§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Janet Anderson.]9.34 am
§ Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster)
It is a privilege to open this important debate. I represent an outer east London constituency, which forms part of the London borough of Havering. In Metropolitan police terms, it is part of K division. These introductory remarks are not a prelude to a speech about crime and policing in my constituency, but an introduction to one of the aspects of crime in London, which I want to address—the contrast between inner and outer-London boroughs. The other aspect with which I shall deal is the development of partnerships among the police, local authorities and other agencies, which I strongly support as they will deliver tremendous benefits, providing that their development is properly resourced.
I begin with a word about trends in crime. Statistics showing crime by borough have been few and unreliable, although the Metropolitan police has just produced comprehensive figures for the past two years. While those statistics can be criticised, an important political point is to be made, as recorded crime is 25 per cent. higher than 10 years ago and, 80 per cent. higher than 20 years ago.
In London, crimes of violence against the person in 1979 were 16,027, and in 1997 they were 53,721, an increase of 235 per cent. Sexual offences were 2,736 in 1979, and had increased to 7,708 by 1997, an increase of 182 per cent. Theft and handling were 316,505 in 1979, but had risen to 382,694 in 1997, an increase of 21 per cent.
Those figures underline the abysmal failure of the Conservative party when in government —a failure that was one of the many contributory factors to its defeat at the last general election. Notifiable offences recorded by the police show significant increases in crime in most London boroughs. Interestingly, some of the highest increases in such offences were in the outer-London boroughs. In Havering in 1980, there were 10,977 notifiable offences. In 1996, when the figures were at their peak, they had increased to 15,900. Last year showed a small decrease, to just below 15,000.
§ Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North)
As my hon. Friend knows, I represent the neighbouring borough of Redbridge. Does he agree that the use of closed circuit television has certainly improved the crime rate in the outer-London boroughs? We introduced closed circuit television last year in Ilford town centre, since when the 962 crime rate has dropped by 18 per cent., and more than 300 criminals have been caught on camera. I am sure that he will agree that CCTV has been a great benefit, particularly to the outer-London boroughs.
§ Mr. Darvill
Of course I agree, and there are similar examples in my borough.
In recent years, the most worrying trend in crime statistics has been the increase in crimes of violence. Although the total number of notifiable offences recorded by the police fell by 5 per cent. in London as a whole, and there was the same percentage decrease in outer-London boroughs, crimes of violence increased more in Havering, for example, than in the capital as a whole. While robbery decreased in London by 7 per cent., it increased in Havering by 13 per cent. Sexual offences and violence against the person both increased by around a fifth.
Bearing in mind the particular factors that affect inner-London boroughs—I am thinking of Westminster and Camden—with the influence of tourism and commuters, the outer-London crime statistics give rise to even greater concern.
I do not want to take up the time of the House with too many statistics, which I give to counter the popular view that the outer-London areas do not need the resources and attention that the inner-London boroughs require. The concept of a crime-free leafy suburb is wrong. I know that, because of targeting, there is a tendency to shift resources from outer-London areas. I am opposed not to targeting, which can be effective in the fight against crime, but to the year-on-year shift of resources at a time when we should be tackling the worrying increase in crime.
The 1998–99 settlement for the Metropolitan police service provided a total spending power of £1.775 billion—an increase of 3.7 per cent. on the 1997–98 figures. However, the settlement proposed a 25.4 per cent. increase in the precept on council tax. My constituents would not object to such an increase, given that the increase on a band E property would be about £1.20 a month, if it were not for the fact that local police numbers are being reduced, and local police stations are under threat of closure. Indeed, in my borough, the police station at Collier row, which falls in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon), is currently under threat—I know that my hon. Friend has taken up the matter with the Home Office.
I acknowledge the successes in crime reduction, and I congratulate Sir Paul Condon and all his officers on the recent reduction in the figures—the significant fall in the figures for burglary and car crime in the capital over many years is very encouraging. I also welcome the Government's proposals to set up a London police authority as part of the Greater London assembly, which will enable elected representatives to contribute directly to the management of the police service in London. That will provide not only new leadership, but long-awaited democratic accountability. I am sure that the inner/ outer-London debate can be advanced in that forum, although I would welcome the Minister's comments on it today.
My constituents—and, I am sure, the residents of all London boroughs—share the same fears and concerns about crime. The need to continue to attack crime and help crime prevention at all levels is paramount, and outer London should not be discriminated against in that. 963 I make no apology for raising the issue of working in partnership so soon after Third Reading of the Crime and Disorder Bill. I genuinely believe that the Bill's proposals will have a significant effect, provided that they do not mean that a local police plan will be prepared with the local authority only to be left on the shelf to gather dust. My view is that the public, through their councillors, neighbourhood watch representatives and other agencies, will warmly embrace the Bill's provisions, which will work as effectively as the partnerships in local schools between school governors, teachers and parents—all those to whom I have spoken warmly welcome the cross-agency co-operation.
I am concerned about the resources required to make those provisions work. I do not say that because I believe that this year's police settlement was poor—it was not. I am familiar with the Audit Commission performance indicators and with its report, which I read in preparation for this speech. The report rightly says that police resources do not reflect performance in matters such as crime prevention partnerships, in which forces, councils and community groups have worked together. On one key question, the report says:each force must now face the challenge of building partnerships with social services, education and health services to prevent crime—especially juvenile crime—and to improve community safety, without letting performance slip in key areas. To do this, forces will need to squeeze every drop of value from their resources.The report shows that performance varies, and that, in some areas, increased resources have not meant improved performance. Examples of best practice should be incorporated in all forces.
My chief concern is the resourcing of local authorities, which is a matter not for the Home Office but for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and for the Treasury. However, in considering crime in London and the role of partnerships, we must take account of all the partners. As the Audit Commission recognised by referring to education, social services and housing and planning, local authorities will be important partners.
Havering has suffered from particularly bad standard spending assessments. Year after year, cuts have been imposed and the borough has spent up to its capping level. If the SSA formula is not improved, the council—which is keen formally to start the co-operation partnership with the police and others—will be restricted, to say the least. Indeed, the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), will be aware from his recent visit to my constituency that work on the cross-agency approach to tackling youth crime in the Harold Hill area has already begun.
If cuts in the SSA continue to be made, the borough council will find it difficult to continue its work; it will do what it can, but that may not be enough, which would mean that the opportunity had been missed. Public funds need to be properly invested. If we fail to invest, and crime continues to increase, public expenditure on legal aid, the courts and many other matters will also increase.
