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Earlier, we heard the Home Secretary talk of statistics and quote the British crime survey. The BCS is nothing more than an opinion poll, and a very inaccurate one at
that. It does not include crimes committed by people under the age of 16, and it certainly does not include the hospital statistics-which, surprisingly, were referred to by a member of the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. Those statistics clearly show that a large number of very violent crimes-knife crimes-are going unreported because people are too scared or unwilling to go to the police.
We do not need to open our newspapers and see a former Home Secretary cavorting around the streets of London in a bullet-proof vest to know that crime is out of control. We do not need to observe, day after day, the toll of young people being knifed and gunned down on our streets to know that something is wrong. The British people have enough common sense.
If the hon. Member for Jarrow wants to know who will vote for the Conservative party at the next general election, I can tell him that it will be all those who are concerned about crime. It will be all those who think that we need less political correctness in the police force-fewer people telling police officers, as they have in one part of the country, that they should not say "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" because it might be construed as being racist. Yes, that is really happening, as can be seen from last week's issue of Jane's Police Review.
We need people to stand up and say, as Conservative Members have, that it is utterly wrong that people are released from prison halfway through their sentences, or, more usually, before they have even reached the halfway point-regardless of what crimes they may have committed, and regardless of whether they have shown any signs of wanting to behave better in prison than they did on the outside. I say to Liberal Democrat Members that prison is working, prison is effective and prison is cheap. I could show that using the Government's own statistics. It is far cheaper to keep somebody in prison than have them running around on the streets committing one crime after another, and it is far better for the victims of crime, too.
David T.C. Davies: The hon. Gentleman ought to know that before any young offender goes to prison, they are given numerous warnings and reprimands, and they are given one community sentence after another. They go to prison only because all those interventions have failed, and failed miserably. [Interruption.] Well, prison does not fail, in fact, because prison keeps them off the streets after they have been given a dozen chances, and means that the law-abiding public are kept safe.
I hope that the next Government-of whichever party-will consider getting rid of the Human Rights Act 1998 and replacing it with something that protects the law-abiding public of this country, because it is disgraceful that drug addicts going into prison can now sue the prison authorities because they have to go through cold turkey as they cannot get their heroin, and that other drug addicts who develop their habit in prison sue the prison authorities because they have become hooked inside. It is also disgraceful that Muslim schoolgirls who do not like the school uniform can take their school to court and get
given hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money, and that members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda-there are seven al-Qaeda members on the United Nations list living openly in this country on benefits-are told that they can stay here because otherwise their human rights would be breached. It is disgraceful, too, that a rapist from Sierra Leone was told he could not be deported back to Sierra Leone, despite the fact that he had committed numerous offences against women, because that might breach his rights to a family life. That is what the Human Rights Act, that this Government passed, has done for us. We should tear it up and replace it with something that will protect the general public.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): I cannot be the only Member who finds it rather spooky that as soon as political correctness is mentioned, as if by magic the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) appears in the doorway and enters the Chamber.
I want, however, to ask the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies) if he was saying he would abandon the concept of remission for prison sentences, and if so, how he would handle the bad behaviour that would result if there was no longer the incentive of remission.
David T.C. Davies: I am more than happy to discuss that when time permits, as I have many views on prisons, but I want to mention immigration now, as so many among our political classes are afraid to do so.
Our failure to mention immigration has led to extremist parties-I do not call them far-right parties because they are, in fact, socialist parties-gaining seats in Parliaments in other places. That has happened because we have been scared to stand up and say what all our constituents are saying to us, which is, very simply, that people who come to this country should learn English and be expected to work and to fit in with our rules, culture and traditions.
We should not be changing the law to suit other people. It is absolutely wrong that we changed our benefits rules to recognise polygamy. It is wrong, too, that we turned a blind eye to forced marriage and female genital mutilation. A Member spoke about this earlier, and praised the Government for the law that was passed in 2003. I was not a Member then, but I can imagine the scene: 600 Members of Parliament, probably all wearing white ribbons, getting up and saying female genital mutilation is wrong and we must do something about it. Since then, however, absolutely nothing has been done about it. At great expense, the Metropolitan police set up some sort of taskforce. I asked two years ago how many people it had investigated and how many it had actually convicted. Answer came there none. Eventually, the matter had to go to the Information Commissioner, and I finally got back the weasel answer that just one person in five or six years had been investigated and no prosecutions had been brought.
The situation is the same in respect of forced marriage. We know from talking to local authorities that hundreds of girls under the age of 16 are disappearing from school rolls. We suspect they are being taken back to parts of south-east Asia and forced into marriage, but very little is done about it. A tiny work force based at the Foreign Office-the forced marriage unit-are looking into this: a handful of people trying to deal with thousands of cases. I believe that the real reason why so little is
done is because the Government are afraid of upsetting the community leaders in certain minority groups. For all the Government's talk about equal rights and standing up for women and minorities, they are not really interested in any of it; they are interested only in getting votes.
