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Antisocial Behaviour Orders

12. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): How many antisocial behaviour orders were issued in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2008-09. [295136]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): The numbers of antisocial behaviour orders issued at all courts in England and Wales during 2006 and 2007 were 2,705 and 2,299 respectively. ASBO data for 2008-09 are not yet available.

Mr. Cunningham: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer, but does he agree it is important that people are aware that ASBOs are available? People are finding that one of the big problems is getting the relevant information to apply for them.

Mr. Hanson: It is absolutely right that ASBOs should be one of the many tools available to forces and courts to ensure that they tackle antisocial behaviour. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear that ASBOs will continue to be, and should be, a major tool in helping to drive down antisocial behaviour still further. We want to make it simple for ASBOs to be exercised accordingly.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): Approximately what proportion of the ASBOs that the Minister has just told us about were breached?

Mr. Hanson: I can tell the hon. Gentleman that in 53 per cent. of cases where they were breached, those involved faced immediate custody. There is certainly a breach element, but, as the Home Secretary mentioned, we have accepted the fact that there are difficulties with breach. We intend to continue working to ensure that those ASBOs are completed: if the court exercises an ASBO it is important that it should be completed and that anyone breaching an ASBO should face immediate custody.

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will realise that enforcement is vital to antisocial behaviour orders, so will he ask our right hon. Friend the Home Secretary whether he would consider writing to every chief constable and asking that every uniformed officer in their forces spend at least two hours performing high-profile policing duties in the community?

Mr. Hanson: I think that many officers, including chief constables, already spend more than that amount of time doing community policing on the street. Neighbourhood and community policing are the focus of what the Government are trying to do, and I will give my hon. Friend the statistics to show that that is the case.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Will the Minister emphasise that community policing can reduce the need for and the incidence of ASBOs, not least in
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the Upton estate in Macclesfield? Is that not because the police are thereby establishing meaningful relationships with people, rather than being in a car and having no contact with them?

Mr. Hanson: That is absolutely right, and I know that the hon. Gentleman will share my aspiration to strengthen and deepen community policing still further. It is absolutely right that the police are in contact with local people, that they identify their problems and draw up action plans with local councils to deal with them, and that ASBOs are used if necessary when solutions have failed, not as the first port of call.

Youth Offending (Wirral)

15. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): What steps his Department has taken to reduce rates of youth offending in Wirral in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [295140]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): The Government have allocated £415,000 to Wirral since 2008 to fund intensive packages of activities to reduce youth offending.

Ben Chapman: A recent inspection of youth offending services in Wirral found that there was much more work to be done to reduce reoffending rates. Could my right hon. Friend tell me what work his Department is doing with the Ministry of Justice to see that that takes place?

Mr. Hanson: There are a range of things. I refer my hon. Friend to the youth crime action plan in particular, whereby we are putting in place measures that include Friday and Saturday night activity on the streets, help and support for young people, and interventions for particularly difficult and challenging families. That is part of the resource that we have allocated to Wirral in the past 18 months. The programme is designed to prevent individuals from getting involved in crime in the first place, but we also need strong enforcement and action in the courts to help prevent them from going further once they come into contact with the system.

Police Patrols

18. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What his most recent estimate is of the proportion of the working week spent on patrol by police officers in (a) Northamptonshire and (b) England. [295143]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave him when he asked the same question in February this year.

Mr. Bone: In my county, the number of police officers on patrol has fallen by 30 per cent. When the Minister tried to solve the problem, did he go to the permanent secretary and say, "How do we solve the problem?" and did the permanent secretary reply, "Well, let's just abolish the statistics"? Because that is what they have done: they have abolished the statistics, so nobody knows how many police are on patrol. [Interruption.] Yes is the answer.

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Mr. Hanson: Self-evidently, the hon. Gentleman and I will disagree on this matter. Whatever is happening overall, crime is down 36 per cent., including 4 per cent. last Thursday. Overall, the police are doing a good job driving down crime, in stark contrast to when the hon. Gentleman's party was in office.

