also bear it in mind that this debate is really about what this House has responsibilities for. I should be grateful if the Minister and all hon. Members would bear those thoughts in mind as we proceed.
I take your admonition entirely, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
In the third or fourth paragraph that I read, and in my response to my hon. Friend Ms Butler, I said that the four murders last year in her borough were four too many. No Labour Members, or, I think, Members in most parts of this House, are washing their hands of the levels of crime in this fair city of ours. To be very serious, up to about eight years ago, when we first recaptured a London police authority, and in my own Department in the '70s, '80s and '90s, there was perhaps far too much washing of hands and coping with acceptable levels of crime instead of dealing with it. That is not what has prevailed over the past 10 years, even on the sort of figures that Robert Neill introduces and overcooks. There has been a significant decrease in crime, according to the Met's own figures. That has been repeated quite happily by a range of Conservative councils throughout London, and I pay credit to them for assisting in that process, along with Labour and Liberal Democrat councils. We cannot have it all ways. We cannot traduce the figures, and by traducing them, traduce what every single policeman and woman does in service to London, nor can we have a series of policies proffered that treat London as though nothing has happened for the past eight or 10 years—as if it were year zero.
It was suggested that we get rid of the stop-and-search account. That is going to be done. The Government accept fully what Ronnie Flanagan says about the stop-and-search account. That will be done—so nothing new there. Section 30, section 60 and section 44 stop-and-search details are being looked at as we speak. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is certainly being looked at; I initiated the consultation myself some months ago. There has also been an undertaking by the Metropolitan Police Authority, under the Mayor's tutelage, to look in great detail at every aspect of stop-and-search in London.
There are more police, with a greater uniformed presence on our buses and trains and in public spaces, such as stations. That process has been going on for quite a while. I had a hand in it myself some time ago, when I was the Minister responsible for London's transport and I worked closely with the Mayor. He is a Mayor who, I might say, understands entirely how much a bus costs and how much it costs to run. As a starting premise, we should accept what our police, our police community support officers, our councils and the people of London have done, working together with our Mayor.
Yes we are, as Ronnie Flanagan said in his report and, I hope, as we will say in some depth in the forthcoming policing Green Paper in the spring. I take some of the hon. Gentleman's point to heart. More and more of our policing teams need to be out on the front line, and increasingly they are. We have heard a rather bogus slicing of figures this way and that by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, who used them rather obtusely instead of just using the figures themselves. I do, however, accept the starting premise of Mr. Evennett.
The absolute key has been getting neighbourhood policing teams in place in every ward in London. By any token, that is an astonishing feat in the defence of law and order. It is to the great credit of the Mayor and the leadership of the Metropolitan police, and it should not be traduced lightly by Johnny-come-latelies of any description, whether they can be bothered to attend these debates or not.
By the bye, Conservatives' debates on crime in London are rather Olympian in nature. I have checked, and this is the third Opposition day debate on crime in London that they have managed during my 10 years in the House. They come along every four years. We had one in 2000, just before the mayoral election, I understand—the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey will know far better than I. There was one in 2004, after the election, and we are having one now. We are pleased that momentarily, perhaps every four years, the Opposition show some concern about crime in London. I do not decry that, but perhaps it might be helpful if they did so a bit more often.
We broadly agree with the other points made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds about sorting out crime in London, largely because many of them are being dealt with already. We have already made sure that the Met and other police services are moving towards ensuring that local crime information is provided so that communities can hold basic command unit commanders to account. There might not yet be a pretty little map, but if the extent of the contribution of the hon. Member for Henley to policing in London is that there should be a pretty little crime map as well as the information, God bless him.
With regard to substance, it is quite right that more and more is being done on our transport network and in our town centres. In many areas, councils working with the police are doubling—and more—the number of safer neighbourhood teams in specific town centres. That is all built on a good record that stands up to any sort of scrutiny. It is not sufficient and does no one credit to dismiss measures as gimmicks when they are introduced, yet now say they are the best things since sliced bread.
The Mayor of London has made it clear for some years that he wants the formula under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to be recalibrated so that more goes to the Metropolitan police and local policing services, rather than to the judiciary, the prosecution or the Home Office. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that she was minded to consider that, especially in the context of drug seizures, and to ensure that it happened. At the time—barely weeks ago—David Davis dismissed it as a gimmick, yet the hon. Member for Henley now apparently thinks that it is a good idea. Perhaps if the two connected now and again, we could get some consensus and have a proper debate about how that would help London.
An enormous amount of work has been done, although it is not enough—God knows enough tragedies happen that show that it is not enough. However, the tackling guns and gangs action programme has done much work, which led to Operation Kartel. Action took place during the February half-term in 11 boroughs, supported by TGGAT, which led to a 50 per cent. reduction in gun-enabled crime compared with the same period in 2007; a 26 per cent. reduction in knife-enabled crimes; 542 fewer personal robbery offences, and the seizure of 170 weapons, a good deal of cash and a kilo of cannabis. We are already considering purchasing 200 hand-held search wands for several operations targeting those who carry weapons. Those measures are not panaceas. Taken together, they will help to drive down crime and liberate our communities from its impact.
We are considering establishing a mediation service to prevent gun feuds from escalating. We are working with colleagues from the Department for Children, Schools and Families to try to ensure that the youth action plan and our tackling violent crime action plan knit together the contributions from a range of central and local authorities. No doubt that will be helped by the Mayor's plans to bring a further 1,000 officers into the Met and by working with London's communities to listen to and tackle their concerns, not least through the neighbourhood policing teams, which matter, as I think everyone would agree.
In London, the security and safety of all our communities is our No. 1 priority and I contend that it is the No. 1 priority of the Mayor of London.
I am pleased that the Mayor, if he is re-elected, has identified the resources for an extra 1,000 police officers. However, is my right hon. Friend aware that Richard Barnes, the Conservative leader of the London assembly, said that he did not think that so much money should be spent on police in London? Of course, he knows that Mr. Johnson said that the police and transport should be subjected to cuts.
My hon. Friend is right. On a range of other policies, we have heard nothing substantially new.
The Opposition tell us that withdrawing free bus passes from young people would be new and novel, yet almost 10,000 have already been withdrawn. We are told that action under the Proceeds of Crime Act and fighting for London's assets are new ideas, yet the hon. Member for Henley voted to weaken the provisions in the Act and cannot afford us more than 40 minutes of his time. All those matters are far too important for anything other than a broad consensus on what unites us in fighting crime and offending in our communities. That consensus appears to exist among most MPA and GLA members. London is ill served by trivialisation and shroud-waving by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and the hon. Member for Henley, who will remain the hon. Member for Henley and nothing more after
This is definitely the debate that Londoners want us to have just one week ahead of the mayoral elections on
Like many hon. Members present, I was elected in 1997. At that time and for some years afterwards, there was a tendency among Liberal Democrat and Labour Members to blame the previous Administration for every fault that we encountered. We have moved on since then and it is now, rightly, this Labour Government's responsibility if they have failed to tackle crime. However, it is also worth reminding hon. Members of a few salient facts, because we need to consider what the Conservative Opposition are saying alongside their track record when they were last in government and in a position to deliver an agenda of cutting crime.
Hon. Members will remember that in the five years of the last Conservative Parliament, police numbers fell throughout the country as a whole and even more dramatically in London. Hon. Members will know that John Major specifically promised to increase police numbers by 5,000, yet police numbers fell. It is perfectly legitimate to remind ourselves of those facts when we consider the pledges, plans and promises put forward by the Conservative party. The lesson that we have all learnt is that they need to be taken with a huge pinch of salt.
