I thank the Home Secretary very much for her recent visit to Southend, where she met the excellent police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst and our excellent chief constable B-J. Harrington. She heard about how Southend’s revolutionary Operation Union has driven down antisocial behaviour across our city by over 50%. That will be assisted by the Government’s steps last week to tackle nitrous oxide—I thank her very much for tackling that menace. However, constituents are raising with me antisocial behaviour in and around pubs, including drug-related incidents, so can my right hon. and learned Friend tell me whether she has any specific plans to help local police deal with that particular problem?
I was very pleased to join my hon. Friend in Southend, and to meet her chief constable and the office of the PCC. She is right that the success of Operation Union has helped to drive down ASB, but there is more to do to tackle the ASB that blights communities. That is why I am pleased that her force, Essex, has the most police officers ever and is doing very well with its progress on the hotspot policing pilot.
My hon. Friend talks about drugs. Part of our plan on ASB is to expand drug testing on arrest, so that police can now test for more substances, class B and C, when they arrest someone on suspicion of drug possession.
Unfortunately, there are instances of antisocial behaviour in the centre of Keighley—mostly around the bus station, but of course there are other hotspot areas. The police and the local community are having to deal with this issue on an ongoing basis. I am very pleased that the Government made extra resources available to our West Yorkshire police via the antisocial behaviour action plan, but will the Home Secretary join me in urging our Labour West Yorkshire Mayor, who is responsible for setting local police strategy and our crime reduction action plan in Keighley, to be more laser-focused on antisocial behaviour, so that we can all ensure that the issue is tackled once and for all?
I urge the PCC to take heed of my hon. Friend’s warning and advice. The Government, through our safer streets fund, have awarded the South Yorkshire police area over £4 million in recent years—funding that has gone towards tackling ASB and reducing crime. It is up to the PCCs to apply in the next round for funding to put forward projects that can have a focus on reducing crime, protecting victims and securing safety for communities.
On occasion, people using Wrexham bus station have been subject to antisocial behaviour perpetrated by a small band of disaffected youths. I would like to compliment Inspector Luke Hughes and the Wrexham city police team for their appropriate use of dispersal orders. Will the Home Secretary join me in praising North Wales police, despite being slowed down to 20 mph by the Welsh Labour Government, for their pragmatic and no-nonsense approach to upholding public safety?
I am afraid the litany of ridiculous policy announcements by Labour is reaching record levels. I mean, we only have to look at the last two days. A period of silence from the Labour party would be welcome. The 20 mph zone is ridiculous. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Dispersal orders are a regrettable but necessary power that the police have at their disposal. We are going even further with our antisocial behaviour action plan by expanding police powers such as public space protection orders and community protection notices, enabling the police to take rapid and effective action to disperse people and to stop nuisance and criminal antisocial behaviour.
Over the summer, I have spoken to many people in Leyland who, although we have managed to get the police station reopened, are still reporting problems involving antisocial behaviour in Broadfield, Worden and Seven Stars. I have been out with the local bobbies, who are benefiting from the Government’s police uplift, to see what is being done to tackle those problems. Operation Centurion—our police and crime commissioner’s attempt to use money seized from criminals to boost local policing temporarily in order to address antisocial behaviour—is about to hit Leyland, but does the Home Secretary agree that we need a whole-agency approach, and that councils should use the powers at their disposal to issue community protection notices and work with the police to end this blight on the people of Leyland?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend has been able to work closely with her excellent police and crime commissioner, Andrew Snowden, who is another example of effective leadership at the police force in Lancashire and whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. It is also good that Lancashire is one of the pilot areas for hotspot policing: it is currently delivering 2,000 hours a month of additional patrolling in antisocial behaviour hotpot areas, and that is set to increase. However, I urge the Labour council to listen to my hon. Friend’s sensible words and ask the police and local authorities to use all the powers at their disposal to tackle antisocial behaviour through, for instance, public space protection orders and community protection notices.
Constituents, including pupils at Lliswerry High School, constantly raise with me the antisocial and dangerous use of e-scooters and e-bikes. I held a debate on this last December, but little has happened since, and legislation needs to catch up with the growth in their sales. Will the Home Secretary talk to Ministers at the Department for Transport to see what can be done to address the problem?
The behaviour of nuisance riders, or boy racers—whatever we want to call them—is antisocial behaviour plain and simple. It is criminal, it can be harassing, it can bring fear to communities, and it can cause criminal damage. The police, working with local authorities, have the necessary powers to end these problems, and forces around the country have organised pilots that have led to success. I encourage the hon. Lady’s local police force to look at the good practice that is currently taking place around the country.
Let us get this exactly right: over the next four years, police numbers in Scotland are due to fall by 2,000. The highlands and islands police chief has said that “something has to give.” I had thought that Barnett consequentials would lead to an increase in Scotland’s police numbers rather than a decrease. When it comes to antisocial behaviour, what a grim message this is for some of the most vulnerable in society.
Unfortunately—it is incredibly tragic—the Scottish National party’s obsession with separatism has led to the highest number of alcohol and drug-related deaths in Europe on their watch. Falling police numbers in Scotland when numbers are rising in England and Wales—that is what the SNP brings us, and only good government from the Conservatives can stop crime and protect victims.