in the Chair ]
(No. 4) Bill-- (By Order)
[Lords] (By Order)
Bill-- [Lords] (By Order)
[Lords] (By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time on Thursday 26 November.
1. Mr. Chisholm : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons from Pakistan sought to enter the United Kingdom as visitors in the last year ; and how many were refused entry.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle) : In the year ending August 1992, there were some 67,000 admissions of Pakistani visitors at United Kingdom ports ; 371 were refused entry and removed. It is likely that the majority of them were visitors.
Mr. Chisholm : That is a high refusal rate. Why are 8.5 per cent. of visitors to this country from the black Commonwealth, while 54 per cent. of refusals are from those same countries? Does the Minister realise that, once people have been refused they will probably never be able to enter because it is marked in their passports? Does he accept that the situation will get much worse if appeal rights are abolished and immigration officers become completely unconstrained?
Mr. Wardle : It has been made absolutely clear to immigration officers that none of their decisions should be based on questions of race, creed or colour. The hon. Gentleman asked about Pakistan. In the case of that country, 78 per cent. of applicants for visit visas last year were successful, 22 per cent. were unsuccessful initially, and just 2 per cent. of those were granted visas on appeal.
Mr. David Evans : Is my hon. Friend aware that the British people are not interested in those who are refused entry but in those who are allowed in and are now here illegally? We want to know whether they are here permanently and whether they are drawing social security. We all know that the lot opposite will let anybody in. When will the asylum Bill be put in place?
Mr. Wardle : My hon. Friend will know that the immigration and nationality department has a most effective and hard-working enforcement department and that this country welcomes visitors from all over the world. Last year, some 5.5 million visitors were welcomed to this country, including more than 215,000 from the subcontinent.
Mr. Allen : Is the Minister aware that black British, Asian British and other ethnic minority British are seething with anger at the Government's proposal to abolish the right of appeal for visitors seeking to come to this country? Some 1,500 visitors from the subcontinent alone won their appeals last year. Why are the Government now abolishing the right of appeal, rather than correcting the process that brings it about? Is it because there is a hidden agenda from the European Community--the Schengen group, the Trevi group, and the ad hoc committee of Ministers? Will he come clean on why the Government are abolishing the right of appeal, when visitors are refused entry to our country?
Mr. Wardle : As usual, the hon. Gentleman is long on invective and short on substance. Removing appeal rights for visitors will improve the fairness and effectiveness of the immigration appeals system by enabling decisions to be concentrated on matters that are of fundamental importance to people's lives, such as questions of settlement or deportation.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) : I last met representatives of the Police Federation on 28 September. We discussed a number of matters, including the Sheehy inquiry which I have asked to report to me by the end of May 1993.
Mr. Nicholson : My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that the Police Federation represents the thin blue line which, even in Avon and Somerset, stands between the community and a rising tide of crime, including drug abuse. Is he aware that, at a recent meeting in my constituency with representatives of the Police Federation, I found that they were concerned about his proposal, on which we still await details, to take away from the police the registration and processing of applications for firearms certificates? Will my right hon. and learned Friend think carefully about that? Is he aware that for rural districts I believe that the police are the best people to consider who should and should not be trusted
Column 395with firearms? In particular will he give an assurance to the House that he will not allow the manufacturers and retailers of firearms to have any influence over the processing of firearms certificates?
Mr. Clarke : Of course, I realise that the Police Federation is a responsible organisation, as was shown by its welcome to the Sheehy inquiry and its recent recognition of the need to accept a 1.5 per cent. pay restraint on behalf of its members in the interests of helping to revive the national economy. We are out to consultation on the issue of whether we should have a civilian firearms board and have not yet reached a conclusion. I am attracted by the idea of a civilian firearms board as it would release police officers for more direct policing responsibilities, but we need to recruit the necessary experts onto the board. I have not yet made a decision and I shall bear in mind submissions from the Police Federation in Somerset before I reach a conclusion.
