Policing (Peterborough and Cambridgeshire)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:44 pm on 20th February 2008.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction) 3:44 pm, 20th February 2008

The chief constable of Cambridgeshire pointed out in her letter that the Department for Communities and Local Government is making certain funds available for policing. Certainly, that is another issue that the migration impacts forum will need to examine. Again, I suggest that that is the type of point that needs to be made at the forum, which will consider how best to address it.

I would like to say something about the strength of Cambridgeshire's performance. It is clear that the increased investment in Cambridgeshire has been put to good use. There are now more police officers in Cambridgeshire than there were in 1997. There are 288 more support staff who, of course, help to release uniformed staff for front-line duties, and there are also 180 community support officers. If one adds all those extra staff together, 500 more people are working in the police family in Cambridgeshire compared with 1997.

I know that hon. Members have made points similar to this, but it is important to recognise when we congratulate the police that overall recorded crime in Cambridgeshire fell by more than 18 per cent. from 2002-03 to 2006-07. Burglary was down by 31 per cent., and violent crime was down by 6 per cent. In the authority of the hon. Member for Peterborough, crime fell in the same period by 24 per cent., and crime was also down in other basic command units. Of course, there are challenges for police forces. However, in the same way that we have tried to put this debate into a wider context, it is also important to recognise the falls in crime in the past few years.

I would like to say a little more about migration. A number of chief constables, including the chief constable of Cambridgeshire, Julie Spence, have expressed concern. As was said at the beginning, they have generally been at pains to say that migrants have not caused a crime wave. Instead, they having been trying to make the point that when people whose first language is not English come into contact with the police, perhaps as victims—as the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington has said is sometimes the case—or as witnesses, there may be extra costs involved for services such as interpretation.

I want to make three more points. First, the Government recognise that there is an issue here, and Ministers have made that clear in our meetings with Cambridgeshire constabulary and other forces that have been affected. When I return to the Department, I will relay the points made in this debate to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing.

Secondly, population is a key factor in the police funding formula. In calculating the comprehensive spending review funding settlement for the police, we used the best available ONS data from September 2007. The data incorporate recent methodological improvements, principally an improved estimation of international migration nationally and of the distribution of migrant numbers to local areas.

Finally, as I have already said, the Government have set up the migration impacts forum and we hope that people everywhere will contribute to that forum.

In the short time that I have left—less than a minute—I want to say that this has been an important debate. Hon. Members have been very measured in the way in which they have made their points. I also reiterate my belief that such debates are important and worthwhile only if we try to learn from them. As I have said, I will take back to the Department the points that have been made by hon. Members today, particularly those made by the hon. Member for Peterborough. Hon. Members have raised what they feel is a real issue in Cambridgeshire, and they have represented their constituents' concerns. I hope that some of my earlier points in response to specific questions about collaboration and other issues have helped hon. Members. I will write to the hon. Member for Peterborough in due course, once I have discussed those points with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing.