Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord will accept in answer to that point the line in the Statement which refers to the need to look in the longer term for an entirely new structure for the Commission and a better process for decision-making.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I have a slight interest to declare. I was a member of the European Commission. While it was wholly unacceptable and unwise for Mr. Santer to say what he did today while accepting that members had to resign, is it not also very difficult to take from the Leader of the Opposition assertions that problems which proved completely elusive to the previous government over a period of 18 years should have been resolved by this Government in two years? Is it not also a fact that, in 1987, at the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, the then Commission put forward a proposition to deal with independent investigations into fraud in the member states and elsewhere which was rejected by the then government? Is this situation veering just a little on the hypocritical?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am not sure whether noble Lords would be happy if I were to

16 Mar 1999 : Column 639

say "yes" to the whole of my noble friend's statement, particularly the last sentence, but in general I entirely support his remarks.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness may be able to help me on a matter that puzzles me slightly about this episode. My understanding is that, at the January Session of the European Parliament, almost all the British Labour MEPs did not vote to dismiss the Commission. Since then, it has been stated in the report of the Committee of Independent Inquiry that the document, to paraphrase paragraph 9.1.2, does not contain any significant new evidence beyond that which is contained in the van Buitenen allegations and that which was discussed before Parliament in January. How, then, has there been a change of attitude in favour of supporting the resignation of the Commission?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the committee that was set up to examine these matters consisted of independent experts within the Commission. As I understand it, there were, for example, some allegations made by the initial whistle- blower about individual commissioners which were simply not borne out. Some of those were strongly borne out by the report of the so-called wise men, but others were not.

Lord Richard: My Lords, can we be quite clear as to the Government's position? I suppose I should declare, as my noble friend did, a past interest as a former member of the European Commission. To mix a metaphor, is this not a Pandora's Box which has now been opened and the can of worms has now come out? Does my noble friend agree that there is nothing wrong with the basic institutional structure of the European Union? Does she also agree that it is no part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government to change the basic institutional structure of the European Union? Will she finally agree that what the report has revealed is a degree of maladministration inside the Commission which is capable of being rectified and ought to be rectified quickly?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do not wish to add to the size of what my noble friend rightly described as the Pandora's Box or the can of worms. However, I say to him--and I regret that I did not mention this in response to my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington--that any debate on this subject, of whatever length, will be a matter for the usual channels. I am sure that he will take that matter up. I suspect that the point raised by my noble friend Lord Richard will need to be addressed in that context. However, I draw his attention to what was said in the Prime Minister's Statement and which I repeated to the noble Lord, Lord Renton. In the longer term we should put in place, as we argued at Amsterdam during our presidency and have done ever since, a new structure for the Commission and a better process for decision-making.

16 Mar 1999 : Column 640

Crime Reduction Strategy

4.58 p.m.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement which has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. The Statement is as follows:

    "With permission, I wish to make a Statement on forthcoming Government initiatives to tackle crime. The Crime and Disorder Act provides the foundation for our strategy on crime and disorder. The major reforms of the youth justice system for which it provides are currently being rolled out. The House will be familiar with them. Two other major parts of the Act come into force in the next two weeks.

    "From 1st April effective local crime strategies to reduce crime and disorder must be in place in every area of the country. These strategies are being drawn up by more than 400 statutory partnerships established between the police and local authorities. They follow a six-month period of consultation between local communities, police and local authorities. Clear and deliverable local targets are being set to reflect the priorities of each local community. These targets will, for the first time, give local people the means to monitor how effective are the police and local authorities in reducing crime and disorder in their area. The early signs are that these local partnerships have invested considerable energy and enthusiasm. Now they must deliver.

    "I know that many Members of this House have been as concerned as the police and local authorities at the lack of effective remedies to combat serious and persistent anti-social behaviour in our communities. We have been determined to put that right. I am now pleased to tell the House that the new Anti-Social Behaviour Order under the Crime and Disorder Act will come into force and be available to the courts from 1st April.