Mr. Mackinlay : Is the Home Secretary aware of the continuing anxiety among police officers that the setting up of the Sheehy committee of inquiry may prejudice their pay and conditions of service? Will he reiterate to the House the categorical assurance that he gave to the Police Federation at its conference in May that the Sheehy inquiry will in no way alter or jeopardise the pay or other conditions of service of police officers in England and Wales, and elsewhere in the United Kingdom?
Mr. Clarke : I certainly gave no assurance in those terms. I said that the time had come to have such an inquiry into pay, terms and conditions of service, rank structure and other factors within the police force. The Edmund-Davies arrangements served their purpose extremely well, and the Government implemented them. The arrangements had a dramatic effect on the pay and recruitment of police in the 1980s. The Edmund-Davies arrangements have fulfilled their purpose, and the Sheehy inquiry is taking a fresh approach to settling the pay, terms and conditions of policemen in order to produce an effective, efficient and well-motivated force for the 1990s.
Mr. Shersby : Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that, following his speech to the Police Federation conference in May this year, a warm welcome was given to his remarks about working with police officers and ensuring that they were properly paid for the dangerous job that they do? When responding to my right hon. and learned Friend's speech the chairman of the federation made it clear that the federation welcomed the establishment of the Sheehy inquiry as the federation had been calling for many years for an inquiry by means of a royal commission into the terms and conditions of the police.
Mr. Clarke : That is exactly so. My hon. Friend was at the conference, and he and I remember the occasion well. The Police Federation made an extremely responsible and forthcoming response stating that it welcomed the inquiry and accepted the need to look at issues such as fair share of rewards for responsibilities, rank structures and other factors. The Police Federation has been submitting constructive evidence to that inquiry and we all await its outcome in May next year.
Column 396many crimes are committed as are recorded, and there are 15 million crimes a year in Britain. Does not the Home Secretary recognise that, instead of the changes becoming an excuse for the Government to pass the buck to the police, the Government and Ministers have the responsibility to produce a strategy to cut crime and make our community safe?
Mr. Clarke : The hon. Gentleman has the figures slightly wrong. There is nothing new about more crime being committed. There has been no change under any Government for centuries, when more crimes have been committed than reported. There is a maze of fairly useless criminal statistics and we are trying to make them clearer. If we consider the "British Crime Survey", the only accurate guide to the level of crime, we see that crime has--I accept--risen by about 20 per cent. in the past 10 years. We are suffering the same experience as every other developed society--rising criminality occurs in the richer and more developed countries of the world, particularly in western Europe and northern America. The Government respond by having an efficient and effective police force that they support, and by introducing reforms to the criminal justice law to keep it up to date and reforms to the prison system. We shall have and maintain an extremely effective policy on protecting the country against the problem of rising criminality.
Mr. Charles Wardle : Recorded offences of burglary and theft in which firearms were reported to have been stolen were 1,774 for 1989, 2,024 for 1990, and 2,410 for 1991. It is possible that more than one firearm may have been stolen in some cases.
Mr. Ashby : Those are very worrying statistics, showing an increase in the theft of firearms. Is my hon. Friend aware that I sent the Department details of a disabling device that can be fitted to shotguns so that any shotgun with such a device could no longer be used for crime--and stolen guns will be used for crime? Instead of fobbing me off, when will the Department instigate a proper evaluation of the device and make it mandatory for all with shotgun certificates?
Mr. Wardle : There was a 19 per cent. increase between 1990 and 1991, but I hope that my hon. Friend will bear it in mind that controls were considerably strengthened after the introduction of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988. The latest figures are still lower than the figures for the early 1980s. My hon. Friend's
recommendations will be considered and passed to the Firearms Consultative Committee.
Mr. Lewis : Is the Minister aware that in my area eight handguns were stolen from one source not many months ago, and that two have already turned up having claimed three lives? I suggest stricter controls on how many handguns can be held by one person--eight magnums in one flat seems a ludicrous number. Secondly, a court case is proceeding involving one of those stolen handguns, and the original owner of the gun has demanded it back even
Column 397though it was used in one of the killings. That, too, is ludicrous ; will the Minister put a block on it as far as is humanly possible?
