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Mr. Heald: I followed with great interest the hon. Lady's comments on Treads, which is the sort of scheme that I mentioned earlier. However, I do not understand what she is saying about the Conservative group on Plymouth council. From what she is saying, it has not only cut car parking charges, but is continuing the checks made on vehicles in car parks. Dog patrols have also been

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introduced. Surely, that is an improvement. I am sure that local residents quite like not having to pay car parking charges.

Mrs. Gilroy: Those people are not local residents, as they come from outside Plymouth. Plymouth city council is losing £400,000 in income this year, and would lose £800,000 in a full year. That could be used for better things and for work under the community safety partnership.

Mr. Heald: It is a tax cut.

Mrs. Gilroy: It is not a tax cut, but a cut in the funding for fighting crime. It is a public services funding cut by stealth.

Angela Smith (Basildon): A stealth cut.

Mrs. Gilroy: Indeed, it is a stealth cut. In my constituency, the Tories will have to make stealth cuts such as that, and, in the city of Plymouth, cuts amounting to £55 million to meet their £16 billion pledge of cuts.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. For a little while, the hon. Lady has been straying rather too far from the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mrs. Gilroy: I take your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Bercow: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Gilroy: I think that I might be tempted down another path along which I ought not to be tempted, so I shall not give way at this stage.

I urge my hon. Friends and the Home Secretary to try to ensure that Opposition Members understand that all the initiatives that I have described work together. I have tried to highlight the point at which successful community safety partnerships have apparently achieved as much as they can. While other types of crime are going down, the one that is showing signs of edging up again by a percentage point or two is vehicle crime, especially theft of vehicles. As we have reached that point, the Bill provides useful tools, which are not currently available, to plug the gaps. As we discussed earlier, those tools make far better use of the time of the police and other enforcement agencies. That ensures that their time is used in the best possible way so that they can tackle car crime, violent crime and other sorts of crime.

As we are discussing vehicle crime, when my hon. Friend the Minister comes to sum up, will he consider whether he could add a clause or two to the Bill to control the Tories' wish to drive a coach and horses through our partnership work? My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Mr. Shaw) referred to clauses perhaps being added for protection. I am not sure whether he meant that bandwagons should be protected, but they certainly should be protected from Tories who are constantly leaping on them, thus proving to be a great danger to themselves and other people.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Until those particular bandwagons need registration plates, the hon. Lady is out of order.

Mrs. Gilroy: The bandwagons to which I was referring are particularly badly maintained as they keep backfiring

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loudly, frightening Opposition Members rather more than they frighten anyone else. Seriously, however, I have real fears for partnership work and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary can find a means of enabling Opposition Members to get their heads around the need to tackle the issue of auto crime from both non-legislative and legislative angles; otherwise, I fear that the measure's great potential to bear down on vehicle crime in Plymouth and elsewhere will be neutralised--or, indeed, worse. That would be dispiriting for all those involved in working together in community organisations in the city and throughout the county of Devon, as well as those in the community safety partnership team. I know that my right hon. Friend understands those things, and I hope that he will try to educate the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald, who speaks for the Opposition.

Plymouth's community safety partnership has matured and developed over a longer period than most crime and disorder partnerships. As other partnerships have a chance to develop and achieve similar successes to Plymouth's--which they ought to be able to achieve faster once we introduce the Bill's provisions--they will find that those new tools are essential.

Mr. Bercow: I have been listening to the hon. Lady with no little interest. She will be aware that the largest two parts of this four-part Bill concern the regulation of motor salvage operators and number plate suppliers. In order that the House can get a feel for the significance of the Bill's regulatory impact in the hon. Lady's constituency, will she say approximately how many motor salvage operators and plate suppliers there are in Plymouth, Sutton?

Mrs. Gilroy: I am reliably advised that there are about five. As we discussed earlier, it will not be necessary for the enforcement agencies to focus on all of them. As the hon. Gentleman himself has pointed out, many of those in the salvage industry make a highly respected contribution to the local economy. As with all trading standards issues, they have as much to gain as anybody else from the proper regulation of their trade, which will safeguard their reputation.

Earlier, the hon. Member for Buckingham said that it was important to have enough police to make good use of the provisions in the Bill. As I indicated, I believe that, throughout the country, there are now 400 community safety-type partnerships under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. They have been in existence for only a year or two but, in Plymouth's case, we have been working on the issues for six years. I was making the point that police time would be freed up to be used in a better way if legislation were clarified and the police could enforce things far more quickly.

The Bill's contents are extremely important to all of those who take auto crime seriously. I referred to Tory bandwagons and coaches and horses. I hope that, in five to 10 years' time, those will be the only vehicle crimes still causing problems. Who knows? With appropriate amendments in Committee, we might even have eliminated them.

6.59 pm

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): I have been following the debate with considerable interest. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mrs. Gilroy) made an

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interesting point; she thought that it was wrong that a council under Conservative control should cut taxes, yet provide additional services. She then showed a complete incomprehension of local business men in her area, by saying that the worst thing was that 14,000 people from outside the constituency came into her city to shop. How wrong that is.

Mrs. Gilroy: Not only is Plymouth city council reducing the youth offending team budget--one of the last budgets that should be cut--but it is also closing old people's homes. Those are not my priorities or those of the people of Plymouth.

Mr. Fabricant rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds, I would ask him to return to the Bill.

Mr. Fabricant: I accept your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and shall not discuss the sad position of the people of Plymouth, Sutton with their Member of Parliament.

The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) waxed lyrical about the number of speed cameras in Staffordshire, but not once did he speak about the appalling loss by Staffordshire of 240 police officers. He mentioned his consultation with the chief constable's department, but he did not say how difficult it would be to enforce the Bill without sufficient police numbers.

Such a Bill is needed, however. As we heard earlier, the British crime survey said that 2,956,000 thefts occurred in 1999, representing about 20 per cent. of all British crime. Slightly more than one in 10--or 11 per cent.--of those crimes were thefts of vehicles. We are discussing these matters hot on the heels of the Queen's Speech, in which we heard about another Home Office initiative to control yob culture in our streets. How can that aim be achieved without the police officers necessary for enforcement?

As we heard earlier, the 18 December issue of The House Magazine contains an article entitled "Policing in Crisis" by the chairman of the Police Federation. It is worth repeating two lines of the article that are directly relevant to the Bill:


I remind hon. Members that those are the words of Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation. Although we all welcome the Bill, we must ask how it will be enforced.

Mr. Bercow: Does my hon. Friend agree that it was alarming to hear the Home Secretary accuse, to all intents and purposes, the chairman of the Police Federation of crying wolf?

Mr. Fabricant: Very few things shock me in this life nowadays. Having just had my 50th birthday, I have seen many things. However, it is frightening to hear a Home Secretary say that the comments of the chairman of the Police Federation are pointless and useless, and that he cries wolf and makes similar statements every six months. I shall not pursue the matter in detail, because you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order. I point out, however, that the Home's Secretary's remarks are especially

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alarming as, according to the article, the Police Federation is making its first ever call for the establishment of a royal commission to consider the future of policing in this country.

I can forgive the Home Secretary, as he said that he had not read this most serious article in The House Magazine, but I hope that my raising the issue again will ensure that he reads it. No matter what the right hon. Gentleman says, no sensible person would doubt that police officers will be needed to enforce the Bill. We all welcome the legislation, providing that the Home Office supplies resources for the police officers who are necessary to enforce it.


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