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Private Security Firms

8. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): What guidance he issues to police forces on the use of private security firms to protect police headquarters. [142650]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng): No specific guidance is issued. It is for the chief officer to determine the operational requirements for the protection of police headquarters, and for the police authority to review the way in which those are met to ensure best value.

Mr. Prentice: Is it not astonishing that Lancashire police are spending £450,000 over the next three years to bring in Group 4, Securicor or some other private security firm to guard their headquarters? Where are the criminals who want to break into police headquarters staffed by police officers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Would not it be better to use police probationers? Where is the contracting-out culture leading us? That is the serious point. Will Group 4 be guarding the soldiers at Preston barracks?

Mr. Boateng: It is important that the chief constable has the freedom to determine how best to meet the policing needs of her area. She has that freedom, and she

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has the support of the chair of the police authority. They are subject to best value guidance, and I have no doubt that that is being implemented.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Is it not the case that chief officers have little choice if they do not have the police officers to do those jobs? Given that police numbers in Greater Manchester fell by 28 in the six months to the end of September, and by 43 across the north-west of England, will not such initiatives have to be increased, not reduced? I see that the Home Secretary is looking at the same list that his right hon. Friend kindly sent me a few days ago, so he can confirm the figures.

Mr. Boateng: On the contrary, there has been the largest ever intake of police officers into the Greater Manchester police force, and the figure for Lancashire is up on March 2000. Figures are going up, and there is clear evidence that for the first time over the past seven years the number of police recruited has increased. The hon. Gentleman should celebrate that fact, not denigrate it.

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders

9. Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North): What assessment he has made of the impact of drug treatment and testing orders on reoffending rates. [142651]

Mr. Boateng: We commissioned an evaluation of the three pilots areas in which the orders were tested. That has shown significant reductions in the legal drug spend. The rates of offending by offenders subject to these orders are substantially down.

Ms Perham: I thank the Minister for that reply. At a recent drug awareness day held for local schools at Redbridge magistrates court, I was told that 60 per cent. of the crime list at Redbridge is drug related. Does he agree that the inclusion of court reviews in DTTOs would be helpful to motivate offenders and give courts the confidence that treatment is being complied with? Do not these orders show that the Government are determined to tackle the cycle of drugs and crime?

Mr. Boateng: Magistrates have given court reviews a warm welcome. They give sentencers a stake in the outcome of their deliberations. It is interesting that the detailed figures for DTTOs show that an average of 137 offences are committed before arrest, but that figure falls to about 34 a month after an offender has been subject to a DTTO for only six weeks. That shows what can be achieved when offenders are required to address the causes of their offending. The involvement of sentencers is crucial.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Does the Minister accept that the public now realise that under the Government's special early release scheme more than 3,000 drug dealers have been released earlier than they should have been? The Government came to power pledging that they would be tough on crime and on the causes of crime. We all know that the biggest cause of crime is drugs. The Government are weak on drugs and weak on the causes of crime.

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Mr. Boateng: That simply is not true. The public know that the hon. Gentleman put his signature to the piece of paper that recommended the early release scheme, as he wrongly describes it. He knows that the curfew is a way of reintegrating offenders back into the community. It is disciplined, effective and has the overwhelming support of sentencers and the Select Committee on Home Affairs, of which he was a member. The scheme is working. He is wrong.

Metropolitan Police

11. Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): If he will make a statement on the management and control of the complaints investigation branch of the Metropolitan police. [142654]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw): The complaints investigation branch of the Metropolitan police was restructured and renamed the directorate of professional standards in July last year, and operates with a much stronger management team than before.

I know that Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner, is determined to tackle corruption in the Metropolitan police, and I welcome his commitment to rid the police

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service of corruption. I fully support him in his efforts both to prevent corruption, and to seek out and eradicate it.

Mr. Mackinlay: Does the Home Secretary not understand that there are grounds for widespread concern among both police officers and the public about the stewardship and conduct of the directorate, and about the fact that, when a complaint is made about the directorate's conduct, it is investigated by the directorate itself? Is there not a need for a full judicial inquiry into the conduct, stewardship and management of what was the complaints investigation branch of the Metropolitan police, in view of the considerable evidence that I gave the House on 31 October, extensive reports of corruption and unprofessional conduct among CIB3 officers in The Guardian and other newspapers throughout last year, and substantial and serious documentaries that have appeared on television during the year?

Mr. Straw: The House will know that I cannot refer to any specific complaint, and do not do so. I can tell my hon. Friend, however, that I have seen no evidence whatsoever either to justify his criticisms of the CIB or the Metropolitan police service's investigation of complaints of corruption, or remotely to justify the establishment of any judicial inquiry. What I do know is that officers who are corrupt are often extremely clever in seeking to disrupt investigations of that corruption, and frequently make great use of their own perverted detective skills in order to do so.

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Points of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance? Could Ministers be encouraged to make a new year's resolution to give accurate and complete answers to questions asked of them in the Chamber?

A few moments ago, Mr. Speaker, you will have heard the Minister of State, Home Office, the right hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), claim to me that police numbers in Greater Manchester had increased since March last year. On 4 January, his colleague, the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), wrote to me with figures showing that they had fallen by 28. Either the hon. Member for Norwich, South has given me--and other hon. Members--incomplete or inaccurate written information, or his colleague has given inaccurate information in the Chamber. One or other of them must surely put that right.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman must take that up with the Ministers concerned. It has nothing to do with the Chair.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you been given any indication that we are to expect a statement from the Foreign Office about the grave situation in Turkey, where 1,200 political prisoners are on hunger strike? During the week before the Christmas holidays, there was a brutal attack on seven Turkish prisons, in which 27 prisoners were killed and 400 injured. Human rights activists are in prison, and are being abused. Members of a demonstration were rounded up in Ankara, and the leader of the Turkish human rights movement was taken into custody. I understand that he has subsequently been tortured.

Turkey is a candidate for membership of the European Union, and our Government support its candidature. I think that we, as Members of Parliament, are entitled to hear from the Government why they are continuing to support it.

Mr. Speaker: I have not been informed of any statement, but I am sure that Ministers will have heard what the hon. Lady has said.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that the content of ministerial answers is not a matter for you, but the fact is that we should be given answers. It will not have escaped your notice, Mr. Speaker, that I asked a question about the Afghan hijack that was not answered at all.

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