I have addressed two matters that I believe the Government should seriously consider: first, the problems faced by the outer-London boroughs in terms of 964 increasing crime and decreasing resources; and secondly, the role of local authorities in future partnerships, which I strongly support. All Londoners, wherever they live, have to put up with the effects of crimes—some are the victims of mindless violence, others of anti-social behaviour or theft. Those problems are Londonwide, but I know that the Government are acting quickly to tackle them, not least because of their election pledges. I have been honoured to open this debate, and I look forward to hearing the contributions of hon. Members on both sides of the House, and of the Minister.
§ Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) on raising this important subject in a balanced and helpful way. We have an annual debate on the Metropolitan police, and we are now roughly mid-term, which gives us an opportunity to review some of the trends that are beginning to emerge. I share his view, which is based on statistical evidence, that the current picture on recorded crime is, in many ways, encouraging—the favourable trends are reflected in the area that I represent in south-west London—and I congratulate the Metropolitan police on that.
We should not be too complacent, however. Most crimes involve property, and many historical data show a strong correlation between property crime and the state of the economy. Once the current boom is over and unemployment begins to rise again, the trends may be less encouraging.
I draw attention to something more worrying—the trend in the resourcing of the Metropolitan police, and police numbers. In the five years before the change of Government–1992£97—the number of Metropolitan police officers declined by roughly 1,300, a fact about which both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party made a great deal. Since March 1997—the beginning of the new statistical base—the decline has continued and, unfortunately, accelerated. The number of Metropolitan police officers fell by 384 between March and September 1997, with a further fall of 189 between September 1997 and April of this year. The decline is even more rapid than in 1992–97. I do not suggest that that necessarily shows a decline in the Government's commitment to the police in general, because police numbers outside London seem actually to have increased.
The problem is specific to London—it reflects the formula through which London receives its allocation, which has long been a source of concern to the Metropolitan police. Although the force received a relatively favourable settlement this year, that has not stopped the rot of the decline in police numbers. I would be grateful to the Minister for some explanation of why that trend is continuing. There may be problems of recruitment as well as problems of cash, but it would be helpful to know where the continuing decline leaves the Metropolitan police's declared strategic objective to increase the number of police officers this year. They are not going to meet that objective, as there will be a substantial decline.
The hon. Member for Upminster mentioned the strong trend towards a decline in the number of accessible police stations. That has grown over the years, and in 1997 there were six closures and hours were reduced at 18 stations, one of which is in my constituency. I have discussed the 965 trend with senior police officers who make a reasonable operational case that, given the often painful options they have, it is often the most sensible action.
It is sensible of senior police officers to make sure that officers are out on the street rather than sitting behind a desk, if that is the choice that has to be made. However, that choice should not have to be made. Accessibility to police stations is important to public confidence, and fear of crime is considerably reduced if a local population knows that it has access at reasonable hours to a police station within a reasonable distance. The matter should be dealt with through civilianisation rather than reduction of access to police stations. How does the Minister see the trend towards declining access? Is it part of a concerted strategic reorganisation of the service, or has it just happened as a temporary fallout from financial cuts?
My final point arises from the disturbing Lawrence inquiry which is currently taking place. It has been a traumatic experience for the police, as well as a harrowing one for the Lawrence family. I do not want to comment on the inquiry or on the substance of the case, but the inquiry has highlighted the serious long-term increase in London of racial "incidents", as police statistics call them.
There appears to be no basis for calculating violence; racial incidents may not necessarily involve violence, but their trend is strongly upward. Figures obtained from written questions to the Minister suggest that, since 1995, the number of incidents across London rose from about 580 for each 100,000 people to 830 last year. In area 5, my area in a relatively affluent bit of south-west London, the number had risen even more, from 420 to 800 for each 100,000 people.
That does not necessarily mean racial violence, as the statistics are a little ambiguous, but it is suggestive none the less. The figures puncture some of the complacency we sometimes hear. There is a broad feeling that Britain is doing rather well in race relations these days, and certainly in comparison with France and Germany. There is a feeling that race relations are much easier than they used to be, and that people feel more comfortable in a multicultural society. However, the undercurrent appears to be a rising trend in racial incidents.
Will the Minister indicate his awareness of that problem? Senior police officers are aware of racial difficulties, and police training is much more sophisticated than it used to be. At senior officer level, there is an enlightened approach to matters affecting ethnic minorities, but I suspect that that is not totally carried through, and I hope that an understanding of the worrying trend in the figures, combined with the outcome of the Lawrence inquiry, will result in more attention being given to the problem.
§ Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) on introducing a debate that has implications for every hon. Member who represents a London seat. Like him, I want to accentuate the positive, and I join in his congratulations to Sir Paul Condon on the Metropolitan police's success in turning back the tide of crime in recent years. However, the borough of Westminster, part of which I represent, went against that trend, with a reported crime increase last year. In an over-dramatised feature a few weeks ago in the 966 Evening Standard, Westminster topped the crime league table, to the newspaper's apparent surprise. I shall return to that point, as it raises interesting questions.
I warmly welcome the Government's initiative to pilot youth justice schemes through the Crime and Disorder Bill. One of the pilots will cover all my constituency, the rest of Westminster, Kensington, Hammersmith and Fulham. The pilot will test final warning schemes, reparations, child safety and parenting orders, and youth offending teams, and it will bring together council-run social service and education authorities, the police, the probation service, the courts and the Crown Prosecution Service.
That will show the importance of partnership, which, where it exists, has been extremely successful in helping to engage the community in the broadly based crime prevention strategies that are essential to turn the tide of crime. The importance of those parts of the Crime and Disorder Bill cannot be over-emphasised. Crime is not one-dimensional, and the police alone can never solve it.
There have been real successes based on collaborative working in my community. I congratulate the local police in Notting Hill on working with the police in Paddington on a real turnaround in the Colville area of North Kensington and Westminster. Until last autumn, it was plagued by drug dealing and prostitution. During my first months as a Member of Parliament, I was quite rightly flooded with correspondence from residents who felt besieged in their own homes by the extensive dealing and prostitution going on outside them. There has been a dramatic turnaround, because of a combination of good policing strategies rooted in the local community and the introduction of closed circuit television cameras in North Kensington.
There have been other successes. Where regeneration projects target crime prevention, they can bring about real change. The single regeneration budget covering my home ward, Queen's Park in Westminster, has been at least partly responsible for a significant fall in street crime and burglaries. As we are rethinking regeneration strategies, we should make sure that crime prevention is at the heart of them. Crime prevention goes hand in hand with youth activities and employment and training schemes.
A project in north Kensington should be a model for crime prevention work. Youth Cable TV is an innovative project that brings disaffected young people—those excluded from school or at risk of it—together with school classes, and it teaches young people the performance and technical aspects of television production. I was privileged to visit it before the election, and I cannot overstate how impressed I was with its work.
Over the years that the project has been running, more than 500 young people have gone through its schemes, and there is no doubt that it has engaged young people's imagination, has brought them off the streets, and has removed many of them from the risk of offending. It has done that with a mixture of lottery and privately raised funding, and I hope that we will be able to invite Ministers to come to see the part that that genuinely imaginative and radical project plays in solving the crime problem.
I met the director of Youth Cable TV yesterday, when she told me some of her ideas for plugging into the youth justice pilot. For example, the project is considering developing video letters as part of a reparation scheme. 967 In cases in which a victim of crime and the proponent cannot be brought together, perhaps because the victim would find it too traumatic to be in the same room, YCTV could film the young person who committed the crime explaining a little of what happened. That is an exciting and imaginative way to contribute towards reparation.
We should be proud of some excellent schemes initiated and led by both the police and the community. I hope that we can build on that good practice and look laterally at the contribution that such schemes can make.
However, I have three main concerns. I seek today not specific answers, but general assurances that the Home Office recognises the scale of the problem. I began by saying that the borough of Westminster appeared from the recently released crime figures to have gone against the trend and suffered an increase in reported crime. I am conscious—it is brought to my attention by constituents—of the extent to which the residential communities, primarily although not exclusively in the north of the borough, feel neglected because they are in the shadow of the west end, where a high proportion of Westminster's reported crime occurs.
Last year, Westminster had 30,000 reported crimes more than its nearest rival. That reflects the fact that the population of the borough, and that of its neighbour, Kensington and Chelsea, are inflated by more than 1 million tourists and commuters a day. It is thus unsurprising that the crime figures are higher. The mere fact that Westminster covers the heart of the city makes likely an increase in violent crime associated with heavy drinking, because of the number of pubs, restaurants and alcohol outlets concentrated there. Westminster is at the heart of London's prostitution trade. Inevitably, there is also more drug dealing—many drug dealers operate from the heart of the city.
The police must go where crime is highest. Only last week, I met the divisional commander for Paddington, an officer whom I like and greatly respect. We discussed the issue in the context of a crime problem close to me, involving a chemist at the heart of a local drug market. In discussing the policing of that problem and the nuisance that surrounds it, he perfectly reasonably remarked that, when he was planning the distribution of resources to fight crime in the borough, he has to concentrate on areas such as Bayswater and the west end, where reported crime is highest.
The officer said that, in north Paddington and northern parts of the borough, the statistics show, as they unarguably do, that crime is lower, so it would be unjustifiable for him to direct resources disproportionately to that area. I stress that he and other police commanders are committed to good and effective policing of those communities. I do not say that they are under-policed, but people in the residential communities of the estates and streets of north Paddington feel that their problems of anti-social behaviour, nuisance and crime do not always get the attention they deserve.
This is not only an issue of policing. Recently, the CCTV scheme covering Oxford street went live. I was pleased that local newspapers reported that the first signs are that it has significantly reduced crimes such as handbag theft and pickpocketing, which happen in the west end. It is a successful scheme.
968 The trouble is that people who live on the big council estates in the north are sometimes terrified to leave their homes because of crime, especially street crime, and of youths who congregate and act in a threatening fashion. They feel that they are not getting their share of such resources. Worse, with CCTV schemes, which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Ms Perham) and which are welcome and increasingly demanded by many communities, there is a danger of displacement.
That is already being translated into hard facts. The police have told me that, since Oxford street CCTV went live, there are clear signs of crime creeping into the Marylebone area north of Oxford street. In my area, some poor and deprived streets have been cornered between different CCTV schemes. CCTV schemes operate in south Kilburn and on the London Underground and the local station, and a huge and apparently successful one operates in north Kensington. The inevitable result is that street criminals seek areas where no CCTV operates.
The situation is worse for some of my constituents on the streets and estates in the north, because they have also suffered the consequences of recent reductions in the housing department's security budget. They watched with pleasure the introduction of CCTV on Oxford street, to which I think Westminster council contributed £100,000, yet in their blocks of flats there may be incidents of youths gathering on streets and on the stairs inside, taking drugs and, at the very least, being a threatening presence, which is unpleasant for single people and for older people who feel vulnerable.
Projects such as the door entry scheme proposed for Atherstone court on the Warwick estate have been put back because of housing security budget cuts. It is understandable that some sense of grievance is felt because the west end tends to suck in attention and resources. Such people are the poorer as a consequence.
Another illustration is the closure of police stations mentioned by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable). He rightly noted the trend towards concentration and centralisation of police stations in recent years.
However understandable it may be in the financial context of the Metropolitan police, that trend cuts across the desire of communities for a local police presence to which they can relate so that they can build relationships with police officers. People find local police stations, like policemen on the beat, a comfort. I accept that having police on the beat is often not the most efficacious way to tackle crime, but the issue is not only about reducing crime and catching criminals. It is equally vital to restore public confidence, to make people feel confident in their homes and streets.
In my constituency, the police station in St. John's Wood has been threatened with closure. It is another example of the west end against the residential communities of Westminster, because the Metropolitan police are making a case, sound on its merits, for the redevelopment of Marylebone police station on Seymour street off Oxford street.
The residents of Church street and St. John's Wood again see the demands of policing the west end drawing attention and resources away from their community. As things stand, we cannot be wholly assured that the Met can put in sufficient resources to that corner of the 969 borough to maintain at least a standard level of service there. We are still at a reasonably early stage of negotiation, although I understand that the police station closure decision was taken some years ago, as part of the capital development programme.
I urge the Minister to accept that the police do not have the most brilliant record of consultation and explanation of their decisions. When decisions are apparently consultative, and it seems that representations are sufficiently strong and broadly based to secure a change of decision, local communities are understandably aggrieved to be told that the decision was actually taken long ago. I hope that lessons will be learned, because communication is a problem.
As it might be one of the only concrete measures we can take without a vast injection of resources, will the Minister look into the imbalance in policing resources within communities, and especially into the performance indicators and year-on-year improvements that are expected of local police? Performance indicators have been invaluable as a benchmark allowing us to monitor and detect trends and there is certainly no going back from their use. The danger is that too rigid an application of performance indicators may accelerate or intensify the trend for the police to concentrate on reaching their targets by focusing on reducing auto crime, pickpocketing or handbag theft in areas where the scale of crime is greatest, as has happened in the west end.
That can detract from their ability to concentrate on the areas of crime that are statistically smaller-scale, but more worrying and damaging to local communities; and on the building of community links through regular police attendance at sector police meetings and other community meetings that are essential to the creation of good personal relationships. I hope that the Minister will take that general message away this morning.
The second of my concerns is that the wholly desirable emphasis on bearing down on crime should not put good community relations at risk. The Home Office is aware of my concern about the stop-and-search figures. For the Met as a whole, according to the report that I have read, but certainly in Westminster, the figures show that black people are more than four times as likely to be stopped and searched as white people. The figures are not only wholly out of line with the ethnic distribution of the local community, but considerably out of line with the charges laid after stop and search.
I know that the statistics do not tell the whole story, and I believe that there are explanations that would help to allay some of the anxieties of the black community and, in particular, the Commission for Racial Equality. From my conversations with local police officers, I am increasingly sure that there is more to the issue than meets the eye. However, I have been given several different, and sometimes conflicting, interpretations of the figures.
It is essential that the Metropolitan police recognise that some anxiety is legitimate when a clear and convincing explanation has not been given. When I first wrote to the Met on the subject, I received a two-line reply, the last line of which said, in effect, "I am anxious that you have misinterpreted these statistics." That is quite unacceptable: I might have misinterpreted the statistics, but that is not the point; the point is that the Met has a responsibility to recognise the scale of concern and to 970 work with people such as the Council for Racial Equality and other opinion formers to explain what is going on and establish a constructive dialogue.
There are encouraging signs—recent dialogue has been far more constructive, and I look forward to further meetings with the Met. However, I would welcome assurances from the Minister that this is a matter of concern to the Home Office, and that the Home Office will search for a way forward that at least improves the lines of communication between the Met and representatives of the black and other ethnic minority communities.
Let me say a word or two about the environment that creates the conditions in which crime can flourish. I have always agreed with several aspects of the policy of zero tolerance. In particular, I am firmly convinced that, when relatively minor acts of criminality and anti-social behaviour are ignored, a sense of neglect and loss of control is created; and that, in such an environment, more serious crimes can flourish.
Cracking down on such minor acts is not only a matter for the police, but, in order to encourage them to take action along those lines, it is essential to send a strong message to other public agencies, especially local authorities. In that way, we can ensure that the state of neglect and disrepair in some of our streets and housing estates is tackled with vigour. The conditions in some housing estates are appalling, as door entry systems are left broken and play equipment left damaged and covered in graffiti, which creates an atmosphere in which people feel that nothing they can do matters.
Finally, I hope that we can tackle one particular problem, which is that of prostitutes' cards in phone boxes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is dear to my heart as a London Member of Parliament, as it is to the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) and many other hon. Members on both sides of the House. The boroughs of Westminster and Kensington, in the middle of London, are a sea of prostitutes' cards.
In the year to November 1997, 10 million cards were removed from central London, but such efforts are like putting one's finger in the dyke, because no sooner are the cards removed than they are re-posted. They create an atmosphere of neglect and sleaze, and it appears that agencies are unable to do anything constructive to solve the problem. The despair of local communities, which have made vigorous representations, is not surprising.
§ Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)
The hon. Lady makes a valuable point. Does she agree that prostitutes' cards, although a nuisance to many of us, are of more serious concern to women; and that they paint an appalling picture of London for visitors to the capital?
§ Ms Buck
I totally agree that the cards are disgusting, that they are bad for tourism and bad for business, and that many women regard them as threatening. I regard with horror the prospect of having to go into a public phone box with my young son to make a call, because I do not want to have to explain to him why it is full of pornography.
I understand that British Telecom has asked Oftel for a licence modification which would allow BT to bar calls from a BT call box to any number advertised without 971 authorisation. I welcome the fact that the Department for Trade and Industry has taken a keen interest, and is working with the Home Office to see whether something can be done. Oftel has just finished consulting on the issue, and we await a decision in the near future.
I urge the Minister to take this message back to the Home Office, so that the Home Office, the DTI and Oftel can together implement an effective call-barring system, which would go a long way towards ending the problem. I am pleased that many hon. Members and Westminster council have taken a strong line and urged Ministers to address the issue. I hope that, by working together, we can solve the problem.
I congratulate the Met on the general reduction in crime that has been achieved in recent years, and look forward to dramatic further improvements based on the Crime and Disorder Bill. However, central London has special needs, and its residential communities away from the west end have very particular needs that are in danger of being overlooked. I look forward to hearing a recognition of that fact from the Minister, so that we can go back to our communities and convince them that the general reduction in crime will shortly bring about a real and distinct improvement in their lives.
§ Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)
I should declare an interest, in that the solicitors firm of which a remain a partner, even though I no longer run any cases, has the Police Federation as a client. However, I have not received, nor am I speaking to, any briefing from the Police Federation, and I have not been in communication with the federation about this debate.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) on securing the debate. When discussing crime, it is inevitable that one starts with statistics. The Metropolitan police are to be complimented on having produced figures on a boroughwide basis for the first time. There are problems comparing like with like, borough to borough, but I have no doubt that the statistics will be refined in the light of experience, and that they will be useful for year-on-year comparisons both between and within boroughs.
The statistics show, unlike the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), that Barnet, where my constituency is situated, has the best crime record in London—Westminster having the worst. Again, that is not comparing like with like, as the boroughs are very different. However, I am encouraged to see an overall drop of 10 per cent. in crime in Barnet last year. The statistics reveal serious problems, including a growth in violent crime in Barnet from 988 incidents in 1996–97 to 1,249 last year. The problem is graphically illustrated by the recent despicable murder of a 60-year-old pensioner in my constituency. She was murdered at night in herss home in Hyde crescent.
There have been many changes in policing in my constituency over recent years. We have seen the closure of smaller police stations, and a concentration on one mega-station at Colindale. Inevitably this has created some disquiet and concern in areas that were formerly served by smaller stations. The change programme is not 972 yet complete. The aim is to merge the two police service divisions in Barnet into one as a consequence of the "Policing in Barnet 2000" plan.
I think that this move will be of great benefit both in terms of efficiency and in developing joint working and joint problem solving with the London borough of Barnet and other agencies. At present the plan is a little uncertain, until the future policing of Hertsmere has been finalised. No doubt the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), who sits on the Opposition Front Bench, will comment on that.
Hertsmere is outside the greater London boundary, but is served by the Metropolitan police as part of the Barnet and Hertsmere division. This poses an additional challenge to the Barnet police service, which wishes to implement the merger of the divisions by 1999. It would be helpful to the local police service if my hon. Friend the Minister were to give some indication of the progress that has been made on this issue.
In referring to the major change programme, I must pay tribute to Chief Superintendent Simon Humphrey, our local police commander. I hope that he will not be too embarrassed to hear me say that I believe that he has been managing the programme effectively but sympathetically, and with pragmatic common sense. He is a thoughtful and intelligent officer, and I know that he is committed to community policing and the practical philosophy behind the new approach that has been heralded by the Crime and Disorder Bill. We are extremely lucky locally to have Chief Superintendent Humphrey in charge of our police.
Inevitably with such a major change programme, it is a major task to maintain public confidence. As my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North said, if police stations close, the police must do all they can to maintain visibility and contact with the people in the area affected. Clearly the police are not like the fire brigade, whose staff spend time waiting for the emergency call. The police are out on patrol in the area and on the beat.
If we are to be able to reassure the public—fear of crime is almost as serious a problem as crime itself—the police must continue to be highly visible on the streets and available to local people. For example, consequent on the closure of Hendon police station under the plans approved by the previous Government, I was able to negotiate with Chief Superintendent Humphrey for local police surgeries in Hendon, which are held regularly in the area previously served by the Hendon station. The project has spread out into other areas that were served by other stations that have been closed.
If those surgeries are to succeed, and if the resources in police officer time devoted to them are to be justified, it is important that the public make use of them. Part of the problem is the need for the police to publicise what they are doing in the area. I think that they have some lessons to learn in community contact and publicity for these initiatives. I am discussing with the local police how contact and publicity can be improved.
Important community work such as neighbourhood watch must also be maintained. On Sunday, I visited a stall at Brent Cross shopping centre, which was organised by Dartmouth road neighbourhood watch in my constituency to publicise its work and that of the special constabulary. As well as local volunteers, the local beat constable and the crime prevention officer were on hand 973 to give advice. The stall was well received. I think that that shows how important the work of neighbourhood watch is to people.
Police work in schools makes a vital contribution to building good police-community relations. As budgets locally have come under pressure, despite the improvements in the Metropolitan police settlement announced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary last year, there is a risk that much vital community work will come under the microscope. I hope that the Minister will agree with me that we must do all we can to protect these activities.
Our local police, under Chief Superintendent Humphrey, have performed extremely well in making their work more cost-effective. They have been making many efficiency savings to free resources for front-line work. It is frustrating to see that the benefits of improved efficiency are not fairly reflected locally, and that resources are diverted from the outer-London boroughs to the centre. My hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North spoke of the problems in her constituency, where resources are diverted to the very centre of London from the outer parts of the centre. The problem is even greater in the outer boroughs, with the transfer of resources to the centre.
Locally, for example, police officer numbers in Colindale have fallen from 428 to 406, along with a reduction in civilian support. We all recognise the serious demands of central London and the problems there, but I am concerned that the apparent success revealed by the statistics for Barnet should not be lost by the redistribution of resources from us and other areas in outer London.
I know that the local police will continue to ensure that policing on the streets remains a priority, and will not suffer from the diversion of resources. I also know that protection of the public will be maintained. However, I do not see that we shall be able to maintain the valuable community work as well. There is a risk of loss of public confidence unless the trend is addressed.
Colindale has been able to achieve its high performance by a more proactive approach to police problem solving, led by better intelligence work and focusing on identifiable trouble spots. I know that the local police welcome the new crime strategies that have been developed, as foreshadowed by the Crime and Disorder Bill. I am already talking to them about how the Bill can best be implemented in Barnet as part of the joint agency approach.
The local police are great supporters of breaking down barriers between the various different agencies and developing joint problem solving. We already have excellent relations between the police and the local authority.
With the major change programme to which I have referred, there is concern that the time scales laid down in the new approach are very ambitious. If any progress can be made on the merger of the two divisions in Barnet, things will become more manageable for the police, despite creating geographically the biggest police division in London.
The police are only part of the story in the fight against crime. We need to improve the performance of the Crown Prosecution Service. The recent Glidewell report clearly points the way for that in London.
974 I welcome the proposal to create stronger links between the CPS and the police through the creation of local prosecutors based on the same geographical boundaries as the police areas. That will inevitably lead to more public accountability and stronger links. I also welcome the trend for links at a more local level. For example, there is a regular Friday local CPS surgery at Colindale police station. It is an initiative that was commended to me by a local officer on the beat. I think that the message must be getting through of the need for better relationships across the board.
The magistrates and the probation service also need the new powers and responsibilities that will be given by the Crime and Disorder Bill. Having talked to them both recently, I know that they welcome the Government's approach.
I move on to victims and the work of Victim Support locally, which we all know does an excellent job. As the Minister knows, I have expressed concerns recently that the Metropolitan police have adopted a rather restrictive approach in their interpretation of data protection legislation, which has perhaps led to them not passing on all the details of victims that they should to Victim Support, leading to those victims perhaps not having the support and assistance that they need. I hope that, through the Crime and Disorder Bill, we can tackle this problem very soon.
The Crown court witness service is also working well, but we need to look at providing support at the magistrates court. I know that Victim Support has produced a paper on this subject, which has been submitted to the Home Office. It would be of help if the Minister could outline his views on the Victim Support paper and the initiatives that the Home Office is considering to provide support for witnesses in magistrates courts. The vast bulk of day-to-day crime problems are dealt with in the magistrates court, not in the Crown court. Inevitably, there are far more witnesses to look after in the magistrates court, along with far more victims.
There is also a difficult problem with the victims of mentally disordered offenders, who may be serving time not in prisons but in hospitals. There is a real need—perhaps greater than in any other area—to ensure that the victims of such people are kept fully informed, as they would be if the assailant or perpetrator of the offence were detained in prison. The victims of mentally disordered offenders are not notified, for example, when it is likely that the offender will be released from the mental hospital. That could be extremely distressing for the victims, perhaps even more than in the case of a criminal who has served his time in prison. Will the Minister tell the House whether the Home Office is dealing with that problem?