It is perhaps more legitimate to consider the credentials of the hon. Member for Henley, who has put himself forward as the Conservative mayoral candidate, and to examine in what respects his experience will be relevant to being the Mayor of London. I have here a helpful crib sheet, which is being sent out across London, that sets out the hon. Gentleman's CV, which reads as follows:
"Sacked as a Trainee Reporter for falsifying a quotation.
Sacked as a Columnist. His Editor said 'he wasn't exactly Mr Deadline'".
We know that he was sacked from the Conservative Front Bench—
Order. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he think about the matters that we are debating today and how the points that he is making are relevant to the overall situation.
Thank you for that intervention, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I had concluded those remarks. The hon. Member for Henley is putting himself forward as a candidate for Mayor, with responsibility for policing among other matters, but I will indeed move on. According to the hon. Gentleman's manifesto—he has at least produced a manifesto—he will apparently use his influence to tear up red tape and needless form-filling. Presumably what he had in mind was needless P45 form-filling, of which he has some experience.
Let me move on to the Labour Mayor's position. The incumbent, Ken Livingstone, is keen to distance himself from the Government when appropriate, but at other times he is keen to make himself known as the Labour Mayor. We have to take the two together. I am happy to put on record the fact that the combination of the Government and the Mayor has enjoyed some successes, the biggest example of which is the safer neighbourhood teams. Like probably all hon. Members present, I have been round with the safer neighbourhood teams in a number of my wards and seen their impact on the ground. I can see that they are delivering the reassurance that people need and are beginning to eat seriously into crime levels.
I am told that the biggest problem for the safer neighbourhood teams in some of the leafier suburbs—Government Members should please not quote me on this—is that there is no crime for them to deal with. If safer neighbourhood teams are telling me and other hon. Members, as I suspect they are, that there are times when things are relatively quiet and they would like some other challenges, we might need to consider giving them a more flexible structure.
The hon. Gentleman has made an interesting point about safer neighbourhood teams. Perhaps he will be interested to learn that one of the teams in my borough, although it does excellent work, needs a safer neighbourhood base to patrol from. The Metropolitan police acquired suitable premises about six months ago and have been paying rent and rates on them ever since, but the premises remain empty because the bureaucrats at Scotland Yard made a muck-up of the procurement process and had to restart it. That money has therefore been wasted and the team does not have a base. Is not that a strong argument for a much more direct political drive and direction of the Metropolitan police service, as is being proposed by my hon. Friend Mr. Johnson?
It is certainly a case for ensuring that the procurement process works correctly. I am sure that all hon. Members support the idea, which the Minister mentioned in our last topical debate on this subject, that the safer neighbourhood teams should have bases in their wards, so that they are more accessible and visible and do not have to travel so far. The hon. Gentleman was quite right to raise that point, and no doubt he will be issuing an appropriate press release to his local paper confirming that he has quite rightly raised the matter in Parliament.
There have been successes, but there are also some concerns. I was about to mention the estates strategy to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred. That is clearly a programme that is going to last five or six years, so, although the comprehensive spending review has given visibility to what will happen in the next three years, there is a question mark over whether the remainder of the strategy will be able to be delivered in the following three years. I do not want to have to turn round and say to people in a few years' time, "I know the Metropolitan police promised that your new police station would be opened before the old one closed, but actually they have run out of money so they have simply closed the old one and not opened the new one." We need some certainty on that question.
All these things are important, but does my hon. Friend accept that what matters most to all our constituents is that there should be an effective and speedy response when crimes are committed? For example, I still get too many complaints from people who have been attacked, perhaps in a pub or in a house, and who have found that no one comes for many minutes and sometimes for half an hour or longer. Also, we must ensure that, when an investigation takes place, it is done well. Again, I have had far too many complaints that serious allegations—including allegations of rape—have been badly handled by the police and/or the Crown Prosecution Service, with the result that justice is not done and victims are not looked after.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I do not want to give the impression that everything is functioning well. We have all had examples of constituents who have been the victim of a crime and who have, unfortunately, had to wait a considerable length of time for a response. Sometimes that response has not been forthcoming at all and, ultimately, it has been the safer neighbourhood team that has had to respond a few days later. There is still a need to ensure that the response is timely.
There have been some failures—
Before the hon. Gentleman moved on to the failures, he was talking about some successes. Does he agree that there has been another significant success in the past eight years, namely the radical transformation of the relationship between the police in London and the black and minority ethnic communities and, for that matter, the lesbian and gay community in London? This has resulted in many more people having a strong relationship with the police, which the police have been able to use in ensuring our security. Does the hon. Gentleman think that that might be threatened if the new person in charge of the police in London was someone who had referred to "picaninnies" and "watermelon smiles"—
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Londoners, who live in a very diverse community, will be looking very carefully at what the different mayoral candidates have said, and I think that they will draw their own conclusions from the comments that have been made in the past. Our candidate, Brian Paddick, has certainly done his best to support the work that the hon. Gentleman describes and to ensure that those relationships with the black and minority ethnic communities and the lesbian and gay communities are enhanced and strengthened.
I am afraid that I was about to come on to some failures. We had a pledge in 2005 to increase the number of community support officers to up to 24,000—a pledge that has been reduced to 16,000, with a direct impact in London of a reduction from 6,400 to 5,600 such officers. Serious concerns were raised by Sir Norman Bettison of the Association of Chief Police Officers when he gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee a couple of days ago. He spoke about a funding gap, particularly for tackling serious and organised crime.
Members have referred to another significant problem—that of gun and knife crime. I take the Minister's point and I am not going to say that it is all down to police numbers, but clearly the problem is increasing and it is particularly significant for young people, whether as perpetrators or victims. It may not all be due to police numbers, but it is a problem that needs to be resolved, whether by the Government, local authorities, communities or, indeed, individuals.
I would like to raise with the hon. Gentleman the issue that I raised with Mr. Ruffley: the matter of the Mayor's London youth offer of £79 million. I praise the Mayor for that, as it was greatly needed. The Conservative Front-Bench spokesman said that the Conservatives would not cap it, but does the hon. Gentleman feel that there is a real risk of their redistributing it away from the deprived areas where there is youth gun and knife crime into the more leafy suburbs where it would not have the same effect?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am afraid, however, that it is not really appropriate for me to respond to a point about what a future Conservative Mayor—if, indeed, there ever is one—intends to do with funding. The hon. Gentleman has, however, reminded me that the Home Office needs to address one particular aspect of tackling gun and knife crime—the research carried out into the effectiveness of different projects. The range of projects currently runs from perhaps a single ex-offender who has taken it on his or herself to organise something at a very local level through to much larger funded projects. On the basis of a conversation with a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, I know that not much research has been done into which of those projects really deliver and which deliver value for money. I hope that when the Minister responds, he will be able to say a little about what research the Home Office is either carrying out now without my knowledge, or intends to carry out to assess which projects deliver the best value in tackling this very serious problem.
This is, indeed, an incredibly serious problem. I want sincerely to ask the hon. Gentleman whether there are any shortcomings in what the authorities are doing—I mean the Metropolitan police or the Government through their violent crime action plan or various other initiatives, including those talked about by the Mayor and others—to take young people off the streets and give them an alternative to the gang culture. Are there any other things that we should be doing to try to address what is an extremely serious problem for London?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very helpful intervention. I have just highlighted one thing that we should be doing—looking at the different projects and assessing which are the most effective in tackling the problem. Another proposal that I would put to the hon. Gentleman is the idea of giving one of the officers in the safer neighbourhood teams specific training in youth issues in order to provide the link with young people. If it were needed to deal with disadvantaged youths or others outside the system, an officer would then have the necessary training to make contact and perhaps forge a more positive relationship with them. Those are two proposals that I would put to the hon. Gentleman.
