Organised Crime

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 27 November 2023.

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Photo of Simon Jupp Simon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

What steps he is taking to help reduce levels of organised crime.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

What steps he is taking to help reduce levels of organised crime.

Photo of Antony Higginbotham Antony Higginbotham Conservative, Burnley

What steps he is taking to help reduce levels of organised crime.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We will continue to break the business model of organised crime gangs to keep the people of this country safe. We are disrupting their activities both domestically in the UK and internationally, including disrupting the work of the gangs behind the illegal small-boat crossings, and it is why the Criminal Justice Bill creates new powers to target organised criminal gangs. We will also publish a new serious and organised crime strategy soon.

Photo of Simon Jupp Simon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

Criminal gangs do not care about the people they are smuggling into our country and they must be stopped. We must stop the boats in ways that are consistent with our international obligations and end the dangerous journeys that risk human life. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must focus on breaking the business model of these criminal gangs?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The people who are being smuggled are seen as just products; they are expendable in the eyes of the people smugglers, and we must and will do everything we can to break their business model. I commend the work of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration, who has recently been to Bulgaria, where in close co-operation with our international partners there we have seized boats and engines. We are breaking the business model, and we will continue to drive down those illegal small-boat crossings until we have stopped the boats.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

Serious organised acquisitive crime is hitting rural communities hard, with high-value agricultural equipment targeted for theft. The National Rural crime unit has recently recovered over £5 million of stolen equipment, nearly £1 million of which was recovered abroad. The Construction Plant-hire Association, NFU Mutual and the Construction Equipment Association have put significant funds into the NRCU but what more can my right hon. Friend do to ensure that it has the resources it needs to tackle these serious organised criminal gangs?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for the work he has done in this area, including with his private Members’ Bill. He is absolutely right that the rural communities of this country need to be supported, and they will be. Driving down rural crime is an important area of work and we have provided £200,000 of funding to help set up the NRCU. My hon. Friend and I, and others in this House, understand the terrible impact this has, and we will continue to work with the rural police forces to drive down rural crime.

Photo of Antony Higginbotham Antony Higginbotham Conservative, Burnley

In Burnley and right across Lancashire county lines continues to be a problem, with organised groups peddling drugs and exploiting young people with no regard for the harm they are doing, not just to the communities but to the young people they are exploiting. Lancashire police are making very good inroads with an enhanced rural policing unit and neighbourhood taskforces, but what more can Lancashire Constabulary do to tackle the county lines issue and bring order back to our streets?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting this vile type of criminality, which targets the young and the most vulnerable. As part of our fight against county lines we are investing up to £145 million in our county lines programme, and since it was launched in 2019 police activity has resulted in over 4,700 county lines being closed, over 14,800 arrests and over 7,200 safeguard referrals. We will keep our focus on this evil criminality.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Given that, shockingly, the average time it takes for a crime to be charged has trebled since 2016, will the Secretary of State embrace the Police Federation’s “Simplify DG6” campaign and scrap the redaction rules his Government introduced in 2020, in order to cut bureaucracy, get cases to the Crown Prosecution Service quicker, and free up officers’ time to be out fighting crime?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We are actively working with the CPS to simplify and speed up this process. I will of course look at the proposals put forward, because we want police officers out in their communities on the beat and tackling crime, rather than doing paperwork—important though that is.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

The police report a 25% increase in shoplifting in recent months. There is much evidence, as the Home Secretary will be aware, that organised criminal gangs go into shops to try to steal as much as they can and target shop workers. As we approach Christmas, what assurance can the Home Secretary provide to shop workers—not just at Christmas, but across the year—that he will start dealing with these gangs and start realising that all retail crime is a problem in this country that needs tackling?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight this issue. It is one that we take seriously through Operation Pegasus. We are working through the leadership of the police and crime commissioner for Sussex on this very issue. No doubt either the Policing Minister, my right hon. Friend Chris Philp or I will have the opportunity to update the House on this work as it progresses.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

This autumn, the Government pledged to treat retail crime as organised crime, but with their Criminal Justice Bill, they have fallen at the first hurdle. There is no consolidated offence to protect retail workers, no strong signal on the £200 limit on investigations and a denial of reality on their hollowing out of neighbourhood policing. From the answers we have heard, the Home Secretary wants us to believe that we have never had it so good, but the ones who are thriving are organised criminals. Will the Government accept our amendments to add the protection of shop workers into the legislation?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman will know that attacking shop workers is already a statutory aggravating factor. We will look at what more we can do to protect shop workers. The retail action plan is in place, including the use of CCTV and facial recognition software. We will continue to explore all avenues to protect shopworkers, because they, like everyone else, deserve our protection.