I know that the Crime and Disorder Bill contains many new ideas, such as reparation orders, to help victims, but there are still important issues to address.
It is important that hon. Members become as involved as they can in the criminal justice system locally, through consultation and discussion with various agencies. Most hon. Members have very good relations with their local police and local authorities in considering crime prevention initiatives and the need for the new joint agency approach. I urge those who have not done so to spend a day sitting in the local juvenile and magistrates courts, and to talk to the magistrates behind the scenes to find out their views. I found that a valuable experience a 975 few months ago when I visited my local magistrates, shortly before Second Reading of the Crime and Disorder Bill. I plan to pay them another visit next week.
It is important that we talk to the Crown Prosecution Service about its problems. I find it interesting to hear about some of the very innovative initiatives being taken by the Middlesex probation service. It is important that we discuss the implications of the Glidewell report with our local CPS.
It is important that we maintain close working relationships with the police, and see at first hand the problems facing officers on the beat. It is easy for Members to talk to senior officers—as I have said, I have a good relationship with my local police commander—but that is not a substitute for talking to local beat officers whose day-to-day job it is to provide better policing of our area.
Next Friday, I intend to spend a day out on the beat with my local officers, policing a large housing estate, Grahame Park. I intend to spend next Friday evening out on patrol in an area car. We shall be driving around Colindale and Burnt Oak, so that should be a lively and exciting evening, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) could probably testify. That will be valuable, because I will be able to talk to officers and experience their problems at first hand.
I therefore urge hon. Members to maintain those close relationships, and I hope that the Minister will respond to the points that I have raised which are of concern to the local police and the community in my constituency.
§ Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) on securing this debate, and I join him and my hon. Friends the Members for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) and for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) in congratulating Sir Paul Condon and the Metropolitan police on the general reduction in crime in London. I pay particular tribute to Superintendent Bob Aitchison and members of the Harrow police force for their excellent work in my constituency and the community initiatives that they are undertaking.
I shall concentrate my remarks on domestic violence, which has not so far been mentioned. I am told by the House of Commons Library that there were 32,110 domestic violence offences in the Metropolitan police district last year. Harrow police have told me that 1,036 domestic violence incidents were reported to them. As I am sure all hon. Members will agree, domestic violence is a scourge on our capital and our country in general, affecting victims physically and mentally. It blights the lives primarily—although, I accept, not only—of women, and of children who live in families scarred by incidents of domestic violence.
This is a serious crime, which too often in the past has not been addressed properly or received the attention that it merits. The police and the judicial process have in the past been slow to respond appropriately to the victims of domestic violence. That is improving, and there is much greater awareness of domestic violence among London's local authorities, the Metropolitan police and the courts system, with many examples of good practice and high 976 levels of commitment to tackling the problem. However, I know that the domestic violence unit in my area is under considerable pressure, which I am sure is mirrored elsewhere in the Metropolitan police district.
I am sure that most hon. Members, certainly those with London constituencies, will agree that much more could be done to tackle domestic violence. Research last year by the university of North London demonstrates that. In the first six months of last year, out of more than 500 domestic violence incidents reported at one London police station, successful prosecutions resulted in only 3 per cent. of cases. In other research, a comparison of cases of domestic and non-domestic violence reported in February this year found that perpetrators of domestic violence were handled more leniently, even when equivalent levels of violence had been used.
I therefore warmly welcome the Government's commitment shortly to introduce a national strategy, which is long overdue, for tackling domestic violence. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon spoke about statistics, and praised the Metropolitan police for their borough-by-borough breakdown of crime figures. More statistical work is needed on domestic violence, but it is not yet completely clear how that should be measured. If domestic violence is to be given the necessary profile in the general debate about crime and disorder, we must have clarification on those statistics and their use.
Better co-ordination is needed within the police and between police forces, the voluntary sector, local authorities and social services in responding to and preventing incidents of domestic violence. The requirement in the Crime and Disorder Bill to produce a crime prevention strategy, which my hon. Friends have mentioned, will help to improve that co-ordination. I pay particular tribute to Harrow women's centre and Harrow Women's Aid, which have worked very hard over many years to tackle the consequences of domestic violence. I pay tribute also to my local authority, which has developed an effective community safety strategy and is currently reviewing its response to domestic violence.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), in an Adjournment debate on domestic violence at a national level, highlighted the confusion about the sources of funding to tackle the problem. I endorse that point, and hope that the national strategy will address it. I stress the importance of the active monitoring of the implementation of that national strategy at local and regional levels.
London needs a much better co-ordinated regional response to domestic violence. The establishment of the Greater London authority will help to scrutinise the response of local authorities and the Metropolitan police, but it will be some years before that authority is established, and I hope that the national strategy will facilitate a strong regional response in London to domestic violence.
§ Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)
I join other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) on securing this debate on an important subject. Crime in London is significant, not least for the quality of life of those who live and work there.
We have heard good news about a reduction of 5 per cent. in the overall level of crime in London, which will be widely welcomed, as the commissioner rightly said. 977 However, as the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) said, there is no room for complacency, especially in view of the increase in violent crime. Whatever changes in the reporting, for example, of domestic violence, may play in that overall increase—the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) was right to describe domestic violence as a scourge—it must be watched carefully.
It is right to pay tribute to the Metropolitan police for their part in bringing about that reduction in crime. We owe it to them to ensure that they have the necessary funding and resources to do the job that they are very capable of doing. We need to be vigilant about that.
The hon. Member for Upminster and the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) mentioned the impact of recent changes in funding on the police services in their areas; for example, police stations have been closed. We must observe that the Metropolitan police received what can only be described as a tight settlement this year. With masterly understatement, the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), described it as "not excessive", but examination of the figures reveals that, in real terms, the Metropolitan police received a funding reduction of some 1.1 per cent.
The hon. Member for Twickenham forecast a decline in the number of police officers in the coming year. Obviously, we must watch that carefully, although I say generally to the hon. Gentleman that one must be very careful when interpreting police numbers.
The hon. Gentleman quoted some figures for the previous Parliament, but when interpreting police numbers one must take into account changes in rank structure that took place over that period. I understand that, during the previous Parliament, more uniformed officers became available for operational duties, which is what members of the public want. However, we need to be vigilant about police numbers, and about the Metropolitan police receiving the resources it deserves. We shall give that matter careful scrutiny.
