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John Cryer (Hornchurch): May I remind the hon. Gentleman that Fred Broughton, the chairman of the Police Federation, is on record as saying that the greatest single blow to police morale was the Sheehy report of 1993? Will he tell the House who commissioned and implemented that report?
The statistics on police numbers are stark. They are Home Office official figures, so one assumes that they are indisputablealthough the Government sometimes manage to argue against their own published figures.
Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): Does my hon. Friend agree that if police numbers do rise in the next few years, it will not be thanks to the Government? Local council tax payers face huge increases in the precept, because they will be paying for the increases in police numbers that local communities want. Any achievement will be down to local communities, not to the Government.
The figure of 130,000 officers that I mentioned is based on the assumption that the whole crime fighting fund will be taken up, and to achieve that, every force will have to meet the gateway criteria in order to access it and pay for its extra officers. There is a question mark over that. I am led to believe that this year, at least three significant police authorities will almost certainly pass budgets that will not meet the gateway criteria, so they will not be able to take up the officers allocated to them under the crime fighting fund. There is therefore a huge question mark over whether the target will be met.
The Government's record on funding to date is even worse than their record on police numbers. Between 1997-98 and 2000-01their first termthe cash increase in Government expenditure on the police was 9.9 per cent., or 1.5 per cent. in real terms. Those are outturn figures. Let us compare that with the last period of Conservative Government: the cash figure then was 13.9 per cent., or 2.8 per cent. in real terms. This year, as was revealed in our debate only a month ago, the real increase in total standard spending was only 0.3 per cent.not exactly largesse from the Government.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) said, we must also consider council tax, and there we see a different story. Over the current three-year periodlast year, this year, and next year's anticipated figuresthe cumulative council tax increases for police authorities are 30 to 80 per cent. As he properly reminded us, any increase in police numbers will come not from the Government but from funding by council tax payers.
It now seems that the police authority with the second largest council tax increase this year will be my local police authority in Cambridgeshire. The consultation that the police authority had with the population of the county
As for technology, the Minister referred to the Airwave project, which we all welcomealthough I suspect that many hon. Members will have had complaints from constituents about the siting of the masts. None the less, it is right to go ahead with Airwave, and I hope that when the Minister responds to the debate he can answer a couple of questions. First, is the roll-out of Airwave for the remaining forces still on schedule? Can he assure the House that there will be no delays, and that BT can deliver? Secondly, will the administrative receivership of Simoco, which makes most of the handsets, have any implications for the roll-out?
The background to the crime figures is that under the Conservative Government there was a 17 per cent. fall in recorded crime, whereas under the present Government, although the basis for calculating the figures has been changed
Mr. Paice: Crime did not double under the last Conservative Government. Crime doubled over 18 years[Laughter.] Crime doubled in the whole western world. However, in the last five years of Conservative Government we reversed that trend. Crime was falling, and had fallen by 17 per cent. over those past five years.
We cannot draw a direct comparison, because the method of calculating the statistics changed shortly after the Labour Government took office. I do not mean that as a criticism, but it is a fact. It is also a fact that under the new method, in the first year in which the new statistics operated, crime rose by 3.8 per cent. That was followed by a welcome fall of 2.5 per cent., although crime did not fall back to its previous level.
As the Minister has reminded us, the British crime survey now shows a fall. He said that it was 19 per cent. I thought that it was 12 per cent. over two years, but we will not argue about that; the figures definitely show a fall. The Government seek plaudits for that, and if it heralds a return to the downward trend in crime, of course we will all welcome it. However, I urge him to be cautious about how he interprets the British crime survey. I would not be surprised if his own officials, too, were urging caution.
First, the survey published last autumn was not the full result: it was a sample of only 9,000 respondents, compared with the 40,000 needed for the full result to be published later this year. Secondly, the BCS measures only crime against adults, yet we know that some of the largest increases in crime recently have been against children. Indeed, the survey itself shows that the risk of phone theft or robbery is five times greater for children than for adults: more than 500,000 mobile phone thefts and robberies were from 11 to 15-year-olds, compared with more than 100,000 fewer from those over 16. The trend has been strongly towards crime against under-16s, who do not feature in the statistics.
Several of my hon. Friends have already questioned the Minister about criminal justice and the remarks of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis the other day. Nowhere is it more obvious than in the criminal justice system that the police need help. As the Minister rightly said, the "Diary of a Police Officer" threw up some stark and staggering facts, including the three and a half hours on average of processing for every arrest made. In his speech, the commissioner spoke of one case in which it took an officer seven hours to process an arrest.
As the commissioner also said, it is no use catching criminals if they are then released on bail to commit more, and often more serious, crimes. I know that someone appeared in court only a fortnight ago charged with a murder committed while on bail for street robbery. That is demoralising for the police, the victims and all our communities.
Why, then, do we not have a Bill? The Minister said that it was because we had a terrorism Bill that took up so much time, and of course we understand that, but the Home Office has dropped two pieces of legislation scheduled for this Session, one of which was an anti-terrorism measure, on extradition.
The Home Secretary told us that there would be three major, urgent pieces of anti-terrorism legislation in the autumn, and he has dropped one of those, too. I do not go along with the argument that it is all to do with overwork. I strongly suspect that it is much more to do with the debate that we will have on Monday week, because the Government have had to throw a sop to their Back Benchers by debating hunting. We know that the parliamentary programme of the House of Lords is full and that, to get a hunting Bill in, other things have had to come out.
Norman Baker (Lewes): Another flaw in the argument is that the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill contained many measures that were nothing whatever to do with terrorismit was a cupboard-clearing exercise by the Home Office.
Mr. Paice: I entirely agree: the Bill contained measures relating to the British Transport police and the Ministry of Defence police that went way beyond anti-terrorism and should rightfully have been in the Police Reform Bill.
When it was announced that the two pieces of legislation were to be dropped, my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), the shadow Home Secretary, wrote a private letter to the Home Secretary expressing concern, especially about the loss of the criminal justice Bill, which had considerable cross-party support. He offered the Opposition's support in achieving the reform of the criminal justice system that the Minister espouses. When can my hon. Friend expect a reply?
The Minister did not use the word, but he referred to the debacle that we have had over the pay and conditions package. Let me reaffirm clearly that the Opposition stand foursquare behind the need for a more modern and flexible pay and conditions structurethere is no doubt about thatbut one does not go about achieving that by spending six months slagging off the police, which is