Policing (Bassetlaw)

19. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): How many (a) police officers and (b) police community support officers there are in the Bassetlaw constituency; and how many there were in 2004. [295144]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): Data are unfortunately not collected centrally at a constituency level, but I can give my hon. Friend figures for Nottinghamshire as a whole in due course.

John Mann: Luckily for the Minister, I got the figures last Friday from the chief superintendent. We have only 16 police officers covering the whole of the Bassetlaw and Newark division, and that is because all the rest are down in the city of Nottingham, which has had loads of murders. As it now has nothing like that number of murders, is it not time that the Government intervened to get the police authority to shift police back from the cities and into the rural areas and the mining communities where they are needed?

Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If he looks at the overall figures, he will see that there are 2,380 police officers in Nottingham, which is 57 more than in 1997, and that there are 243 police community support officers in post who were not there when the previous Government were in power. I accept what he says about the operational decisions by the chief constable, but I happen to think that Nottinghamshire police authority should hold the chief constable to account in regard to putting those priorities in place, and that is where my hon. Friend should raise those concerns.

Prisoner Release (Terrorism Offences)

20. Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): What steps (a) police forces and (b) his Department's agencies take to monitor the activities of individuals convicted of terrorism offences following their release from prison. [295145]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): The Government take their responsibilities to protect the public seriously. The police and relevant agencies take all necessary steps to manage the risk posed by those individuals.

Mr. Benyon: I note the Government's attempts to keep us all secure, but will the Minister comment on the fact that 40 people convicted of terrorism offences have been released into the community, and that a further 25 are set to be released? This is going to put huge burdens not only on our police and security services but on our hard-pressed probation service. How can we be convinced, given the tightness of resources, that the Government are doing their job?

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Mr. Hanson: As will happen, there are occasions when people complete their sentences and are released back into the community. It is our job to ensure that we manage those individuals safely in the community. The hon. Gentleman will know that the probation services across the country, along with our colleagues in the Home Office, are determined to manage that risk effectively. We are doing so, and we have put in extra resources to manage it-in the prisons and the probation service-through the National Offender Management Service and the Home Office. Unfortunately, however, people do sometimes complete their sentences.

Topical Questions

T1. [295150] Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): The Home Office puts public protection at the heart of its work to counter terrorism, cut crime, provide effective policing, secure our borders and protect personal identity.

Mr. Burrowes: Will the Home Secretary assure my constituent, Gary McKinnon, who has attracted considerable public interest, that he is carefully considering the compelling new medical evidence on the impact of the extradition proceedings on my constituent's Asperger's syndrome? Will he in any event defer the execution of the extradition order until after the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on 10 November?

Alan Johnson: I have invited the hon. Gentleman to come and see me about this, because Gary McKinnon is his constituent. As he knows, we have stopped the clock ticking in regard to the representation to the European Court because new medical evidence has been provided. It is important that I stress that there are two issues on which Gary McKinnon's legal advisers have argued. The first is that the Director of Public Prosecutions should have tried him in this country rather than in America. The High Court dismissed that in July and would not allow the matter to go to a judicial review. In the words of the most senior judge in the country, it would be

for him to be tried anywhere other than in the United Kingdom. That is finished.

On the second issue, in respect of Mr. McKinnon's human rights, of course I have to ensure that his article 3 human rights are being respected, and it is the new medical evidence that I will be looking at very carefully. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and his constituent that I will look at it very carefully before making my decision.

T2. [295151] Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): As we are coming up to fireworks night, will my right hon. Friend tell us what he is doing to protect the public from firework abuses, particularly in relation to the issuing of antisocial behaviour orders?