In my constituency and, I am sure, those of most other London Members, there is a range of activities in which young people can involve themselves, such as clubs run by the council, young people's uniformed organisations such as the scouts and guides, art, sport, music and drama. The problem is not a lack of facilities, but the fact that a hard core of young people do not want to participate.
I agree. Provision varies from one local authority to another, but many provide a variety of options for young people, for instance through youth centres or uniformed organisations. As the hon. Lady says, there is a group who will not take advantage of such services, but we might be able to find ways of providing diversionary activities in which they do want to participate. If that means giving them authorisation to do parkour running around an estate, perhaps we should facilitate the process. We need to ensure that the range of options offered to young people allows them all to access activities that interest them.
I wanted to respond to the last three interventions. I know that the Government are considering whether, rather than change the membership of a safer neighbourhood team, they should enable someone who has the skills to target characters who need work to carry out detached youth operations in each ward. That person would focus particularly on young people between 15 and 21 who are not employed, studying, training or in an apprenticeship, because they are the ones who give the grief: they can afford to be out all night causing trouble because they have nothing to do in the daytime.
I agree. That echoes what was said by Angela Watkinson about the hard-core group who are not in the system and do not want to be, but with whom it might be possible to engage if they were offered appropriate activities. Perhaps the Minister will be able to update us on what is happening to dormant accounts. I assumed that they would start to provide a level of funding that is not in the system at present, and might create opportunities for engagement with that group of people.
I have described some Government successes and some areas of concern and failures. Regrettably, there are also some areas of spin. I am afraid that the only reason why we shall not be able to support the Government amendment is a phrase to which other Members have referred, suggesting that the House
"welcomes the aim of the Mayor of London to add 1,000 more" police officers. We cannot support that proposition, because we know that it is not the Mayor who will be doing that. It is the boroughs and the Home Office. We need some honesty about who will provide funds. The Mayor will not be providing those 1,000 extra officers, and I think that credit should be given where it is due.
Might not another piece of honesty have appeared in the amendment—the admission that band D taxpayers in London who were paying around £55 a year in precept to fund the Met in 1996 and 1997 paid £224 in 2007-08? My part of town, Wandsworth, has fewer warranted officers patrolling the streets than it had a decade ago, and we do not think that we have been given value for money.
I recall that the hon. Lady made the same point during a topical debate a few weeks ago. There is clearly an issue over the gearing of the precept—how much it contributes in real terms, and how much is contributed by the Home Office. But we need a visible police presence on the streets, and the hon. Lady is right to argue on behalf of her constituents that there should be more visible deterrence.
While we are at it, could we have a third piece of honesty? Should not the Conservative party admit that it opposed funding increases? Conservative councils—and probably Liberal Democrat councils as well—consistently take credit for the falls in crime for which they opposed funding, and continue to claim that tax rises are unnecessary when they are exactly what paid for those extra police officers.
I seem to be playing piggy-in-the-middle, trying to act as a third party and defend a policy that is not ours. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will find an opportunity to intervene on a Conservative Member and make a similar point.
We do require honesty in the debate and in how the figures are produced. My hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey made the valid point that we need to agree which statistics are firm and fair, and reflect the changes that have been made to how crimes are counted, so that the debate is not about the statistics but about how officers are deployed or whether they are doing too much administration. That would be better than a rather sterile debate about the statistics.
I hope that Members on both sides of the House would agree that the British crime survey figures provide us with a consistent level of reporting for crime and may therefore be much more accurate than other figures. They are not dependent on a change to the way in which the offences are calculated. Regrettably, it is clear from those figures that London as a region is doing very badly compared with other regions, whether on violent crime, vehicle crime or burglary. There is an issue as to how London compares with other parts of the country, even if the background is that crime is falling. London still has more than its fair share.
I apologise. The hon. Gentleman tabled one question about London in six years, but Londoners will not be taken in by that. He seems to have more experience of flouting the law than of imposing it. If anyone wants to challenge me on that point, I refer back to the leaflet that I mentioned earlier, which shows the hon. Gentleman riding his bike while making a mobile phone call.
It will come as no surprise to the hon. Gentleman that I shall not express a second preference.
Then we have the Labour Mayor, who four years ago promised to cut crime by 50 per cent., but who, at the last count, had delivered only an 18.5 per cent. reduction in crime. Or we have the ex-policeman Liberal Democrat candidate, Brian Paddick, who has 30 years of experience in tackling crime, from the Brixton riots to cracking down on hard drugs dealers. Even Conservative and Labour Members will realise that the choice is a no-brainer. Brian Paddick has the serious solutions for London and that is who people will vote for on
Crime has fallen in each of the past five years. It has fallen by an average of 5.5 per cent. in the past three years, despite what Mr. Ruffley said in his opening remarks. Those are the irrefutable facts about policing in London.
We can bandy figures around, but a trawl around the websites of Conservative local authorities in London makes interesting reading. They are not consistent with anything that we have heard from the Opposition today. Barnet council says that it has seen a 17.5 per cent. reduction in crime between 2005 and 2008. Croydon council boasts that the borough has experienced a 5.2 per cent. decrease in recorded violent crime. Enfield council states that offences have
"fallen by nearly 10 per cent. between 2003-04 and 2006-07".
"More Bobbies in Fulham Broadway and Shepherds Bush Green are resulting in more arrests and less crime, with no evidence of any displacement to neighbouring wards. We have seen some staggering results, for example, in Shepherds Bush, robbery is down by a colossal 46 per cent and in Fulham Broadway, total crime is down by 10 per cent, with burglary down 27 per cent."—
I am coming to the hon. Lady.
Harrow council carried out a crime survey and found that 71 per cent. of residents surveyed felt safe. The council said that
"residents' fear of crime, and perceptions of anti social behaviour, have shown significant improvement year on year for the last three years."
Havering council—James Brokenshire might want to use this when he sums up—states:
"Although Havering is an extremely safe place to live, the fear of crime is higher than the probability of being a victim of such a crime.
We are committed to tackling fear of crime through educating the public about the facts and ensuring they are not overtly frightened by stories that might appear in the newspapers and on television or the radio."
I say to the hon. Member for Hornchurch that we could add "in Hansard", could we not?
Hillingdon says on its website— [ Interruption. ] I am quoting your colleagues in support of my argument.
Hillingdon council boasts that
"crime figures are at a 5-year low. Personal robbery is at its lowest for 3 years, vehicle crime is at its lowest for 5 years and assaults are at their lowest for 5 years."
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been trying to intervene to set the record straight. Can you give me some guidance on whether it is appropriate to read a quote from, for example, Hammersmith and Fulham council but to omit to mention that the council has funded additional police officers and could have been talking about that fact?
Kensington and Chelsea council says that burglaries have been "slashed", and that
"Kensington and Chelsea residents are less likely to be a victim of burglary today than at any other time this century."
I come to Redbridge council—is anyone from Redbridge? The council welcomes the reduction in street crime by a third and attributes that to the safer transport teams, which are part-funded by the Mayor of London.
Wandsworth council says:
"Despite recorded crime falling in the UK and burglary at its lowest for decades in London, research shows that a third of people believe crime has risen 'a lot'.
By helping to make people feel safer in their community, Safer Neighbourhoods Teams will provide reassurance to help bridge this gap."
Clearly, Wandsworth council regrets the fact that Conservative members of the Greater London authority consistently voted against the Mayor's budgets that introduced the safer neighbourhoods teams.
I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has finally allowed me to intervene, given that he has been talking about my constituency. I was trying to make the point that the crime survey that I carried out, to which more than 3,000 people responded, showed that people felt less safe in their area. The hon. Gentleman has failed to mention that my council and I, as the local MP, have campaigned tirelessly to get back the lost police officers—we have had fewer police officers over the past decade. The hon. Gentleman is selectively taking points from what the councils are saying and giving an erroneous picture to suit his own ends.