Mr. Wardle : The hon. Gentleman's recommendations will be considered by the Firearms Consultative Committee. He will also bear it in mind that just one fifth of 1 per cent of all recorded offences last year involved the use of firearms, and that the Criminal Justice Act 1988 introduced stiffer penalties for the judiciary to use in cases involving the criminal use of firearms.
Mr. Conway : Will my hon. Friend accept from one who served on the Standing Committee that considered the Firearms (Amendment) Bill that there was considerable concern that, despite our best intentions, we would end up with a campaign against legitimate firearms holders in rural areas, particularly farmers and those who enjoy field sports? Does he agree that there is anxiety that if we move away from police certification the intimate knowledge that local police have about genuine holders of firearms in country areas will be lost if a civilian body is set up? Will my hon. Friend tread carefully in the rural parts of Britain?
Mr. Wardle : I hear what my hon. Friend says. He will know that responsibility is vested in the chief officer. The recent consultation paper that proposed a firearms control board spoke of a body of information being stored centrally, rather than constabulary by constabulary. My hon. Friend will know that when we consider responses to that consultation document the interests of public safety will be paramount.
Mr. William Ross : How many of the weapons that the Minister listed as stolen were handguns or bullet-firing weapons? Does he have any evidence that any of them turned up in the hands of terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland?
Mr. Wardle : I cannot answer the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question now, but I will seek the information and then tell him. Most of the weapons stolen in each of the past 10 years have been air weapons. Fewer than 150 weapons stolen in each of the past five years have been pistols.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Michael Jack) : Individual police forces continue to develop anti-burglary policies which reflect the needs of their areas. In addition, the safer cities programme and estate action allow agencies working with the police to tackle a wide range of urban problems, including burglary.
Mr. Ainsworth : Is the Minister aware that according to police statistics there are 95.75 burglaries for every 1,000 homes in one of the wards of my constituency? That means that 10 per cent. of the people there can expect to be burgled every year. Would the Minister be as complacent about what the Government are doing if he faced the same problem in his constituency? The Department has sat on the Morgan report for two years and has refused to extend
Column 398the urban crime allocation fund--indeed, it has stopped it altogether. When will Ministers do something about this appalling situation?
Mr. Jack : I am saddened by the hon. Gentleman's lack of generosity, since Coventry already has a safer cities programme and he will know that the Woodend and Hillfields estate have benefited from improved security as a result of the estate action programme. He will also know that one of those estates has benefited from the expenditure of £185,000 from the safer cities programme on anti-burglary activities and that Coventry council plays its part on the safer cities steering and action group which mirrors what is said in the Morgan report.
Sir John Wheeler : Does my hon. Friend agree that research shows that 5 per cent. of people who are convicted before the courts are responsible for 70 per cent. of crime, that the number one area of the Metropolitan police also confirms that a small number of people are responsible for street crime and opportunist burglaries, and that when the police take those facts into account and organise with the community they can improve the arrest rate and reduce the burglaries?
Mr. Jack : My hon. Friend pays proper tribute to the excellent work achieved by Operation Bumblebee. [Interruption.] There is a certain buzz in the tail of my hon. Friend's point, to which Opposition Members should listen. A targeted police approach such as Operation Bumblebee has a real benefit in terms of reducing burglaries.
Mr. Clelland : It is not often that Opposition Members have the opportunity to thank the Government for much, but is the Minister aware of the success of the urban crime fund in fighting crime and improving the relationship between the community and the police in my constituency on Tyneside? Notwithstanding the Secretary of State for the Environment's disgraceful announcement that the urban programme was to be brought to an end, is the Minister actively considering the extension of the urban crime fund? If not, will the Northumbria police force be given additional resources to carry on its good work?