Alan Johnson: I believe that the legislation introduced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport some
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years ago on the back of a Labour private Member's Bill has had an extraordinary effect. In fact, the personal experience of my constituents-and, indeed, my own personal experience-suggests that the problems that used to be associated with fireworks weeks and sometimes months before firework day have gone down to a very small number. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that antisocial behaviour legislation can be used in this respect, however. The powers are there to be used, and all my experience tells me that they are being used very effectively.

T3. [295152] Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): The incidence of retail crime has reached record levels during this recession and attacks on cash and valuables in transit crews have doubled since 1997. What is the Home Secretary doing to reduce this threat?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): The reality is that the numbers fluctuate, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point, which is that this is a very serious issue. That is why we are working with the industry, the trade unions and the police to do everything we can to tackle the problem of cash-in and vehicle crime. We are working to design out crime to make it more difficult for people to break into the vans and to ensure that banks are better equipped to deal with any incidents. We are working hard to resolve traffic problems, particularly around parking-leaving the vans parked away from the places they are delivering to. We are also working with colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to make sure that the sentencing fits the crime.

T4. [295153] Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Although I support the Government's legacy programme, cases are being taken out of sequence, dealing with families first. This will result in an onerous burden on local authorities and the Benefits Agency. How will the Government mitigate this problem? Will they move back to taking cases in sequence, and will they allow people to work ahead of their decision?

The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Phil Woolas): It is a very difficult balance. We have consulted the House and are grateful for the help of the Home Affairs Select Committee. We have criteria for the order in which we should deal with cases. I would ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind the fact that until 2007 just under a fifth of claims were duplicate claims from across the EU, and there is significant duplication, as the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) said, in the 40,000 cases across migration and asylum. I have an open mind on the criteria, however.

T7. [295157] Mr. Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): In Gravesham, antisocial behaviour orders really are taken as a badge of honour by some kids. The Minister has already spoken about the problem of the breaching of ASBOs, so should there not be some really meaningful sanction against those kids who do breach them?

Alan Johnson: First, I do not accept the premise that an ASBO is a badge of honour. This phrase came from a Youth Justice Board study into a tiny number-124-of cases and has never been supported by any other evidence.
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If the hon. Gentleman spoke to the police, who are the people who know about this, they would point out that if young people wanted ASBOs as a badge of honour, why would they go to such extraordinary lengths to avoid them?

T5. [295155] Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): During a visit to an excellent open day at Wirral magistrates court last week, I discovered that the level of unpaid fines, despite considerable improvement, remained high. Obviously, if fines are not paid, their deterrent effect is reduced, so what measures are being taken by the Home Office, in conjunction with the department of legal affairs, to ensure that these unpaid fine levels are reduced?

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend mentions a "Ministry of Legal Affairs", which sounds like something from "The Thick of It". If he is talking about the Ministry of Justice, I can tell him that we work very closely with it. Unpaid fines are, of course, a matter for that Department and I know it is working very hard to ensure that they are paid. Indeed, it can point to statistics showing an incredible improvement over the last 10 years.

T8. [295158] Mr. Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): In recent months, Crewe and Nantwich residents have been working in close partnership with the police in the fight against drugs on the streets. Although I am sure the Home Secretary would commend them for their actions, what can he tell them that the Government have planned to help to alleviate the administrative burden placed on the police in dealing with drugs crime?

Alan Johnson: The administrative burden is not confined to drug crimes; it should be reduced to the absolute minimum for the police in all respects. We have had some incredible success on that in removing bureaucracy from the police's shoulders. I recently made a speech saying that there is much further to go, which is why we asked Jan Berry, the former head of the Police Federation, to look at this for us and present a completely independent report to tell us where she thinks, from her vast personal knowledge and experience, we could do more to help. Her report is due very shortly.

T6. [295156] David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): The phrase "domestic extremism" is now widely employed by police forces seeking to control and classify many public demonstrations, even though they are legitimate and non-violent political protests. What guidance has the Home Secretary issued to chief constables on the definition and use of that phrase in this context?

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