I am slightly confused, as I used the words of the Conservative-run Wandsworth council—"despite recorded crime falling". What is erroneous about that? Is the hon. Lady saying that the information on the council's website is erroneous? Does Wandsworth council want to mislead people about crime falling in the area? Is it wrong for it to claim that the incidence of burglary is at its lowest for decades?
The council states that research shows that a third of people believe that crime has risen, and that is consistent with the point made by the hon. Lady, but it also says that the safer neighbourhoods teams will provide reassurance. Where is the consistency in the Opposition approach to these matters?
There we are: crime in London is falling even as we speak.
We need to put the figures in context, and to do that we have to recall that there once was a Conservative Government. That is not easy to do, but we must not forget the lessons that we learned at the time. Under the Conservatives, police numbers in London peaked at 28,455, but then, on
When I was first a Member of Parliament, two police officers who worked in Camden borough visited me in my surgery. One was earning £4,600 a year less than the other because he had been employed after the Sheehy report was implemented. What impact did Sheehy have? By March 1995—six months after it was adopted—police numbers in London had fallen by 1,800.
When this Labour Government came to office in 1997, the police training college at Hendon was empty. Police officers could not be recruited because they were not being paid enough. The first thing that this Government had to do was sort out police pay. As soon as we made the money available to employ officers, police numbers started to rise.
Police numbers in London have increased consistently under this Labour Government, and crime has fallen in response. Since 2002-03, almost every type of recorded crime has fallen, in line with the extra police numbers funded by this Labour Government and our Labour Mayor.
The hon. Gentleman is interested in history, so will he ask the Home Secretary to tell the House about the impact that the Government's failure earlier in the year to backdate the police pay award has had on police recruitment and retention in London? Would not some more recent history be useful in the debate? After all, I am sure that he would not want to risk it being suggested that he was the pot calling the kettle black.
I sometimes wonder where the Conservatives come from. If they ever talked to police officers in the community or knew anything about the safer neighbourhood teams, they might join me in complaining about the loss of our community support officers. The fact is that they are applying to become police officers.
If we are to have any consistency in safer neighbourhood teams, we cannot use them as a training ground for police officers. Intelligence about and knowledge of a local area cannot be built up in a few months, and if someone moves on rapidly they never get that intelligence and we never get the full effect of safer neighbourhood teams. My complaint is not about police numbers but about the churn in police community support officers. Many go on to become police officers, because we are recruiting more and more. That means that we lose the intelligence and the knowledge of local areas that we need, which are vital to safer neighbourhood teams.
My hon. Friend has made some very good points, but may I put it to him that he has not quite set out the whole picture of the history? For a start, he has missed out the fact that under the previous Conservative Government, overall crime doubled. Is that not a point that Londoners should take into account? Secondly, he seems to imply that police numbers have gone up because of police pay. That is certainly a factor, but is there not also an aspect of political will, from both the Government and the Mayor of London, who has put money for more police in his budget and his precept?
Absolutely. The Mayor has to be commended for the resolute approach he has taken to delivering what people in London have told all of us, of whatever political persuasion, is their priority: community safety and more police on the streets. The Mayor has delivered that and had the political guts to stand up and say that if we are to have it, we must pay for it. He has put it in the precept, and people can see where the money has gone.
May I take the hon. Gentleman back to the matter of PCSOs? He said that he regretted that some are training to become police constables. Does he not think that it should be for each borough commander to decide the balance between PCSOs and constables and to allocate his own establishment budget, rather than have the decisions made centrally for him?
I do not really see that as a major issue. The fact is that people would rather have police officers than PCSOs. We all understand that, but when people begin to understand the role of community support officers, they value them equally. PCSO numbers have grown rapidly in London, and people are getting used to them. Borough commanders should have some flexibility, but they should also be accountable to local communities. Communities should know what they are entitled to get, and having a model of safer neighbourhood teams helps. There are safer neighbourhood teams of different sizes in my constituency, due to the action of my local police commander. However, a minimum number should be set so that people understand what they are entitled to.
I have just a short point to confirm what my hon. Friend said about police recruitment. As he knows, I represent the area where the training college is situated. When I was first elected in 1997, recruits rattled around like peas in a pod. Once the pay went up, the training centre was full. That is anticipated to continue, and the police are about to take leases on a block of flats opposite, which is being developed into 250 flats for the foreseeable future. That shows that they anticipate that recruitment trend continuing, even though officers spend far less time at the police training college than they used to because they train more on the job.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who illustrates the fact that there is more to recruiting police officers, and to the cost of doing so, than just paying for them. The infrastructure has to be put in place to get qualified police officers.
It is a shame that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds is not in the Chamber, because if he were he could intervene on me and clarify exactly what he was on about. He said that he wanted to get rid of stop-and-account forms. I hope that I did not hear my hon. Friend the Minister incorrectly, because I would find it extraordinary if we were to get rid of the forms completely. I went to see my borough commander and local inspector to talk about the forms and how we could get our safer neighbourhood teams and police officers out on the street, rather than having to spend too much time on bureaucracy. They sent downstairs to have the form brought up and we went through it. I said, "Wouldn't you want to get rid of this form?" He said, "No, absolutely no way. This form provides us with a lot of intelligence. If we stop someone, take a brief description of them and later on find that a crime was committed by someone who fits their description, we have a record that we can follow up." That approach has led to the clearing up of a lot of crime in local communities. The idea that the forms are a waste of time and resources is completely bogus. It is not accurate at all.
The hon. Gentleman said that the Conservatives would spend money on hand-held scanners, so will the police stop people in the street, scan them with no explanation, keep no record of who has been stopped and why and let them go on their merry way? When there is an incident the police will have no record of who has been stopped. If somebody wants to check why they were stopped and make a formal complaint there will be no formal record of what has taken place. It does not make sense. It does not add up. The Conservatives say that they want to get rid of bureaucracy and to make the police more effective, but they would take away a tool that is essential for the operational efficiency of the police. They claim that they want to make the police more accountable, but they would take away the form that allows an individual to check why they were stopped and what intelligence was gathered about them.
Does my hon. Friend agree that by reducing police accountability over stop and search the Conservative party is aiming for a return to the bad old days of the 1980s when there was no trust between many communities and the police, which was a recipe for poor policing? Local Conservatives in my area have said exactly that, and it is to be deplored.
I agree absolutely. People from all sections of our communities need confidence in their police force. Stop and search was one of the things that undermined not only the relationship between police and local communities but police efficiency. To go back to it would be a retrograde step.
As the Member of Parliament for Eltham, I paid close attention to the issues brought out by the Macpherson report. One of the factors that came out loud and clear from members of ethnic minority communities was that they wanted better and more police accountability. Woe betide anybody who wants to go back on that in the future.
My local authority wants to deal with the rise in crime among young people, which is clearly a problem. Young people are the victims of crime committed by young people and everyone is rightly concerned about that. My local authority will invest £1 million in setting up a taskforce to tackle the problem in partnership with the local police, but local Conservative councillors oppose the plan even though it is a priority for the whole community. If we ask people what concerns them most about crime in their community we realise that it is not necessarily fear of being a victim of crime; they are actually concerned about young people.
We are attempting to deal with the problem. Young people have been murdered in Greenwich and the council is responding, but the Conservative response to that attempt to work in partnership with the police is to oppose the £1 million investment and say that the Mayor should pay for the taskforce. That is okay, but I cannot see £1 million for tackling those crimes in Greenwich in the Conservative mayoral candidate's budget for London—I cannot see it anywhere. Again, there is inconsistency and local opportunism from the Conservatives.