Mr. Jack : I am aware of the programme that the hon. Gentleman describes, and some of the interesting and innovative initiatives involving the community, particularly in some difficult areas such as the Meadowell estate, have shown that the type of community-based policing, which was occasioned by the use of some of the urban crime fund moneys, worked well. But the hon. Gentleman will also know that that programme was introduced on a limited time basis and we will wish to evaluate the lessons learnt from it.
Mrs. Angela Knight : Is my hon. Friend aware of the valuable contribution of neighbourhood watch schemes such as the one in my area? Does he agree that they have been particularly successful in that they make sure that each and every person is aware of his or her responsibility to lock up property properly?
Mr. Jack : I am most grateful to my hon. Friend's continuing support and interest in neighbourhood watch. She will be aware that there is shortly to be a national conference for neighbourhood watch organisers and I have every confidence that the new neighbourhood watch
Column 399organisers' manual will give all those people who give so generously of their time further guidance to improve their effectiveness in the fight against crime.
Mr. Michael : Does the Minister accept that a project such as the safer cities programme is inadequate to tackle the problems of a city such as Coventry where crime has risen by 29 per cent. in just two years? As house burglaries are up by 16 per cent. nationally compared with last year, up by 25 per cent. in the west midlands and up by more than 50 per cent. in some parts of the country, does the Minister accept that burglary of homes is one of the few growth industries under the Government?
Mr. Jack : Growth in anxiety about burglaries and forms of crime prevention certainly are a concern of the Government. If the hon. Gentleman looked at some of the research that he has been doing through parliamentary questions, he would find that notifiable offences in safer cities areas rose between 1989 and 1991 by 25 per cent. while the national equivalent is 37 per cent. There is an important message there.
Mr. Marlow : Given that the vast majority of urban crime is carried out by pseudo macho little gits who get a kick out of crime, and given that we have no proper solution to the problem, will my hon. Friend consider instituting a punishment of judicial thrashing so that in future they should have a disincentive and a kick of a different sort?
Mr. Jack : In his own inimitable style and language, my hon. Friend has highlighted a point taken up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary at the Conservative party conference in Brighton when he committed us to the policy of developing a new approach to persistent juvenile offenders. No doubt, when we consider our own recommendations, my hon. Friend's words will ring in our ears.
Mr. Trimble : No doubt the Home Secretary has seen recent press reports suggesting that more than 20 tonnes of explosive was available to the Irish republican army in the London area this year. Most of it, thankfully, has been intercepted.
The explosive appears to have been manufactured and assembled largely in the London area, and it takes more than a dozen people to make up a large bomb. Does the Home Secretary agree that such activity is difficult to conceal, and ought to be readily detected by ordinary people who are vigilant?
Mr. Clarke : As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have had some spectacular successes in recent weeks in intercepting bombs and explosives. I congratulate the police, security men and others concerned on their courage and vigilance. Obviously, we give no details of operational activity against the IRA, but I agree with the hon.
Column 400Gentleman that it is important for us to succeed in dealing with the IRA members who are operating in London. That requires sustained vigilance on the part of ordinary members of the public, as well as the police service and the security people.
Mr. Bowden : The House has expressed gratitude to my right hon. and learned Friend for praising the brave police officers who have faced armed men when they themselves have nothing but a truncheon. Is he holding discussions with police representatives to see whether anything can be done to improve the provision of rapid back-up with armed men when such incidents happen in the future? Does he agree that they will happen again, probably before Christmas?
Mr. Clarke : Regrettably, in modern circumstances we must deploy armed policemen in operations, and we can do so rapidly. It is best to deploy specially trained men who are disciplined in the use of firearms, and that is done on such occasions. PC Hall and his colleague in Stoke Newington were unarmed and on ordinary patrol ; we all admire their courage in facing men who turned out to be armed. I am glad to say that PC Hall is making extremely good progress, and recovering from his injuries.