    "This civil order will be available against any individuals over the age of 10 whose behaviour is such that the court judges it likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others. In terms of the rules of evidence and the burden of proof, it is similar to a civil injunction. The order will typically impose conditions restraining the behaviour of named individuals. These may include a curfew and prohibition on going to particular areas or houses or contact with particular individuals. A breach of an order will be an arrestable offence punishable on indictment by up to five years in prison.

    "Many police forces and local authorities are undertaking work to prepare for the start date on 1st April. I am today issuing detailed guidance about the use of the orders. Copies have been placed in the Library and are available in the Vote Office.

    "Last July I announced our intention to begin a £250 million, evidence-based crime reduction programme to reverse the long-term upward trend in crime. This is the biggest programme of its kind ever

16 Mar 1999 : Column 641

    undertaken in this country or abroad. I am pleased to say that the first projects under this programme will soon be under way.

    "On Thursday, I shall be announcing the first 11 provisional areas to benefit from a £30 million initiative in targeted policing to establish what works. This will give targeted support to some of the most innovative and dedicated police work which is taking place. It will bolster the police in their dedicated work to tackle crime.

    "England and Wales has one of the worst records on burglary in the industrialised world, despite recent falls due to excellent work by the police and local authorities. So, early next month, we shall be announcing the 60 areas which are to benefit from the first phase of a £50 million anti-burglary initiative. Over three years, our scheme will cover more than 2 million homes in about 500 of the country's high crime areas. It builds on the previous government's safer cities campaign and should have a major impact on property crime rates.

    "Let me now turn to the outline announcement made by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement last week. As he told the House, an additional £150 million is being allocated to boost support to crime prevention in areas where crime is highest. This brings the total funds for the crime reduction programme to £400 million.

    "The breakdown of the additional £150 million funds will be £20 million in the coming financial year (1999-2000), £60 million in the forthcoming year and £70 million in the third year (2001-2002). In addition, £13 million will be available for projects in Scotland, £4 million in Northern Ireland and a further £3 million for the housing element of projects in Wales which lie outside the remit of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

    "One key focus of this additional programme will be investment in closed-circuit television systems and the infrastructure necessary to make these systems operate most effectively, including in housing estates, towns, bus and railway stations and car parks.

    "The evidence is clear. In the right context CCTV can significantly reduce crime and disorder. It is like having a number of police officers permanently on the beat in particular streets, with eyes in the backs of their heads and with an incontrovertible record of what they have seen. When used properly, CCTV can deter criminals, greatly assist the police and others in bringing offenders to justice, and help reduce people's fear of crime.

    "Take vehicle crime, for example. It accounts for almost a quarter of all recorded crime and costs us £4 million a year. Last September my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced a national target to reduce vehicle crime by 30 per cent. over the next five years. These additional resources for CCTV and related security improvements are a major step on the road to achieving that target.

    "Among other things, these resources will be targeted at improving car-park security. Home Office research from six cities provides firm evidence that

16 Mar 1999 : Column 642

    the installation of CCTV in car parks leads to significant reductions in vehicle crime. A project in Hull, for example, led to theft of cars in the targeted car park falling by almost 90 per cent. compared to a reduction of only 6 per cent. in the city centre as a whole. With up to 30 per cent. of all car crime taking place in car parks, the potential pay-off from this major new investment in security is enormous. In a project in Darlington the number of vehicle offences in the town centre has been cut by over 80 per cent.

    "Funding for this new initiative will be allocated through a competitive bidding process. We shall invite bids for schemes in places to which the public has access. We expect roughly half the funding to be allocated to residential areas, although the precise split will depend on the quality of the bids received. Bids must be submitted through the local crime and disorder partnerships. Successful bids will be those which have the biggest impact on reducing crime, which are part of a broader strategy and which represent value for money.

    "This initiative will be managed jointly by the Home Office and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions as part of the crime reduction programme, with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland offices discharging their separate responsibilities. This joint working between the DETR and the Home Office is significant. It represents co-ordinated government at both the national and local level and will complement existing programmes such as the new deal for communities and the single regeneration budget. My right honourable friend and I will issue a joint prospectus as soon as possible which will set out guidance to partnerships on the submission of bids, including time-scales and selection criteria.