My final point is about leadership. We have talked about stop and search and the confidence of ethnic minority communities. It is essential for police operations that the police have the confidence of all sections of our community. If the Mayor is to be the chair of the Metropolitan police authority, as Mr. Johnson tells us, he will be at the forefront, encouraging people from all sections of the community, including ethnic minority communities, to join the police force. If he attends a parade at Hendon police training college, will he expect the qualified police officers who are turning out to celebrate him, their having been called "flag-waving picaninnies"? Would he expect any black police officers to smile at him— [Interruption.]
Order. I have already said to the House that the tone of the debate should be thought through very carefully by Members. If the hon. Member is bringing his remarks to a conclusion, as I suspect he is, he might want to bear those comments in mind before he finishes.
Order. The point that I am making is on an important issue for the House. I wish the hon. Gentleman to take my remarks very seriously.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is no denying that the remarks that I quoted were written down. They are on record for anyone who wants to read them. The fact is, Mr. Mayor—[Hon. Members: "Mr. Deputy Speaker."]—Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that the debate is taking place because the Conservative campaign for London Mayor has faltered, and the Conservatives are desperate to try to score some political points. Their candidate is fraying at the edges. In every public debate, he humiliates himself. The man has had an Eton and Oxbridge education but cannot add up; there is a £440,000 hole in his budget. He wants to pay for extra police community support officers, but the money is not there. There is a £140 million hole in his transport budget. Out of generosity, we should start a campaign to get back the money spent on his education, as it was clearly wasted. That is clearly the biggest crime to debate tonight. This debate is taking place because the Conservatives' campaign has faltered, and we have proved why it has done so in this debate on crime in London.
I hope to please hon. Members in all parts of the House with my speech, as I do not intend to read statistics or to insult any candidate standing in the mayoral elections next week. I am sure that everyone in all parts of the House will know who I am supporting: Mr. Johnson.
I start by paying tribute to my local borough commander, Dave Grant, and his police force and police community support officers, who do a wonderful job in my constituency of Ilford, North, and across Redbridge. Clive Efford read out statistics relating to my local borough and said that in Redbridge crime had dropped. We should commend the Conservative council in Redbridge for taking over when the Government stopped its funding for street wardens, and for paying for those wardens with local taxpayers' money, and not from the Mayor's budget. We should pay full tribute to those who deserve it—to Councillor Weinberg and the council in Redbridge.
People want to hear us discussing today the issues that are important to them. Putting aside what the statistics show, last Wednesday night I attended an area committee and a crime forum in my constituency, and I heard people say what they are honestly concerned about. That is what I want to talk about today. Whether we are talking about crime or a fear of crime, people are worried. Elderly people come to me and say that they are concerned about going out in the evenings. Recently, I went round some of my local underground stations. My constituency has one of the highest number of underground stations of any constituency outside central London. I was quite upset to find that some of them are not manned; there was no one there. We recently found that some CCTV cameras, the introduction of which was lauded by all, including me, were not actually plugged in. They were not recording anything, either live or for playback later.
We have to be realistic, and we have to react to the issues that our constituents across London are concerned about. Colleagues in all parts of the House will forgive me if I say that sometimes I get concerned, and that I fully understand why people do not vote in any elections—a problem that we should all be worried about. The reason they do not vote is the way we conduct ourselves sometimes. On occasions, we should be ashamed of ourselves for that.
Bus usage has gone up, which is good. Train usage is up, too. However, crime relating to buses and trains, no matter how low level it is, is going up, too, and it has to be tackled.
What do I mean by that? A few weeks ago I was at a station in my constituency where I felt intimidated by groups of youths hanging around. I am sure Harry Cohen will understand what I mean, because the station is only a few stops from his constituency. If I felt intimidated—I like to think that I can look after myself—what would somebody more elderly or, indeed, younger, feel?
The police should be given the powers that they need. On a recent occasion I accompanied my local police force. They made an arrest and spent hours afterwards filling in forms. That is wrong. As was said earlier, the handcuffs should be taken off our police and they should be allowed to do the job that they are there to do and arrest criminals.
In the outer suburbs of London antisocial behaviour is a major issue. I do not believe that many of the youths who congregate want to commit crime or even mean to commit crime. They do not realise how they intimidate people in various housing areas in my constituency. I met them one Sunday and asked whether they would like their grandparents to experience the sort of abuse and intimidation to which they were subjecting people. None of them wanted that. I asked them what they wanted. They wanted an area where they could play football and an area where they could be away from other people.
Again, I commend the London borough of Redbridge under its Conservative administration for building a skate park and a cycle track and for setting up a drop-in centre where the youths can go, to stop some of the antisocial behaviour. In the area where that had happened, the ward had seen a dramatic drop of up to 60 per cent. in antisocial behaviour. I believe that that is due to the input going in, backed by councillors of all political parties on Redbridge council.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's initial comments and join him in paying tribute to Chief Superintendent Dave Grant and all his officers in Redbridge. Is not one of the key matters the London Mayor's youth offer, which would give Redbridge more than £1 million for the youth facilities that, I agree, are so needed in the borough? The hon. Gentleman keeps paying tribute to the local Conservative council, but it has cut grants to the voluntary sector by 5 per cent., some of which would have dealt with young people, and it has had a failed policy on swimming pools. I think there is just one swimming pool in the whole of Redbridge. Young people could use swimming pools if they were available in the borough.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I should be delighted to answer his remarks about swimming pools. There are two swimming pools in Redbridge, one of which has major health and safety problems. The council is committed to building a new swimming pool to replace it. Unfortunately, that is opposed by the Labour councillors in the London borough of Redbridge, but the council is pressing ahead none the less.
On funding, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I heard my hon. Friend Mr. Johnson give a commitment that he would not cut the funding, and I heard nothing about any redistribution. He said that the funding would not be cut.
I shall move on, as I am aware that others wish to speak. Businesses and people in my constituency tell me that low level crime is not being reported, for a number of different reasons. It could be because people cannot get through to the police. That is no fault of the police, who are trying to react as best they can with the powers that they have, and they have to set priorities. A lot of crime—I do not like to call it petty crime, because it is not petty to the victims of it—is unreported. That skews the statistics, but I shall not go into the statistics because I do not think that matters. People in London believe that crime is an issue. We are duty bound to tackle it. Whoever is Mayor of London on
Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I say that we do not have a great deal of time left? If contributions are brief, I will try to call as many hon. Members as possible.
Three children have died as a result of knife crime in my constituency in a little over a year—Kodjo Yenga, Jevon Henry and Amro Elbadawi. I have sat with the parents of the two children who were my constituents, as has Ken Livingstone, who made a private visit, not making political capital, unaccompanied by the media and cameras. I have listened to their grief and to what they had to say about young people and the culture and the problems that have led in some instances to gangs and in some instances to conflicts that have got out of hand.
This problem, which has claimed the lives of 27 young people, is monstrously misrepresented as a failure of the Mayor of London and the Government. It has its roots in something wider and deeper, which requires a co-ordinated, strategic and investment approach, on which we must all work and reflect on the gravity of the situation. We should by all means have a political debate about why such things are happening, but we cannot reduce this to slogans, as we have sadly heard again to some extent this afternoon.
It is distressing to have listened to the mayoral debates, to have watched some of the media coverage of the mayoral contest and seen the Mayor of London accused of ignoring, belittling and failing to grasp what has happened to our young people. An example of that was when a London newspaper ran a story in January 2008 saying that Ken Livingstone had announced new measures to deal with youth and knife crime, and then a week ago ran a story saying that he was speaking out for the first time on knife crime. I do not have the articles with me, but that is part of a calculated misrepresentation of the response of the Mayor of London and other agencies to a deeply worrying trend that we must deal with together.
In response to that, we must continue with that non-accidental choice of investing in effective policing on the streets—the 10,000 additional police officers that have been put on the streets of London by the Mayor and the Government since 2000, reversing the long-term trend that my hon. Friend Clive Efford described so clearly as having gone into reverse in the 1990s. Our safer neighbourhoods police are doing a superb job, not just in helping to bring down crime, as they have done, but in building up relationships and intelligence about what is happening in the streets, which is so important.
They must continue to use their enforcement powers as effectively as they can and we can constantly refine the strategies for so continuing, as the Flanagan report helps us to do. They must use the new powers that we have given them, including stop and search, which is a vital tool, and stop and account, and they must ensure that never again do we return to that calamitous collapse in confidence and trust between the communities, particularly our minority ethnic communities, and the police that occurred in the 1980s, because that does not work. Whether people choose to bandy around the term political correctness, as they so frequently do on these occasions, let us just remind ourselves that that collapse of trust, confidence and community intelligence leads to more crime and lower detection rates. It fails on its own terms. We must all do better, which includes my local authorities, at integrating services and information between schools, youth services, housing managers, residents and the police. We must continue rebuilding our youth services, which were shattered, and the £79 million investment by the Mayor will help. It is no good having youth clubs, if they are not open.
I will not, because I want to finish my contribution to allow others to participate.
It is no good having youth services, if we do not have skilled outreach workers on the streets. We must ensure that we have not only warm words, but money to increase access to sport, rather than introducing charges that deter people from taking part.
"anti-yobbo programme, parenting classes and all" and press ahead with preventive work with families. Unusually for me, I support the leader of Westminster City council, Sir Simon Milton, on this issue, who has said that he wants
"to continue important work tackling family breakdown...meeting the desperate need for support to improve their and their children's chances of living positive and fulfilling lives."
He clearly disagrees with the dismissal of parenting classes and family work advocated by the hon. Member for Henley.
Crime is coming down, because extra policing works. It has not happened by accident; it has happened because we have invested in the police, youth services and preventive work. Every crime is one too many, but it is critical that we do not fall into the trap set by Conservative Members, who say that nothing works and that nothing can be done. They selectively quote statistics to try to indicate that crime is rising, when crime is falling.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate on an issue of great concern to many of my constituents, who regularly get in touch with me about it. Like many hon. Members, I have been disappointed by the tone of the debate. I am also disappointed that I am again the only Wandsworth MP to contribute to a debate about crime in London, which is a concern not only for my constituents, but across my London borough. My constituents have a number of concerns about crime. They are worried about their children; they are worried when they come home from work late, which I do when we have late votes here; and my constituents who run businesses are concerned about the lack of policing when they open their shops late, which I shall briefly discuss later.
Although we have heard a lot of talk about safer neighbourhood policing—we welcome our local safer neighbourhood teams—beat policing is nothing new. For years, having the police out in the community has been the bedrock of keeping crime down in communities across England, let alone London. The Government have rebranded beat police as safer neighbourhood teams, but community beat police officers are critical whatever name is used to describe specific teams in specific wards. In my part of London, we have to wait far too long for our safer neighbourhood teams to get their full complement. As I have said, compared with the number of warranted officers in the Wandsworth borough command unit a decade ago, we have fewer officers. We have police community support officers, who play a vital role in tackling crime locally, but they were never meant to be a substitute for the officers whom we have lost in Wandsworth. When my constituents find that their London precept for the Met has quadrupled to fund a lower level of warranted police officers in their local community, they do not think that they have got a good deal.
The officers work extremely hard. I pay tribute to the safer neighbourhood team in Roehampton, which is led by Sergeant Pete Salmon. Given the number of officers, it has done a fantastic job in getting out into the community. They work with the local community in not only places such as the Alton estate and the Lennox estate, but the university of Roehampton, which forms an increasing part of the Roehampton community as it grows. The team's problem—and one that we as a community have in areas such as Roehampton—is that although it works hard, there is not enough of a police presence alongside it. I am thinking not only of the day time, when many of the safer neighbourhood teams operate; I am thinking particularly of the night time, when there are an increasing number of crime-related issues across my constituency. Safer neighbourhood teams that patrol during the day are simply not there at night, so they cannot address those issues.
I particularly want to talk about local businesses. Like many London constituencies, my constituency, which includes places such as Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, does not contain large companies. The lifeblood of our local economy is small businesses, which are particularly prone to crime. The window of the Putney Tandoori on the Lower Richmond road, for example, has been smashed two or three times. Time and money has to be spent, and the shop has to be shut down, for the windows to be repaired. That has a real impact on the profitability of a business. When businesses on Danebury avenue are constantly being raided, the circumstances do not make for viable businesses; I know that Greggs bakery there has had such problems. If we are to regenerate parts of London—and we certainly want to regenerate Roehampton—clamping down on crime and making sure that people feel safe at any time of the day or night is really important.
My concern about today's debate is that it has not been on behalf of people; frankly, too much of it has been about point scoring by the Labour Benches. If any of my neighbour MPs in Wandsworth had been here to speak in this debate, they would have been able to make the points that Clive Efford was left to read out. I look forward to finally having a debate on crime in London in which my colleagues—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is the second time that the hon. Lady has criticised fellow Members, including my hon. Friend Mr. Khan, for not being here. She knows full well that he is a Whip and cannot take part in this debate. Her point is very unfair.
I am grateful for that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I have to say that issues have been raised about the commitment of my hon. Friend Mr. Johnson; apparently, that does not cut both ways. [Interruption.] Well, I could ask where Martin Linton is. What I am saying is that we can all make such points.
Crime is an issue for my constituency. When I conducted a crime survey, more than 3,000 people responded. They largely said that they felt as if their local area was getting less safe. They raised issues of antisocial behaviour, being mugged, their children being mugged and crime on transport. My constituents want those issues to be tackled because they do not feel that they are being so at the moment.
Nor do they feel that the money that they are paying as part of the mayoral precept is giving them any sort of return in terms of policing per pound. In the eight-year period of the London mayoralty, my constituents have paid £66 million more than before into the Met police precept. We have not had any sort of return on the money that we have invested. Frankly, we would rather have spent the money locally and had more police, who can arrest people on our streets, to complement the PCSOs. That has not happened. Most of my constituents want a Mayor who will genuinely try to make the city safer instead of living by headlines. We want a Mayor who will seriously tackle youth crime, about which parents in my constituency worry every day.
I shall finish by citing one statistic. In recent years, about one in 20 secondary-school-aged children who live in Wandsworth reported having been a victim of mugging. That statistic is surely unacceptable to any of us in this House, whichever side we sit on. If we can at least agree on one thing, it is that crime is too high and that we need to bear down on it by spending our money smartly so that communities such as my own can feel safer.
I will use the little time that I have to express my disdain at the motivation of the Conservatives in their conduct of this debate. It is a perfect example of calling a debate to obscure and confuse the issue under discussion.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for laying to rest some of the bogus facts that have been put forward about the undeniable fall in crime of 20 per cent. over the past five years and the record numbers of police—35,000, with a further 1,000 promised. The double standards of the Conservatives show that they are confused and in denial. As my hon. Friend Clive Efford said, they claim credit locally for falls in crime but, on a London basis, claim that crime has not fallen. They oppose the investment that has gone in. We just heard Justine Greening say that she does not believe that anything has changed in London and that community policing is exactly what it was previously, but we know that there has been huge investment and that that is connected to what has happened to crime rates.
