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I do not believe that I have strayed from the issue. I have been talking about the National Crime Agency, which operates in the whole United Kingdom and whose budget is decided exclusively by this place—[Interruption.] Andrew Percy might have a bit of a giggle at that, but it is an important issue that affects criminality and how criminals operate in this country. He should know better. A so-called friend of Northern Ireland should know better than to try to raise a frivolous matter in this debate. I am surprised, because it is not a joke.
The National Crime Agency is a national issue, and the big issues of criminality that affect Northern Ireland have implications here. Of the drugs that circulate around Manchester and Liverpool, most of the cannabis is grown in Northern Ireland. Last year, 42 cannabis farms were discovered in Northern Ireland. Most of the trade was not in cannabis dealing or for smoking the drug in Northern Ireland: cannabis was brought to Liverpool on ferries and boats to be used in this part of the country. Hon. Members should wake up to that reality. The National Crime Agency is not operating as effectively as it should be operating in my part of the kingdom, so the hon. Gentleman and his constituents will face problems. He should recognise that. I am angry about that point, and it probably shows. It is just as well that I am on this side of the House and that there is a red line in front of me; I can tell the hon. Gentleman that.
Fuel smuggling is another important issue that is cross-border and cross-jurisdictional. Because of fuel smuggling in Northern Ireland, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Exchequer here lose £600 million a year. That is not a paltry sum. It is enough to run most of the hospitals in Northern Ireland. That is another national issue that is dealt with by HMRC and should also be dealt with by the National Crime Agency.
I now focus on how we pay to deal with national crime. There are 43 police services operational in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Only the Police Service of Northern Ireland picks up the tab for national security policing in its jurisdiction. That is wrong. That tab should be picked up nationally, in the same way that it is picked up for Manchester and Liverpool, here in London and in Scotland. The fact that it is not is putting policing in Northern Ireland at a significant disadvantage. This year, we are running a deficit of £30 million in policing, and next year that will increase to £57 million. In the next spending round, the figure will rise to about £200 million.
I urge the Minister, when he goes back and speaks to his Cabinet colleagues—the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister—to make the case that this issue should be brought into the centre. Expenditure on dealing with national crime issues and terrorism should be paid for centrally, not locally. If we could get that budget paid for centrally, the current budget for Northern Ireland would allow us to employ the additional police officers that we need.
The Police Federation in Northern Ireland says that we are short of 1,000 officers. The Chief Constable says that he would like to run a competition to get another 300 to 500 officers, so we need to recruit a number of officers that is somewhere in the middle of the two figures. The only way we can achieve that is by addressing the deficit in our budget. None of the other 42 police services operational here is asked to pay for national security. Why are the police in Northern Ireland asked to pay for national security? We are not only dealing with Irish-based terrorism but with national criminality—and with Islamic terrorist activity as well. We pick that tab up too, and that is wrong.
The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee mentioned additional equipment for police officers and the wearing of cameras. They are expensive, but I believe they are useful and should be routinely deployed on police officers, not only to protect them from false allegations, but to ensure that civilians are protected whenever they come across police officers.
I agree thoroughly with the points made by the hon. Member for South Dorset. He made the point clearly that we need more bobbies on the beat. The more bobbies we have on the beat, the more we will see that they disrupt crime and play a very effective role.
I want to focus on an issue that has left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth—plebgate and its impact. Plebgate has left the police in London looking rather poor because of how officers approached a Member of Parliament. It is important that the employment in the Cabinet of Mr Mitchell is remedied soon. This is the appropriate place to make that point.