    "The measures I have announced today are part of a coherent strategy for giving local communities the means they need to tackle crime, fear of crime and disorder. I commend them to the House."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am sure we all wish to thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. When I first saw on the enunciator a reference to the European Commission and crime reduction I did not realise that it denoted two separate Statements. Dealing with the present Statement, we are all in favour of crime reduction. I believe that my right honourable friend Michael Howard gets less credit than he deserves for the fact that the figures have been moving in the right direction for a number of years. The Statement does not appear to contain very much that is new as opposed to recycled, apart from the one sentence that today the Home Secretary is issuing detailed guidance about the use of anti-social behaviour orders. That is all that is said about it. No detail is given, although I understand that it is available in the Printed Paper Office. For those who have to use the orders the details emerge a fortnight before they are due to begin on 1st April. That does not give them much time to absorb what they contain.

16 Mar 1999 : Column 643

Perhaps the Minister can give me some help on the question of money. I was not quite clear from where the money was to come. As far as I can tell it does not appear to be new money. Does the money come from the police budget or the Home Office central budget? What is being reduced, as it were, to pay for it? As to the initiatives, we have welcomed them before and we continue to do so. Many of them build on action taken under the previous administration. The difficulty is that the background to the Statement is falling numbers in the police force. The numbers rose by about 15,000 under the previous administration but have fallen by about 800 since the general election, quite apart from any effects on the morale of the police force as a result of other events. That is the background to this matter.

A key part of any crime reduction strategy is the numbers in the police force. The best crime reduction strategy is to catch criminals and deter those who disturb the peace by catching people who have already done it. The best way to do that is to make the police force as effective as possible.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the fear of crime and crime itself--crime against property and the person--is a major source of distress to millions of people in this country. We naturally welcome anything that contributes to a reduction in crime. We believe that the measures proposed in the Statement will contribute to a reduction in crime and therefore we welcome them. We also give a very warm welcome to the idea of partnerships. As to the Crime and Disorder Act and the introduction of the new anti-social behaviour orders, we believe that if used sensitively and with moderation they can lead to a great reduction in the types of objectionable conduct, perhaps semi-criminal behaviour, that is a cause of great unhappiness to people in many parts of the country. However, the powers here are draconian. We were somewhat concerned about them in the debates when the Crime and Disorder Bill was passing through Parliament. If they are used excessively they can be a cause of oppression. We hope that the guidance will ensure that they are used rightly and where they will do good, as they are capable of doing.

The crime reduction programme is also warmly welcomed. I take minor issue with the noble Lord, Lord Cope. In many ways the best crime prevention strategy is not to catch people who have committed crime but to take steps to prevent them committing those crimes altogether. For example, better household protection through locks, alarms and so on is a very useful measure because it stops crime being committed. Certainly, CCTV has proved itself a very valuable weapon against crime and we welcome the measures for the extended use of it. It is not clear to us whether the money proposed to be spent is new money or is simply being brought forward from spending plans in future years. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, will explain the position. In conclusion, this is a Statement to which we give a warm welcome.

16 Mar 1999 : Column 644

5.15 p.m.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked from where the money would come. This is new money for CCTV. It is the largest single funding of crime prevention not only in this country but throughout the world. I was rather surprised to hear his comment about the reduction in police numbers under this Government. While it is certainly true that police numbers went up in the 1970s and 1980s under both Labour and Conservative governments, over the past five years of the previous Conservative government there was a significant reduction in numbers. We intend to give the police extra measures to deal with crime prevention.

I was very pleased by the welcome given by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, to the measures outlined in the Statement. Like him, I believe that they will be extremely useful and efficient. These measures do not replace the police but are complementary to the police in dealing with crime. I believe that over the years they will result in a reduction in crime. We also undertake to use the measures sensitively.

5.17 p.m.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, it is a commonplace that much anti-social behaviour and some crime is committed by children and young people who have been suspended or excluded from school. For that reason I very much welcomed the announcement by the Government two or three weeks ago that £22 million would be available to make certain of continuing education for these children and young people. I ask the noble Lord on the Front Bench, who has already made reference to Northern Ireland, whether the money to which I refer for excluded and suspended children will also be available in Northern Ireland whether as a slab of the national cake or as a supplementary programme of some kind.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page