I am afraid that the hon. Member for Putney and my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham know less about the situation in Hammersmith and Fulham than I do because I am the only MP here from that borough. In reality, the money for the police officers who were put into the ward, as mentioned by my hon. Friend, was taken out of another ward that had even higher crime, the reason being that, under the Labour council, those officers had been paid for by the council, but the Conservatives have moved them into wards that receive Government funding through the new deal for communities or section 106 moneys. Once again, they are using statistics and money to manipulate figures in a way that can disadvantage people locally.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham that if this debate is about reviving a flagging campaign, it certainly has not worked. I would say in defence of Mr. Johnson that perhaps the reason why he walked out of the Chamber was that he was listening to his own policies being recited by Conservative Front Benchers. When one compares 1,000 extra police officers with being given maps or ending accountable stop and search, I am not surprised that he decided to leave the Chamber.
When people vote in London next Thursday, they will vote on the issue of crime, and they will make a decision primarily about whether Ken Livingstone or the hon. Member for Henley is in a better position to deal with that. They will see on the one hand somebody who has a track record of investing in and reducing crime and on the other somebody who is not fit to take over that role—somebody whose own record does not allow him to take over that role. I refer in particular to the disgraceful episode that is documented on tape, where the hon. Member for Henley agreed to give details of a journalist to someone who became a convicted fraudster, on the basis that he was an old school friend of his, in order to allow that journalist to be beaten up. Somebody who is prepared to do that— [ Interruption. ] I can quote the details if hon. Members want. The only things in that conversation—
Order. The hon. Gentleman has made a very serious charge. [ Interruption. ] Order. In this House, we ought to debate matters in a calm way. I am not sure that the proximity of elections of whatever kind helps to enhance the reputation of the House. It would help if the hon. Gentleman said that he would put those words aside; he has already put them on the record in a way. It does not help when we have the kind of exchanges that have been going on this afternoon.
I entirely accept what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do, however, have the transcript of that conversation in front of me, and I am prepared to make it available to any other hon. Members, who can make their own judgment about it. I simply say that I do not believe that the hon. Member for Henley is a person Londoners would trust to run policing because of his own personal record as dictated in that phone conversation.
I shall be very brief and not go down the route taken by Mr. Slaughter. I think that the tetchiness that we have seen from Labour Members indicates that a raw nerve has been struck and that our points have hit home.
I do not seek to talk London down or to denigrate good work that is done in London. However, I want to know, as do all of us who have constituents in London, how we can make things better and why, against this background, London's great competitor city of New York has done better at dealing with crime than we have and is now safer than London. I have two key points to make on that.
First, I went to New York recently and spoke to a precinct captain in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn—a tough area. He made the point that the political commitment of Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg was a key factor in giving the drive necessary to support police officers and the community as a whole in tackling crime.
Secondly, the specific technical advantages of the CompStat system and crime mapping had given the police and the community the material that they needed to work together to tackle crime in one of the hardest parts of New York. I am sorry that that proposal from my hon. Friend Mr. Johnson has been so airily dismissed by Labour Members. London deserves better than that. It is a serious proposal, accepted by serious people tackling crime in another city. I would have hoped that we were broad-minded enough to work together and take that on board. I would have thought that we all wanted to do justice to the tackling of crime in this city in such a constructive spirit. I am sorry that that has not always been achieved in this debate.
I join other hon. Members in paying tribute to the work of all police officers in the capital in their daily fight against crime. The Metropolitan police, the City of London police and the British Transport police all work hard on our behalf to secure the protection of everyone who lives and works in the capital. It is right that we should recognise their service, commitment and dedication to duty. But the inescapable fact highlighted by the debate is that the Labour Mayor and the Labour Government are letting London down on crime. Violence against the person is up, with over 3,300 crimes committed each week. Drug offences, with their links to organised crime and gang violence, have increased by an astonishing 200 per cent. since the Mayor came to office, and nearly half of Londoners say that they simply do not feel safe in their communities at night. If that is a measure of success it shows just how out of touch the Government and the Mayor are with reality and with real Londoners.
Tom Brake made some important points about gun and knife crime and the serious issues that arise from it. Ms Buck brought those issues home in her description of the tragic deaths of her constituents. I am sure that the whole House wishes to pass on its condolences to the families of those involved in those terrible incidents. Clive Efford sounded at times as if he were reading from the telephone directory, rather than reading a speech. Instead of lecturing my party about the stop-and-account form, he should look at the Flanagan review, commissioned by his own Government, which recommended that the form be abolished.
My hon. Friend Mr. Scott made some important points about the way in which local initiatives can make a difference, and about how, in Redbridge, locally funded street wardens are helping to deal with antisocial behaviour in his constituency. That point about local community action and how it can make a difference was also raised by my hon. Friend Justine Greening.
Sadly, I have to say to Mr. Slaughter that he does himself no favours by making personal smear attacks. There are very serious issues to be debated, and rather than this party being confused or being in denial on those issues, I suggest that his criticisms should be directed to his party and the Mayor.
Many hon. Members have highlighted the shocking number of teenagers killed on London's streets in the last year: 27 teenagers were murdered, with 11 murders of young people in 2008 already. One of the most disturbing trends is that both the victims of these crimes and those suspected of carrying out the offences are getting younger. Analysis from Trident has shown that in certain cases the age of those involved is as low as 14, with more teenagers being charged for murders and shootings. I have spoken previously about the organised gang culture, supported by the trade in class A drugs, that lies behind a significant proportion of these crimes.
One of the most insidious aspects of the organised criminal gang structure is the conscious focus of those who recruit new gang members on some of the most vulnerable in society—those with poor educational attainment and weak family support structures, and those who suffer from addiction, mental illness and unemployment. They are targeted to deal drugs to give them an income. That is why the utter failure to control drug crime in the capital is so serious and why simply giving out more cautions for drug offences—with the number doubling in the past two years—sends out the wrong message.
Other fundamentally wrong messages are being conveyed. I stress to the Minister in the starkest terms that police trying to negotiate with the gangs, as some recent statements from the Metropolitan police suggest, is not the solution. We need strengthened communities and families, and visible and robust policing. We also need to tackle the underlying problems of addiction.
The Government have opted simply to maintain addiction rather than lift people out of it, with London's bill for methadone prescriptions running at £2.5 million a year.
We need proper, abstinence-based rehabilitation for offenders, not a slap on the wrist and a prescription for the pharmacist. The police also need effective tools—that is why we believe that it is right to revise the current powers of stop and search to give police sergeants, who are at the heart of safer neighbourhood teams in their communities, the right to authorise general stops and searches in a designated area, where weapons are thought to be present or crimes of violence are thought to be about to occur, for a period of up to six hours.
However, the problem is not only the most serious offences, but the everyday experiences of Londoners on their streets, in their communities and even in their homes.
For too many, the impact of antisocial behaviour and what some describe as "low level" crime is significant. There is nothing low level about the impact of antisocial behaviour on people's quality of life. For many, especially the elderly or vulnerable, their street, shops or neighbourhoods do not feel safe. That picture is reflected in the opinion surveys of London residents and hardly alleviated by the comments of the Home Secretary or the actions of the Leader of the House.
However, young people are more likely to feel the effects of antisocial behaviour and crime. Around a third of all street robberies are committed against the under-16s. Some Labour Members have rightly highlighted the number of young people who are mugged in London. It is absurd that the Government continue to drag their feet in recognising crimes against the under-16s in the British crime survey. As we have heard, such offences often occur on the buses, the tube and other forms of public transport, with mobile phones, iPods and other valuables being stolen.
My hon. Friend Mr. Johnson rightly identified a more visible police presence, the use of real-time CCTV and tougher measures to tackle fare evasion and the abuse of the transport system as important measures to restore public confidence.