Mr. Eastham : Does the Home Secretary recognise that nowadays some very sophisticated policing equipment is available in the form of national fingerprint files, computers and communications? When I wrote to the Home Office recently about the budget for such equipment, I was informed that it was contained in the global figure for policing in the Greater Manchester area. That meant that less than 1 per cent. of the total budget was available for sophisticated equipment. Most of the money is being spent on trying to provide and pay for policing.
Mr. Clarke : In fact, considerable progress has been made. The national criminal intelligence service is now up and running, and is providing a very effective and sophisticated operation of intelligence gathering for the whole country. We are making good progress towards computer-aided fingerprint matching, which operates in a number of police authorities now, and we are on course for the introduction of a national system in due course.
Modern technology is being deployed very effectively in the police service. Over the past 10 years, we have sustained a high level of investment in the service, in terms of men, equipment and modern technology.
6. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prosecutions there have been as a result of camera evidence on roads since their inception ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Greenway : No one supports excessive speeding ; however, will my right hon. and learned Friend explain why people travelling through west London pass through no fewer than six spy camera zones between Paddington and the Target roundabout in Northolt, and another six
Column 401on the way back? In view of the importance of spy camera zones, why are not speed signs much clearer, and why are they placed level with the camera zones where they are shown? Is it police policy to prosecute drivers who are a few mph above the speed limit, or not? Finally, will the policy be to ensure that there is a proper space for a downward transition on the A40 from high to low speeds--say from 60 to 40 mph--rather than the few yards that are provided in some places at present?
Mr. Jack : My hon. Friend has asked a number of questions and I shall do my best to address them. He should bear it in mind that 13 per cent. of accidents are associated with red light running and 33 per cent. with excessive speed. To make the best use of scarce police manpower, automatic systems have been introduced. There are five cameras on the A40-- two on traffic light jumping and three on speed. My hon. Friend knows that prosecution is a matter for the police. If he has any queries, I am sure that he will wish to take them up with the chief officer of the Metropolitan police. As for signposting, an inventory was carried out before the introduction of the cameras and improved signing was installed.
Dr. Marek : Does the Minister agree that the speed laws should be obeyed and that rather than campaigning to cut the number of cameras, we ought to increase the number so that people from Ealing who do 90 mph in the fast lane of the A40 are brought to book and do not threaten the life and limb of the rest of us?
Mr. Jack : The hon. Gentleman does a disservice to the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). People other than those from Ealing use the A40, but the hon. Gentleman is right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the use of this type of equipment is designed to improve road safety. As I have already said, 33 per cent. of road accidents are the result of excessive speed.
Mr. Dunn : The Home Secretary will know that, in the context of the organisation of police forces, I belong firmly to the school which says that reforms are all very well so long as nothing is changed. Can my right hon. and learned Friend give me an absolute guarantee today that the county of Kent constabulary will continue to be controlled from Maidstone and not from a remote regional centre such as Guildford?
Mr. Clarke : My hon. Friend puts forward an approach to reform which would have done credit to Lord Palmerston. We have not yet reached any conclusions on the future structure or shape of police forces. We have not committed ourselves to any change and have not yet
Column 402addressed the question whether Maidstone or Guildford is the best place for the headquarters of the police service in my hon. Friend's constituency.
Mr. Bermingham : Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear it in mind that as the Crown prosecution service is divided into 12 areas throughout the United Kingdom, it would be wise to reconsider their distribution, bearing in mind that it is useful if Crown prosecution areas are coterminous with local police areas, as they are at present?
Mr. Clarke : I am full of praise for the Crown prosecution service, but, with respect, the delivery of a police service is somewhat different. The key question in the case of policing is how to retain the necessary local element for community policing, with responsibility being devolved to an officer who has charge of the beat officers in an area that he knows well and with the right headquarters structure above that--a structure which is not too oppressive and distant and can give the necessary headquarters support to a modern police service. The questions that we have to address here are not exactly equivalent to those which have to be addressed in the case of the Crown prosecution service.
Mr. Jack : The prevention of the misuse of drugs by young people is a prime objective of the Home Office drugs prevention initiative, the annual progress report of which was published on Monday. In addition, the 20 local drug prevention teams are currently playing their full part in European Drug Prevention Week.