This is why we should be talking about immigration and about the bogus colleges. If the Home Secretary, who is no longer in his place, wants to find out where all the bogus colleges are, all he has to do-I have pointed this out to him before-is look at all the colleges that are offering courses other than in the English language and which have more than 50 per cent. of their make-up comprising foreign nationals. That is an almost certain indicator of a bogus college. I have pointed out other benefit scams to Ministers on previous occasions, but they have no interest in going in there to sort any of these matters out.
For 12 or 13 years now, we have put up with this Government of political correctness. In April, we will have another chance: the people-the law-abiding, tax-paying voters of this country-will have a chance to boot out the Government of politically correct policies and elect people who believe in common sense, fair play and delivering value for money. I look forward to that day coming soon.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): I think that you have a certain sense of humour, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in asking to me to follow the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies). Unsurprisingly, I am not sure that he and I share the same culture or values. I certainly do not share his astonishing assertions about the Human Rights Act 1998, which simply betray his lack of understanding of the way in which it incorporated within UK law a convention that was signed long ago and to which I hope every civilised Government throughout the world would adhere. However, I am grateful to him for demonstrating what the Conservative party is really like; had the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) been in the Chamber, I imagine that he would have been blushing even redder than he was at Prime Minister's questions at the way in which his veneer of compassionate conservatism was being dragged aside so that we could see the real face of the Tory party. I hope and imagine that the voters will not be as deceived as the right hon. Gentleman perhaps wishes them to be.
The issue that I wish to discuss is addressed in the Crime and Security Bill and is of enormous concern to my constituents. I am talking about wheel-clamping and the proposals to get to grips, finally, with the cowboy wheel clampers who operate on private land. This issue-the control of the private security industry-was one of the first campaigns that I took up when I got elected to this place. I was trying to campaign for the licensing of door supervisors-more popularly known as "bouncers". At the time, they were licensed separately by local authorities and there was no national scheme. I am pleased that this Government did eventually introduce the Security Industry Authority, which has licensed many aspects of the private security industry, including door supervisors. That has brought a degree of order to
the industry, and has vastly improved protection for members of the public and standards across the industry. However, one aspect remains unregulated and that is wheel-clamping on private land.
Obviously, owners of private land have every right to stop people parking on their land-that is clearly unarguable-but there has been an upsurge of problems in my constituency, particularly in Bletchley, in the south of the constituency, on a number of sites in the centre where it is not at all obvious to people that they are on private land. In the case of one major site, nobody had asserted ownership rights for some years and it had, in effect, been used as a public car park, even though it was private land-the site is adjacent to an actual public car park.
The building that was in the car park was converted into residential flats and the private owner, thus, hired a wheel-clamping firm to assert his right to stop people parking on that land. Consequently, many of my constituents who had been in the habit of parking unmolested on the land were suddenly subject to wheel-clamping, and the way in which those wheel clampers operated is wholly outrageous. There was virtually no signage, and the signs that there were measured 12 inches by 15 inches and were written in black on red-the most unreadable combination. The car clampers used to loiter around the corner, waiting for people to park and leave their vehicle before leaping out and shoving on the car-clamping device.
The clampers behaved in an appalling way to drivers, and among the various people who have contacted me are innumerable pensioners who have had their cars clamped and had money demanded from them. One individual was with his wife, who suffers from type 1 diabetes. As a result of the stress, she started to have a hypoglycaemic episode. The car clampers insisted on their money while the man's wife fell on to the floor and into a coma. He was phoning an ambulance on his mobile phone while trying to continue the altercation with the car clampers over the money and over the fact that they would not release the clamp so that he could at least take his wife to hospital. Another constituent, an elderly pensioner, had an asthma attack as a result of the stress caused by the actions of these individuals. One of the other car parks is connected to residential flats but is right next door to the job centre. A couple of people who were going to the job centre had their car clamped in the car park, too.
So, there is poor signage, the appalling way in which the wheel clampers have behaved and the fact that they have demanded payments in cash. They have allowed people to pay by another method in only a tiny number of cases, and that other method involves walking to the nearest cash machine with the car clampers to get the money out and give it to them. Some people who did not have enough money on them or who did not have their card have been forced to walk home to get the money and to come back to get their car released. The fine has been extortionate-they have been demanding £150 from people when, in some cases, cars have been parked for only about four minutes before they have been clamped.
It is understandable that my constituents have become increasingly outraged and that my local newspaper, the Milton Keynes Citizen, has taken up the campaign and
has helped to co-ordinate the information that we have gathered from across the constituency. I have been feeding that information through to Ministers to strengthen their commitment to introducing regulation to control the private wheel clampers.