The Government have completely lost their way in cracking down on antisocial behaviour. Their rigid, centralised, bureaucratic command and control structures have driven the police in the wrong direction, chasing meaningless targets for "bringing crimes to justice", involving issuing penalty notices like glorified parking tickets. In 2006, nearly 21,000 penalty notices were issued in the capital—yet only four out of 10 were paid in full. It is difficult to identify the "justice" in that.
Even the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has hit out at the system that has grown up around him. Yet neither the Government nor the Mayor has acted on that. So much for the bonfire of the regulations, for which the Metropolitan Police Commissioner called. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Henley is absolutely right to identify the need to scrap the unnecessary stop form, freeing around 160,000 hours, which the police could spend on the beat, protecting Londoners and catching criminals.
The Government's supposed measures to improve community safety have made things worse, not better. London's A and E departments are feeling the strain from the impact of the Government's 24-hour drinking laws. Since the introduction of those changes, London hospital casualty admissions for alcohol-related problems have increased by a third. That highlights how cavalierly the Government introduced 24-hour licensing. But since 2000 the police precept has increased by around £400 million—an increase for the taxpayer of 150 per cent. per person. That is why we need to give Londoners proper details of police performance in their areas, through effective crime mapping in their neighbourhoods. That way, communities can play a more active part in holding the police to account.
The real question, however, is how committed the Government are to neighbourhood policing. As we have heard, the Flanagan review states that the current police numbers are "unsustainable". The Government have welcomed the report, so presumably they welcome the cuts in police numbers that it underlines. The clear message is that police numbers are at risk. Violent crime in London is up, while drug crime has rocketed under Labour. Londoners deserve better than the tired offerings of a tired Mayor and a tired Government. It is time for a change. It is time for concerted action to make this city a safer place. It is time for a Conservative Mayor of London.
I thank all hon. Members who have taken part in this debate. I would have welcomed a contribution from Mr. Johnson, who was no doubt the reason it was called, but he managed to turn up for only 40 minutes of it.
I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Eltham (Clive Efford), for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) and for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter), who all spoke in the debate, and all my hon. Friends who asked questions. I should also point out that although my hon. Friend Mr. Khan has been here for much of the debate, he is unable to speak in debates as a Government Whip.
The points that all my hon. Friends made stood in stark contrast to the two contributions that we heard from the Opposition Front Bench. That marks the difference in what this debate is about. All that we heard from the Opposition Front Bench was a story about the real issues of crime in London. We heard no reflection at all on the statistics with which the Metropolitan Police Service has provided us. Instead, we heard an attempt to whip up fear about crime and to portray London as a city where there are people roaming every street who will attack anybody at a moment's notice. That was the picture that Opposition Members were trying to portray. My hon. Friends pointed out, as I will point out in a moment, what the Metropolitan Police Service's statistics actually say. Of course there are challenges, but let us try to move forward on the basis of facts, not spurious exhortations to the public to believe that we are all doomed.
On the issue of facts, when Sir Ronnie Flanagan gave evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs, he did not talk about a reduction in police numbers. He welcomed the resources that the Government had given over the past 10 years and talked about the more efficient use of resources. James Brokenshire is wrong to misquote Sir Ronnie as he did.
My right hon. Friend puts the issue well. Let me read out some facts, so that we can get them on the record. Police numbers in London are at record levels. Since 2000, there has been an increase of more than 10,000, which has been made possible by the Government's and the Mayor of London's investment. The figure of 35,000 is made up of more than 31,000 police officers and more than 4,000 PCSOs. The Mayor's budget for 2008-09 includes an additional 1,000 police officers. Let me also put it on the record that those are the figures from the Metropolitan Police Service. They are the figures that the Opposition seemed to traduce, when they said that there were not real figures or figures to be trusted. I will tell you what, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I am going to trust any figures, I am going to trust the Metropolitan Police Service's figures on recorded crime.
It was interesting that Mr. Ruffley would not go back to 2002-03, but used 1998-99 as his baseline. The reason is that there was a different way of counting crime in 1998-99. Let me go through the figures, just as the Metropolitan Police Service has, from 2002-03 to this year, which are all counted in exactly the same way, so that the people of London know exactly what is happening. Between 2002-03 and this year, there was a more than 20 per cent. reduction in crime. There has been a reduction in the total number of murders in London since 2002-03 of 17.5 per cent, and a reduction in the total number of knife-enabled offences of more than 30 per cent. during that period. The year-on-year figures from the Metropolitan Police Service also show considerable reductions in crime. We need to ensure that the people of London know about these reductions, not because we want to be complacent or because the job is done, but because we want to move forward on the basis of facts.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham took great delight in reading out what Tory-controlled authorities in London were saying about crime in their local newsletters and on their websites, and I do not blame him for doing so. What they are saying is totally at odds with what those on the Opposition Front Bench have suggested. Let me defend some of those Tory borough councils in London for what they have said about crime. Tory-controlled Barnet council says that it has seen a 17.5 per cent. reduction in crime, while Enfield council's website states:
"The number of offences in Enfield has fallen by nearly 10 per cent."
Many other Tory-controlled authorities right across the city are congratulating themselves on falls in crime and telling their residents about them. That is completely at odds with the picture that the Tory mayoral candidate and the Opposition Front-Bench spokespeople are trying to paint.
Why have we seen this reduction in crime? Why have we seen such an increase in confidence among people in London in this regard? It is partly a result of the introduction of the safer neighbourhood teams, which were introduced with the wholehearted support of the Mayor. Indeed, with his support, they were introduced a year earlier in London than in much of the rest of the country. We now have visible, accessible, responsive policing on our streets in all 600 wards in London. Let us also be clear that a key part of the safer neighbourhood teams in each and every ward is played by the police community support officers, whose introduction was opposed by the Conservatives, including the hon. Member for Henley.
Alongside the safer neighbourhood teams, we need to see tough enforcement of the law, and we have indeed seen special police operations taking place alongside the work of the teams. Let us also remember that tough enforcement of the law includes tough sentencing. One of the toughest sentences that the people of London support is the minimum sentence for the possession of unauthorised firearms, which was also opposed by the hon. Member for Henley.
While we are talking about the need for tough enforcement, let us also reflect on what contributes to the reduction in crime, and on what makes a difference. Alongside the tough enforcement approach and the safer neighbourhood teams comes partnership and prevention. If we are to continue to reduce crime and to tackle gun and knife crime, we also need to invest in youth services and the partnerships involved in them. The Mayor of London has led the way in supporting initiatives across the city to prevent young people in particular from becoming involved in crime. He has been particularly involved in trying to divert young people away from crime in the first place. With the Government, he has set up a new £75 million youth offer, which will make a considerable difference in tackling these issues in our communities across London. It will give support to the parents and young people who need it, and it will develop the services that are so important if we are to continue to bear down on—
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
Question accordingly negatived.
Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):—
The House divided: Ayes 303, Noes 181.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House recognises the commitment and enthusiasm of the police officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, the City of London Police and the British Transport Police and further recognises the valuable contribution made by police community support officers and police staff to cutting crime in London; notes that police numbers in London now stand at record levels; welcomes the aim of the Mayor of London to add 1,000 more as part of his clear commitment to making London one of the world's safest capital cities; supports the introduction of Neighbourhood Policing Teams in all 600 wards in London to give communities greater access to policing in their areas; praises the work of the Metropolitan Police Service, which enjoys high levels of public satisfaction; further recognises the success of its enforcement operations and actions to tackle violent crime which have led to major reductions in gun and knife crime; acknowledges the importance of community and faith organisations in helping to make communities safer; welcomes the significant falls in overall recorded crime in London; and notes that homicide levels in London are at their lowest for nine years.