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Administration (Police Time)

8. Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): What recent representations she has received on the amount of time spent on administrative tasks by police officers each year. [4226]

15. Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con): What recent representations she has received on the amount of time spent on administrative tasks by police officers each year. [4233]

The Minister for Police (Nick Herbert): When I have spoken to police officers, they have asked us to help to free them up to do the job they are paid to do. I am committed to returning common sense to policing, which means getting officers back out on the streets dealing with crime, not sitting behind desks filling out forms to meet Government targets.

Damian Collins: I thank the Minister for his answer. When I was recently on patrol with the Kent police in Folkestone in my constituency, they shared with me their concerns about the large amount of paperwork that goes to support front-line policing. Does the Minister agree that the priorities for the policing budget should be to support front-line police work in the community, not excessive bureaucracy?

Nick Herbert: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. Every Labour Home Secretary promised to cut bureaucracy, but the police still spend more time on paperwork than on patrol. We are determined to make a real difference by dealing with the central targets that bedevil policing and doing all we can to protect the front line.

Jackie Doyle-Price: Does my right hon. Friend agree that by freeing up police officers to spend more time on patrol, we will not only aid crime prevention but make the public feel much safer?

Nick Herbert: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. What the public want to see is police officers out on the beat. They do not want them to be tied up with unnecessary paperwork. That is why we are so determined to deal with the performance management framework and the targets that have prevented them from doing the job they want to do.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I welcome the Minister for Police to his first Home Office questions. What he has said is absolutely in agreement with the recommendation of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which is that we should get police officers out on the beat. Will he therefore accept the other recommendation, which is that there should be full investment in new technology, giving police officers hand-held computers so they can spend more time on the beat than in police stations? Will he defend that part of the Home Office budget against any Treasury cuts?

Nick Herbert: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind introduction. I recognise the importance of technology in assisting the process of reducing bureaucracy,
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such as in our commitment to scrap the stop form, which is an unnecessary and bureaucratic impediment to common-sense policing. There is a role for technology such as hand-held computers in recording stops and searches in accordance with the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Does the Minister agree with me, however, that there are some administrative tasks that are worth performing, such as the judging of the Best Bar None competition in my constituency, which was awarded to The Woodman pub in Carshalton?

Nick Herbert: If my hon. Friend were to invite me, I would be delighted to attend the pub with him so I may judge the best performance for myself.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his position, but I might just advise him that we did actually stop the stop form in the Crime and Security Act 2010-but I will let that pass. Will the right hon. Gentleman today tell the House how much money he expects to save by tackling police bureaucracy over the next three years? Does he understand that, however much he saves, it will be nowhere near enough to compensate for the 25% cut he is planning in the Home Office budget, which will remove 35,000 police officers and 4,000 PCSOs from the beat? How does he expect that to help to fight, and reduce, crime in Britain?

Nick Herbert: Once again, we see absolutely no understanding from the Opposition about the fiscal position we have inherited from them. The fact is that their Government left us with an unspecified cut of £44 billion to find across Government Departments. They would not say where that money was to be found, so we have to make the savings. I believe that police forces can do it, and we are also determined to protect the front line.

Police (Terms and Conditions)

9. Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): When her Department plans to undertake its review of the terms and conditions of police officer employment. [4227]

The Minister for Police (Nick Herbert): The Government have announced a review of the remuneration and conditions of service of police officers and staff. We will provide information about the review, including timing, shortly.

Tony Baldry: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Although I welcome the Government's decision to honour the third year of the police pay award, does my right hon. Friend agree that the time has now come to review police pay and conditions, and to ensure a more flexible work force who are not so dependent on extensive and expensive overtime?

Nick Herbert: My hon. Friend is right. The previous Government conceded that more than £70 million a year was being wasted on police overtime. We need to look at that and it is one of the things that the review will do. We have, however, stood by the third year of the police pay award, as my hon. Friend suggested, which indicates our good faith towards the process and the value we place on the police service.

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Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): Could the Minister for Police, whom I welcome to his departmental responsibilities, kill two Lib-Con birds with one stone-namely, reduce the £400 million in overtime and bring public sector pay under control by saying that every hour of overtime authorised by a chief constable or a senior police officer will be deducted from their own pay?