Mrs. Gillan : I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Is it not right that this year £5.3 million has been made available to the drugs prevention initiative to fund such things as local drugs prevention teams? Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the contribution made by voluntary organisations such as Action on Addiction, which recently supported financially the setting up of the national addiction centre?
Mr. Jack : My hon. Friend properly draws attention to the role of the voluntary sector in drug prevention work. Our drug prevention initiative has shown the value of partnership in fighting the menace of drugs. I was pleased to confirm this week that the drug prevention initiative will be extended until 1995.
Ms. Glenda Jackson : How does the Minister's answer square with the lobby in the House this week of young people who have been victims of drug abuse and are struggling to free themselves from that travail in the face of the Government's broken promise on ring fencing drug and alcohol abuse services?
Mr. Jack : The hon. Lady tempts me into areas beyond the boundaries of the Home Office. She will know that Health Ministers have received representations and have issued enhanced guidelines to local authorities on the subject.
Mrs. Peacock : In all the hype of this week, will my hon. Friend ensure that he does not forget the problem of solvent abuse, which is often forgotten and seems to be the poor relation? Regrettably, West Yorkshire has a high record of young people who have died from this abuse.
Mr. Jack : My hon. Friend is entirely right to draw the House's attention to that. If she saw some of the excellent work being done in our drug prevention initiatives, she would realise that many of the drama messages conveyed by young people to young people include a powerful one about the dangers of solvent abuse.
Mr. Battle : In response to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms. Jackson), why has the Minister not made representations to his colleagues at the Department of Health? Is this not a classic example of his making encouraging and supportive noises while another Department undermines his initiatives by cutting resources? What representations has he made?
Mr. Charles Wardle : Separate figures for refusal of multiple applications are not identifiable, but in the past 12 months more than 12,000 applications have been refused because of failure to provide information or to attend interviews. We believe that there is a correlation with multiple applications.
Mr. Sykes : Does my hon. Friend agree with those of us in Scarborough and Whitby who want the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill to be enacted as soon as possible and regard bogus applications with the same contempt as we regard opponents of the Bill?
Mr. Wardle : My hon. Friend is right, for two reasons : first, fraudulent applications clog the system and delay the genuine applications of refugees who have experienced harrowing problems ; secondly, they are an abuse of the social security system.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Was not the Minister's treatment of my constituent's family and their Yugoslavian friend last night a slur on the credibility of the Government and a disgrace to his name as Minister? Having deported that girl from Manchester airport at 6 am today, will the Minister confirm that she had lived in Switzerland for three years, that she had a return ticket to Switzerland dated 21 December, that she had £700 in her pocket, that she had credit cards from Swiss banks, that she had a full-time job in Switzerland with an employer who had given assurances that she would stay in Switzerland-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Campbell-Savours : She was also due to return to Switzerland to be married next January. Does the Minister regret the disgraceful decision that he took last night, or is this the new form of barbaric Conservatism that we have to experience?
Mr. Wardle : I have written to the hon. Gentleman, who gave the House a long list of circumstances. I do not normally comment on a case, but he omitted to mention that the lady concerned told immigration officers that she was aware that former Yugoslavs needed a visa to come to this country but said that she understood that it was required only of ethnic Serbs. The refusal was mandatory. Had the case not been treated as it was-- [Interruption.]
Mr. John Greenway : Will my hon. Friend take the oportunity to confirm that the Government remain totally committed to their obligations to asylum seekers under the 1951 United Nations convention, and that any person throughout the world who has a genuine fear of persecution is welcome here? Does my hon. Friend agree that the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill now before the House of Lords will strengthen the rights of the genuine asylum seeker at the expense only of those who seek to break the rules?
Mr. Wardle : My hon. Friend is right : the Government are absolutely committed to the 1951 convention. The Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill will be an improvement on the existing system, and will provide an oral hearing for every refused asylum applicant.