Crime Levels (England and Wales)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th July 2015.

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Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall 2:30 pm, 6th July 2015

What assessment she has made of trends in the level of crime in England and Wales.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Police reform is working. Crime is down by more than a quarter since 2010, according to the independent crime survey for England and Wales. It is at the lowest level since that survey started in 1981.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

Devon and Cornwall is a region where the population increases significantly during the holiday season. Does the level of crime increase in line with these seasonal increases in the population?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I visited my hon. Friend’s constituency and saw the excellent work that the police are doing in her part of the world. Over many years, they have become very well adapted to dealing with crime relating to regional population changes. The figures are not broken down in that way, but we know that since 2010 crime is down in her constituency, as it is across England and Wales.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon

Over the past five years the Welsh police force has seen swingeing cuts, with an average of over 10% being cut from front-line staff across the force. What plans does the right hon. Gentleman have to ensure that Wales continues to have a functioning police force?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I think it is a disgrace that anybody should run down the excellent work that the police force does in their constituency. Police forces in Wales are doing a simply fantastic job. Crime is down, and we can prove that because the figures are there for us to see. The hon. Gentleman should stop running down the police and support them.

Photo of Alan Mak Alan Mak Conservative, Havant

Crime in my constituency is down, but the sale of so-called legal highs remains a cause of great concern to my constituents. Will the Minister assure them that sufficient powers will be given to the police and other authorities to clamp down on these substances?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

So-called legal highs or psychoactive substances are a menace to our society. I am really pleased that Her Majesty’s Opposition, along with the other parties in the other House, are supporting the Psychoactive Substances Bill, which is coming to this House for its Report stage on 15 July. It will be here soon and we can get this menace off our streets.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

A growing area of crime is online abuse. The police suspect at least 20,000 people in the United Kingdom of accessing online abuse, but, as of March 2015, only 264 have been charged. It is unclear how many of the rest are living or working with children. When does the Minister expect the police to be able to follow up and carry out safeguarding assessments of all those suspected of viewing online child abuse?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The National Crime Agency has ongoing reviews, and investigations are taking place. We want more of these people to be prosecuted. [Interruption.] Labour Front Benchers shout, but this is something new: it has happened only in the past five years. The NCA is working on it and we will make sure that we get as many of these people behind bars, if prosecutions are possible.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has expressed concern that knife crime in the capital has gone up since the scaling back of stop and search. Will the Minister guarantee that he will leave it to officers to make judgments as to who are the right people to stop and search, and not allow crime to rise on the altar of political correctness?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I met the commissioner only a couple of days ago and we talked about the issues my hon. Friend has raised, including when we would enact the provisions promoted by our friend Nick de Bois. I signed the commencement orders on Friday, the police will have those powers within two weeks, and we hope that prosecutions will take place within three to four months. It will be for the police to decide, but they now have the powers.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Surely the Minister is aware—those of us on the anti-stalking commission suddenly came to realise this—of how much stalking is done on the internet. My hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock was not running down his police force; he was asking for it to be given more resources so that it could do its job better. So many of our police forces do not have the techniques, technology or back-up to tackle cybercrime seriously.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The NCA has a cyber-unit whose work is done nationally and regionally through the regional organised crime units. We have introduced two new pieces of legislation, but more needs to be done. I was the Minister for online child protection, so I know all too well what needs to be done. What I told the hon. Member for Aberavon was that the police force is doing a fantastic job with fewer resources and we should be proud of what it is doing.