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Gentleman may be offering himself as a candidate to serve on the pay review that we are proposing. Perhaps I should have a discussion with him about that. We have to strike a balance. Many chief constables believe overtime is an important management tool, but we are concerned about the extent of its use. That is exactly the kind of thing the pay review will have to look at.

Asylum Cases (Backlog)

10. Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): What recent progress the UK Border Agency has made on processing the backlog of outstanding asylum cases. [4228]

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): Under the previous Government, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency wrote to the Home Affairs Select Committee periodically to update it on this issue. However, in the interests of transparency, I am happy to update right hon. and hon. Members in the House today. Until the end of May 2010 the UK Border Agency had concluded 277,000 cases.

Richard Fuller: I thank the Minister for that answer. As he is aware, Yarl's Wood family detention centre is located outside Bedford. Does he agree that the Government's determination to end the detention of children for asylum purposes will be most welcome to people as a measure of fairness? It will be regarded as something that is long overdue and that shamefully eluded the previous Government.

Damian Green: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, which I regard as important. In a spirit of non-partisanship, I think it is regarded as important on both sides of the House. When we held a Westminster Hall debate on the subject last week, I was struck by the fact that there was universal approval of the new Government's desire to end the detention of children-although the point was made that it might have been the last time as Minister for Immigration that I ever got universal approval for anything. However, we should welcome such steps forward while we have them.

Mr Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): I sincerely welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box, and I wish him all the best in a very difficult job.

In the light of the Minister's answer about the backlog, I was pleased to see recognition of the UK Border Agency's success but will he confirm the reasons behind the answer to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), at column 143W, on 22 June, about the dropping of the language requirement for dependants of people who successfully apply for asylum? What was his rationale?

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Damian Green: The rationale, as with all our proposals on language, is that those who wish to come to this country need to be able to play a full role in its life. If as many people as possible who live and settle in this country are able to speak English, they will lead more fulfilled lives and be able to integrate better in our communities. That would be extremely helpful.

Asylum Applications

11. Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): How many asylum applications were made by individuals who had passed through another safe country to get to the UK in the most recent year for which figures are available. [4229]

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): In 2009, 2,665 cases were positively identified as having travelled through another EU member state that is considered safe under schedule 3 to the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004.

Mr Hollobone: What do we do with those people? Surely we should not be giving asylum to people who come to this country via another safe country. Yes, let us give asylum to people who are genuinely fleeing persecution, but not to tourists.

Damian Green: I rather agree with my hon. Friend, who will know that, under the previous Government, one of the many shambles in the immigration and asylum system was the problem of being able to remove people to safe countries. We will try to do better. The Dublin regulation, which is the system under which we do this, is working-in 2009, the UK removed 625 more cases than we accepted-but it is not working well enough. [ Interruption . ] If former Ministers on the Opposition Front Bench can contain themselves, I shall give the reason: we must do better at returning cases to specific EU countries. We are doing better with Italy. The next case that we really need to get to grips with is Greece, but the Government are determined to do this.

Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): Is the Minister aware of the great difficulties many of my constituents face when lodging an asylum claim? They have to travel to the UK Border Agency in Croydon to lodge claims for initial screening, and the full cost of that must be met by the individual concerned. Will the Minister look again at that system and consider any review that can make it fairer, so that constituents in the north-east do not need to travel to London?

Damian Green: It is perhaps a shame that the hon. Lady has launched an attack on a change made by her own Government in their last 12 months in office. I can see some logic in why Ministers in the previous Government made the change that she objects to: by and large, people who claim asylum should claim it as soon as they get to this country. That is one area where there is not much difference between those who sit on the Front Benches. So I am afraid that I will have to ignore her plea to change the system to make it easy for people who may have been here for many months or, in some cases, many years to claim asylum. Asylum is meant for people who come to this country as genuine refugees.

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National DNA Database

12. Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): What progress she has made reviewing the retention on the national DNA database of records of those who have been neither charged nor convicted of a crime. [4230]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): The Government are committed to adopting the protections of the Scottish model for retaining the DNA profiles of those who have not been convicted of an offence. We will introduce our detailed proposals shortly.

Karen Lumley: Is the Minister aware that the previous Government failed to ensure that all prisoners were on the DNA database? Can he reassure the House that steps are being taken to fix that problem?