That is not the main point that I want to make this morning, however. The hon. Member for Upminster spoke about partnerships; I want to speak about two partnerships. If I may say so to Labour Members, it is a little early to revisit the arguments about the Crime and Disorder Bill, which we finished debating only yesterday evening. Hon. Members adverted to the partnerships in the Bill, but I shall leave them alone for once, and speak about other partnerships that are important in the fight against crime. While debating the Bill, we have been talking about partnerships between local authorities and the police and so on, but we should not lose sight of other partnerships which have been playing a vital role.
I shall talk about two partnerships. First, I shall talk about the partnerships that are involved in providing drug treatment services. As the House and the Minister know, drug treatment services depend for their funding on partnerships between local authorities, health authorities and probation services, axnd central Government and the Home Office play a part. Funding for important drug treatment services in London is drawn together from several sources. We need to look carefully at how that funding is drawn together.
Proper funding of drug treatment services is a key investment in the fight against crime in London, as it is elsewhere. There is a strong link between drug addiction 978 and crime, and every £1 spent on drug misuse treatment gives a cost saving of more than £3 through a lower level of victim costs of crime, especially property crime.
The hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North rightly highlighted the way in which the general environment in estates was affected by the presence of drug addicts, and how needles, for example, were left around. Even if they commit no crime, drug addicts' presence in estates can do much to lower the tone and cause problems for local residents. We must have the services in place, therefore, to give treatment to those people who unfortunately suffer from drug problems, to help them to combat their drug addiction and drug problems.
Disturbingly, recent research by the London Drug Services Consortium estimates that this year there has been a £1 million cut in the funding of drug services in London. That has had a knock-on effect on drug services, and vital services, such as Lorne house in Hackney— one of the few residential centres for young people in the whole country, let alone in London—has been forced to close. I visited that establishment last week, and it was sad to think that such an establishment, providing rehabilitation for young people in the 15 to 21-year-old age group, many of whom have been referred there by criminal justice agencies, was being forced to close its doors, and could no longer give that form of treatment to the young people who badly need it.
That is a matter of some concern. Lorne house is not the only service in London to close recently. Other services, some of which were provided by charities, have closed. We need to look at the overall picture, to ensure that the drug treatment services that people in trouble need are available.
I make one specific point to the Minister, which I hope that he will address when he replies to the debate. Will he give me an assurance that the Government will look at the overall picture of drug treatment funding? As funding for drug treatment services is drawn from many sources, it is important for Government to look at the overall picture, to ensure that there is no overall loss of those who provide drug treatment services, and that what can only be described as the haemorrhaging of funds for those services comes to an end, and no more important drug treatment providers are closed. I ask the Minister specifically about that, and I ask him to look at the overall picture and get a grip on this serious problem.
The second form of partnership that I had in mind is that on closed circuit television, which several Labour Members mentioned. CCTV is vital in providing assistance to the police and protection and reassurance to the public, perhaps especially the elderly and small businesses. Its extension in the past few years, through Home-Office-supported bidding rounds, has been a source of great reassurance to many local communities. I speak with some feeling on this, because Borehamwood in my constituency, which is just outside London, recently received CCTV funding, and it has been warmly welcomed by the local authority, local residents and businesses, especially pensioners and those representing the elderly.
London has benefited from the extension of closed circuit television, as have many other parts of the country. In the financial year beginning in 1996,£3.9 million was awarded to 44 bids by London boroughs. In 1997–98, 979 £3.4 million was awarded to 36 bids by London boroughs. So far, I believe, in the current year, the Government have been able to find only £1 million for new schemes nationally, as part of a total of £9 million which includes funding for schemes already in existence.
According to figures that I have obtained from the Library—my maths is not so good, so no doubt the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—only £257,000 has been awarded to London boroughs for CCTV bids in 1998–99. The Minister may put me right on that, but I suggest that the Government need to look carefully at that, to ensure that the Home Office funding is provided to support the partnership bids by London boroughs, by local authorities, and by businesses and other parts of the community, in support of a key element in the fight against crime.
Briefly, I shall mention two matters that have arisen in the debate. The hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North mentioned prostitutes' cards in television kiosks. The House will have gathered that I strongly agree with her on that point. It is a highly profitable trade, and those who are involved in it display great persistence. The hon. Lady mentioned measures—which I am sure that the Minister will want to refer to—that the Department of Trade and Industry and the telephone companies are taking. As an MP representing Westminster, she is no doubt aware that Westminster was recently involved in a prosecution of those who put telephone cards in telephone kiosks in, I believe, the Edgware road area, and that the prosecution failed because of a technicality in the planning law.
I happen to know, because I drive past every day, that such cards are still being placed in telephone kiosks in the Edgware road. I noticed that last night, because, with today's debate in mind, I made a point of looking. The telephone kiosks in Edgware road are still full of prostitutes' cards, and I am sure that many members of the public in London would like them to be taken out, and kept out. If a change in the law is needed to achieve that, on top of the other measures that have been taken, I invite the Minister to think carefully about it.
The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) mentioned policing in Barnet, which, as he rightly says, involves the policing of Hertsmere, just outside London. I may be straying slightly from the debate on policing in London, but, as the hon. Gentleman said, responsibility for policing in Hertsmere, in Hertfordshire, and in several other areas just outside London, is being taken from the Metropolitan police and given to county police authorities. That is a matter of great interest to me, and I place on the record the fact that I shall take a close interest in it to ensure that the transition is managed smoothly and that there is no diminution in police cover and the number of police officers available in my constituency and others.
However, this has been a debate about policing in London, and some important points have been raised. I stress to the Minister that, for all the Government's good words and good intentions, and all the talk about partnerships, we must ensure that resources are available to assist those on the ground who are carrying out the key elements in the fight against crime, and we must closely scrutinise that.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien)
I join my hon. Friends and other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) on securing a debate on such an important issue. He rightly pointed up the substantial increase in crime under the previous Conservative Administration. I agree that their abysmal failure on law and order contributed to their election defeat last year.
The Government came to power determined to reduce the unacceptably high levels of crime and disorder that they inherited. We seek to tackle crime and the causes of crime, and our measures must be considered in combination with initiatives in education, employment and health, which together will contribute to the improvement of people's quality of the life.