I want to reiterate the measures that are essential to the regulations. First, there must be clear signage of sufficient size and clarity, so that people know before they go on to the land that they are driving on to private land. Obviously, if drivers know that they are likely to get a penalty, on their own head be it. Secondly, there must be a cash limit on the level of fine that such individuals can apply. Thirdly, they must not be able to demand it in cash. There must be facilities for people to pay by card. Fourthly, a proper receipt must be given that records the place and time, the name of the operator and the address of the firm responsible so that individuals can check whether the firm is licensed with the Security Industry Authority. Finally, there must be a clear and independent appeals mechanism, as there is for parking fines when people park in council car parks, to ensure that the fines are operating reasonably. I hope that Ministers will be able to assure me that all that can be included.
I cannot give up the opportunity to make two or three other remarks on some of the issues that came up earlier in the debate that relate to various parts of the Home Office. First, I want to take this opportunity to say that my constituents have greatly valued many of the improvements that have been introduced in policing, in particular neighbourhood policing. Neighbourhood policing and community support officers have made a huge difference to the way in which low-level but extremely annoying crime is detected and dealt with in the neighbourhoods around Milton Keynes. It is still improving as it beds down, but it has been immensely valuable.
The second issue is CCTV. A while ago, there was a particularly nasty murder in my constituency. A group of youths were fighting and one of them was killed, and CCTV was invaluable not only in convicting the youths who were responsible but for absolving some of the other youths milling about in the fracas and who were not responsible for the fatal incident. It needs to be said that CCTV is a valuable adjunct to crime detection, both for convicting people and for absolving the innocent. I have certainly had evidence of that in my constituency.
Finally, I want to say a word about statistics, which have been very misused. I reiterate the need that MPs and others must have some mathematical education, as many people here seem to be completely innumerate. The initiative to improve the way we deal with domestic violence is bound to lead to an increase in the numbers of detected crimes of domestic violence. That will be a good thing. The initiative will not increase the rate of domestic violence but it will encourage people to report it, in the knowledge that incidents will be taken seriously. Exactly the same thing has happened with hate crime: because if people are assured that they will be taken seriously, they are more likely to report incidents of hate crime. The statistics suggest that the incidence of hate crime has gone up, but that is because we have recognised the problem, not because it is happening more often.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con):
I am terrified to be following my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies), as I want to speak about prison
reform. I am aware that many people in prison fully deserve to be there because they have committed heinous crimes. I do not argue that prison does not work-it does, as people in prison are not on the street committing crimes-but too often we see the revolving door in action. We see people go to prison for a period of time, leave prison, and within a year 48 per cent. have reoffended and many of those people are back in prison. In the case of youngsters, as many as 75 per cent. reoffend within a year and end up back in prison.
That is not good value for the taxpayer. The prison population is a captive audience, and that means that we must do something with them. I know that some progress has been made in that direction, but a great deal more remains to be done. Some 50 per cent. of prisoners have literacy and numeracy rates that are lower than an 11-year-old's, and they are simply incapable of functioning in the real world. A survey found that half of all prisoners were not qualified to do 96 per cent. of the jobs available outside prison, in the community. So we really must do something with the people who are in prison: we need to work on them to make them better people and to allow them to become fulfilled people able to turn their backs on crime.
When I came to Parliament, I was not a very moderate or relaxed person. I very much believed that people in prison fully deserved to be there, for as long and as often as possible, but 10 per cent. of our current prison population-a total of 8,000 people-formerly served in our armed forces. These are people who made significant sacrifices for this country, so why are they now in prison? How did we let them down so badly that they ended up there? Many more will follow unless we do something about the problem. We in this place know that many young men who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent history are now in prison. Somewhere, therefore, we are letting those brave young people down, and it is a scandal that 8,000 current prisoners used to be in our armed forces.
Furthermore, prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill. We closed down the asylums 30 years ago and moved many of the people into prisons. Some 40 or 50 per cent. of prisoners have undiagnosed mental health problems. I am not saying that people with mental health problems cannot do bad things. Of course they can. However, I am saying that mental health problems can be a significant contributory factor to people making the wrong choices in life, and consistently making the wrong choices in life.
Prison will not be a deterrent to an undiagnosed or untreated schizophrenic, so when we have people in prison who are ill, let us do something to help them. Let us do something to make them better. Every year that they spend in prison costs taxpayers £40,000. As my hon. Friend pointed out, if we let prisoners out unreformed and untreated, they do a lot more damage in society for the period that they are out of prison, then they go back to prison time and again and cost us a further £40,000 each time. This is not good enough.
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