James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Despite their desire to retain DNA profiles indefinitely, the then Government did not focus on getting those who were convicted, possibly of serious offences, on to the database to ensure that it was effective in fighting crime. That is certainly something that we are looking at very closely in terms of the proposals that we will introduce in the House in due course.

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab): I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post. Why does he believe that the Scottish police support the current English model, rather than the Scottish model, for DNA retention? Is that because the English model is based on evidence, whereas the Scottish model is not?

James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman makes quite an interesting point. As I understand what he said, he now seems to be arguing for the indefinite retention of DNA, which has been found to be not acceptable and not proportionate. He says in some way that there is no evidence, but I remind him of the comment made in the other place by Lord Bach, who highlighted very clearly the report that Professor Fraser undertook in relation to the Scottish system in which he said that he did not uncover any evidence to suggest that the Scottish approach to retention had caused any detriment to the detection of serious crime in Scotland.


13. Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): What plans she has for the future regulation of CCTV cameras. [4231]

17. Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): What proposals she has for regulation of the use of CCTV cameras by police services and local authorities. [4236]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): In our coalition programme for government, as part of our work on safeguarding civil liberties we have stated that we will further regulate CCTV. We will introduce detailed proposals in due course.

Margot James: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Although there has been criticism that some CCTV has been used randomly and not always effectively, is he
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aware of the Safer Leeds project, in which CCTV has played an important role in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders? Can he give an assurance that future regulation will not deter the proper use of CCTV that my constituents in Stourbridge feel is essential in the battle against crime?

James Brokenshire: As the Prime Minister made clear in the House on 9 June, we support CCTV cameras. When used properly, they can be a significant asset in the prevention and detection of crime, but any such use involves a need to ensure that civil liberties are properly protected. The use of CCTV has increased in the absence of a specific regulatory framework. For reasons of proportionality and retaining public confidence, it is important that there is appropriate regulation, and it is interesting to note that the previous Administration recognised that when they appointed the interim CCTV regulator.

Ian Lucas: In the past 13 years, some 21,000 individuals have been arrested in Wrexham as a result of the operation of CCTV cameras. Wrexham's CCTV system is widely appreciated. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm whether he expects a reduction in the number of CCTV cameras as a result of the regulation that he is describing, and how will that regulation be consulted on?

James Brokenshire: On the latter point, we will announce further details on how we intend to take CCTV forward and on how engagement will take place. As I have said, we recognise the importance of CCTV in the fight against crime. As for moving forward, the installation and use of CCTV systems is very much a matter for local decisions, so the regulation will certainly provide a framework to assist local decision making about the CCTV systems that should be put in place to protect local communities.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Before my hon. Friend jumps on the liberty bandwagon far too much, may I urge some caution? CCTV cameras do not prevent anyone from going about their lawful daily business freely. Will he acknowledge that the people who were responsible for the tube bombings on 7/7 were identified only through the use of CCTV, as was the person recently arrested in Bradford for the murders of three prostitutes?

James Brokenshire: I thank my hon. Friend for underlining CCTV's important role in policing and protecting our communities. Perhaps more focus could be given to its use in prosecutions and as a forensic tool. However, the use of CCTV has developed in the absence of a specific regulatory framework. We believe, for reasons of proportionality, that regulation should be taken forward, so we shall proceed with that in due course.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I am interested to hear the Minister talk about CCTV in such a way, as it seems that there is already a slight shift in the coalition Government's position. We know that CCTV has given people throughout the country their neighbourhoods back and the freedom to go about their daily lives. His Government talk about reducing red tape and regulation for the police, yet they
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plan to regulate CCTV and perhaps create more hoops for the police, who see it as a valuable tool, so will he answer a simple question once and for all: will the plans to regulate CCTV lead to fewer CCTV cameras? He is fudging.

James Brokenshire: It is interesting that the hon. Lady suggests that regulation is not required, because her Government established the interim CCTV regulator, thereby accepting that regulation is required and that the matter needs to be examined carefully. It is all very well for her to talk as if this issue has suddenly arisen, but she and her Government recognised the situation when they were in government. We will ensure that proportionate and relevant regulation is brought forward that will enable CCTV systems to be established by local communities in an appropriate way-

Mr Speaker: Order. I would be grateful if we could make some progress.

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