My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster rightly drew attention to the need for statutory partnerships. The Crime and Disorder Bill requires the police and the local authority jointly to undertake a crime and disorder audit in their district borough or unitary authority area, in consultation with other agencies and the wider community. They will then have to develop a local strategy to tackle the identified crime and disorder problems in various areas of London.
The work of the partnerships will be to implement those local strategies, which will include clear targets and action at a much more local level in the local authority area. We expect those proposals to be implemented this September, and partners should commence their audits then. That will enable basic strategies to be in place by April 1999, and at three-year intervals after that. The timetable is challenging, but achievable. Our intentions have been well trailed, and many local authorities are already making good progress.
Although the duty is laid on the police and the local authority in the first instance, we expect many other organisations to be involved. The Crime and Disorder Bill specifically includes probation committees, health authorities and police authorities. Others who may be included are the voluntary and business sectors, schools, further education colleges, public transport providers, the Crown Prosecution Service—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) referred—and many others, depending on local circumstances. The role of the police and the local authorities is to act as a catalyst, causing other bodies to become involved in the process.
The key is tailoring solutions to meet local problems in London. Circumstances vary so much across the country that we do not intend to specify a nationwide strategy for the reduction of crime which must be religiously followed. What is appropriate in rural Suffolk may not be appropriate in Hackney. We want to provide a broad framework within which local partnerships can work, and to be as non-prescriptive as possible, to allow flexibility in designing local solutions. We heard in the debate how problems in various parts of London are often quite different, and we need local solutions. 981 We recognise that much good work is already being done in London, but it is largely voluntary. Our legislation will make formal arrangements, so that the whole of London benefits from the reductions in crime and disorder that can be realised when agencies work together in such a way. To help those new to this area, the Home Office, with the help of various organisations, is publishing guidelines covering the conduct of a crime and disorder audit, structural issues involved with partnership working, information exchange, and training. An advance draft is available on the internet.
The hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) mentioned resources. Local authorities and the police need to prioritise their resources to make sure that those Government initiatives succeed. There are never enough resources; it is a matter of determining priorities and making most efficient use of resources. That is true of the Government and of local government. The initiatives are important, and I am sure that local authorities and the police around the country, and certainly in London, want to ensure that they make them work.
Our partnerships will produce long-term savings in crime costs. The arrangements formalise a lot of the good work that is already going on in many London boroughs, without central funding. We believe that multi-agency approaches work, and we shall monitor the results carefully, but we are not convinced that there is a real funding problem. We need to ensure that funding is properly prioritised, and that the partnerships succeed.
Many hon. Members referred to policing in London, and I shall therefore take some time over it. The police service is obviously key to the delivery of safer communities, and the Metropolitan police has operated under considerable pressure in recent years. We recently announced the decision to redraw its boundaries to take account of the Greater London authority, and to simplify liaison arrangements between local authorities, other criminal justice agencies and the police.
The Metropolitan police was awarded a 3.7 per cent. increase in 1997–98, which is in line with the national average for police authorities in England and Wales, and which the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis described as very fair in the current economic climate. He still expects to deliver the high level of service which produced a 6 per cent. fall in crime in 1997.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) pointed out in his helpful contribution that 1,300 officers were lost to London under the previous Administration. It is a tribute to the Metropolitan police and its hard work that it has had so much success in tackling crime. He also helpfully accepted that the Government are committed to ensuring that the police operate properly and are properly resourced. The Commissioner must determine how he deploys his resources. Under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, the Government have no power to insist that resources are spent specifically on police numbers.
The operational independence of chief constables and of the Commissioner is quite rightly closely guarded by senior officers. We must recognise that operational independence includes the Commissioner's decisions on where to deploy officers in London. I note the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon about whether officers should be deployed in inner or 982 outer London, and I am sure that the Commissioner will read the report of the debate and recognise some of those concerns.
The settlement for the Metropolitan police was 3.7 per cent., or £1,775 million, which represents considerable spending power. Included in the total settlement is a special payment, which was increased by £21 million to £151 million for 1998–99, in recognition of the Met's position in policing the capital city—Sit has particular national functions. The increase followed a review of the special payment, led by the Home Office and assisted by the Met. The £151 million is paid as a 100 per cent. Home Office grant. The settlement is fair, although not excessive, and in line with the national average.
The Met is committed to delivering value for money. Its five-year corporate strategy, "The London Beat", emphasises the importance of the bobby, and is committed to high-visibility patrolling to strengthen public confidence and trust. It also identifies the need for best use of resources. The Commissioner is confident that he can deliver to Londoners the high level of service that they have come to expect.
We shall do all we can to ensure that the police service has adequate resources to tackle crime and disorder. We are committed, however, to keeping a tight rein on public spending for the remainder of this Parliament. It is vital that resources are used effectively. We need to continue to work to ensure that the police deliver an efficient and effective service at a price that the public can afford. We fully accept that the police need adequate funding, but outputs and outcomes are important, and they are not necessarily directly related to inputs.
In the time available, I shall have difficulty in dealing with a number of issues that have been raised, but I shall mention a few.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon and the hon. Member for Hertsmere rightly referred to the change in Metropolitan police boundaries. There are three main reasons for those changes. First, boundaries have remained unchanged, with the exception of minor adjustments in 1946. Secondly, they are not based on the needs of modern policing. Under the current arrangements, local authorities, criminal justice agencies and the county districts of the Met police district often have to work with two different forces. That can lead to duplication and delay, and can seriously affect efficient policing.
The third reason is that we need more democratic accountability. A majority of members of the new Metropolitan police authority will be elected members of the GLA. Residents in those parts of Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey which are currently policed by the Met will not have a vote in the elections for the mayor and GLA members. Those areas should therefore be policed by county forces whose police authorities already provide local democratic accountability. We need to ensure that all that is done properly, and, with the hon. Member for Hertsmere and others, we shall deal with those matters with great care.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) referred to racist incidents. I assure him that we are seeking to tackle those through our Crime and Disorder Bill. Hon. Members raised a number of other issues, but I regret that in the time available I will not be able to deal with them. 983 The Government are committed to being tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime. Our Crime and Disorder Bill will deliver our 12 manifesto commitments. It has broad support. After 18 years of inaction in London, we now have a Government who are committed to dealing with the concerns of local people and police officers in tackling crime. It is not enough simply to increase penalties, as the previous Government did; we need new ideas, such as the parenting and anti-social behaviour orders. We need new strategies at a local level, and new partnerships to cut crime. We now have a Government who are tackling crime in London in a serious way. That makes a change, does it not?