It is a pleasure to follow Andrew Selous. I agree with him on one specific point: we really do need a better understanding of why mental health is a problem within crime and of how it should be dealt with more appropriately than is currently the case.
I do at least agree with the Home Secretary on two points. First, he was right to pay tribute to the work that the police do on behalf of us and our communities. It is only the police who take the risk of trying their best to protect us. Secondly, I agree that it is his job to keep the people of this country and our communities safe. However, the sad fact is that although he acknowledges that that is the case, he does not seem to do much about trying to turn it into reality.
Much of what I say will be about facts and figures, but it is important to say that behind those facts and figures lie some incredibly terrible human tragedies. I will talk about knife crime in a moment. That is about a young life lost needlessly and, more than that, about a family who, for the rest of their lives, will be left asking, “What if?” We must always be mindful that while facts and figures tell one story, the effect on people’s lives is often much more pronounced and vivid than the figures alone show.
First, inevitably, I want to talk about funding for Merseyside police. My hon. Friends the Members for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) and for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) both referred, in slightly different ways, to the way in which the loss of central Government funding has affected policing in our constituencies. Indeed, my hon. Friend Conor McGinn made a similar point about the closure of a police station in his constituency as an example of how things play out on the ground. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood rightly pointed out that since 2010-11, the Merseyside police force has lost £90,396,258 of central Government funding. That is a lot of money, and it has consequences. It means that we have lost over 1,000 police officers, which must have an impact on crime. We have lost over 200 PCSOs, and that in itself must have an impact on crime, at least in the sense of how the police get information about what is going on in communities. We cannot hide from the fact that there has to be a direct relationship between police on the ground and the ability to deal with crime.
My right hon. Friend Mr Jones was right when he pointed out in an intervention on the Home Secretary that the additional money that the Government have provided will mostly cover only the additional cost of pensions. On Merseyside, of the £8.8 million of additional money that will be provided through the central Government grant, which is of course welcome, £7.8 million will go directly to plugging the gap in pensions.
At the same time, we are experiencing steep rises in very serious crimes. On Merseyside, over the past 12 months, knife crime has increased by 32%. I have talked about the impact of that on young lives. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood and I, along with others, want to get into a discussion with the Government about how the problem can be better dealt with by giving young people alternatives to a life of crime and by providing the police with the ability to intervene more effectively. After many attempts, we have not even been able to get a meeting with the Policing Minister. I have asked him in previous debates to meet me to discuss this, but answer comes there none. There has also been a massive 47% rise in domestic abuse, which means that whole families are in terrible crisis, with terrible problems.
There is so much more to say, but to keep within the limits you have set, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will conclude by simply saying this. The Government have done too little too late to resolve the problem that our communities and police forces face. Frankly, if the first job of the Government and the Home Secretary is to deal with community safety, I am afraid that this settlement goes nowhere near assuring people that they will be able to carry out that duty.