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The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): It is good to be back, Mr. Speaker. [Hon. Members: "Where have you been?"] To the Palace and the Mall. The increase in the policing grant for Greater Manchester is £9.5 million higher this year, and a further £5 million has been allocated for the security and policing of the Commonwealth games. There has been an increase of £2.7 million in available capital spending for equipment and technologyan increase of more than 40 per cent. on the previous year. Following the Budget, I am today announcing an increase of £2.4 million for policing and security in Greater Manchester, as part of a wider announcement nationally. Taken together with the crime fighting fund, the overall increase for this year is 6.9 per cent.
Mr. Brady: It would be wrong for me to take too much credit for the announcement that the Home Secretary has just made. However, he will be aware that the additional cost of policing next month's Commonwealth games in Manchester will be in excess of £8 million. The £5 million that has already been announced accounts for less than two thirds of the cost, and even if we take into account the £2.4 million that he kindly announced in advance of my question, we are still some way adrift of the additional cost. Which other budgets does he expect Greater Manchester police to cut as a result of his refusal to fund in full the policing of the games?
Mr. Blunkett: It is certainly true that the estimate provided by Greater Manchester police is higher than the 63 per cent. of the cost that we envisage finding, but that figure is £1 million higher than the formula that we inherited in 1997. On the hon. Gentleman's specific
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): I refer my right hon. Friend to the situation in my constituency and in other inner-city constituencies. We have a combination of low-level but extremely aggravating crime that destroys the quality of life in those communities, andas he knowsa serious problem with murder. In considering future funding, will he take into account the fact that each murder costs about £1 million to investigate, and that peculiar circumstances apply in Greater Manchester? Perhaps he can also say whether he will ensure that we get value for money from Greater Manchester police and the chief constable, so that we can be certain that Greater Manchester gets the policing that it deserves.
Mr. Blunkett: I have been interested in the initiative taken in Greater Manchester and in the display of public disquiet and the commitment by the people of Manchesterparticularly in the south of Manchester to joining the police in tackling this serious issue. I was pleased to discuss with my hon. Friend how best to invest in, first, preventing and then overcoming the difficulties faced. We need to take into account the size of the challenge faced in Greater Manchester. On a slightly lighter note, I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish us to allocate funds according to the number of homicides committed. I shall have to consider how best to balance those two factors.
The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham): The Government are working to reduce all violent crime. The 2001 British crime survey showed that violent crime overall was down by 19 per cent. in 2000 as against 1999. Last year, street crime rose in some of our large towns and cities. We are working with 10 police forces and other agencies in those 10 areas to tackle street crime. The earlier announcement of resources from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary includes details of an allocation of £27 million across those 10 forces today to enable them to tackle street crime.
Mr. Osborne: I noticed that the Minister did not repeat the Prime Minister's target of reducing street crime by the end of September. To clear up the confusion that has followed since the Prime Minister blurted that out at Prime Minister's questions seven weeks ago, will the Minister confirm that the Government expect street crime to fall in absolute terms by the end of September?
Mr. Denham: I have made it clear what we want to achieve. Street crime rose last year. First, we must reverse that increase, and then we must deliver long-term and sustainable reductions in street crime.
Mr. Denham: A number of aspects of the matter are currently under consideration, and in the near future we hope to make announcements that will be of interest to my hon. Friend. At the last Home Office questions, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was asked about the joint report into the prosecution of rape. He said then that the Home Office would be leading a review by officials across Government Departments of how to respond to the low level of successful rape prosecutions. That work will be completed within the month.
Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): Is it not the case that a growing amount of violent street crime involves guns? How can the Minister justify a situation in which an armed police officer who opens fireeven in self-defenceat an armed criminal is automatically suspended from all police operational duties for a long period of time, usually a minimum of 18 months? Is that not enormously wasteful and demoralising to some of the most highly trained and courageous officers in the police?
Mr. Denham: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Thankfully, it is still the case that the use of firearms by the police in this country occurs on a relatively limited number of occasions each year. It has always been accepted by the police service that there should be proper procedures when someone is injured as a result. The hon. Gentleman's important point is how long it should take to satisfactorily conclude any investigation. That is a matter that I shall look into.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): I welcome my right hon. Friend's response to the question. Does he agree that violent crime on the roads needs to be looked at carefully? We must drive forward our targets in that regard. I welcome also the speech of my noble Friend Lord Falconer last Thursday at the RoadPeace conference. Victims were at the heart of that speech. When are we likely to see a response to the sentencing review in that respect?
Mr. Denham: I shall write to my hon. Friend. I do not know precisely when the sentencing review will be completed. I am sure that everybody acknowledges the underlying point that he raises, as many of those maimed by dangerous driversand the relatives of those killed in road incidentsfeel unfairly treated by the present system.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): May I take the Minister back to his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne)? Is the Minister unwilling to endorse the Prime Minister's comments? Less than 48 hours later the Lord Chief Justice said:
Mr. Denham: I presume that the hon. Gentleman includes in his attack on gimmicks the actions taken by the Metropolitan police in their safer streets campaign which, in its eighth week, has already delivered a fall in street crime in the target boroughs of 21 per cent. compared with last year. In those areas that we have targeted across the country we will stop the rise in street crime, then cause levels to fall and take the measures necessary to sustain that fall. We will do that through practical support for the policefirst, by delivering record and rising numbers of police officers; secondly, by ensuring that they are supported by the rest of the criminal justice system; and thirdly, by introducing, as we have done in the past few weeks, video identity parades to cut bureaucracy and time-wasting. It is those practical measures and others, undertaken in partnership with the police, the criminal justice agencies, education and local communities, that will enable this country to get on top of street crime.