Oral Answers to Questions

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Monday 17th January 2022

(2 days, 9 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti (Meriden) (Con)
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23. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the police are adequately funded to enable them to reduce crime.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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The Government are proposing a total police funding settlement approaching £17,000 million in 2022-23, an increase of up to £1,100 million compared with this year. Assuming full take-up of precept flexibility, overall police funding available to police and crime commissioners will increase by a whopping £796 million next year.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson
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Although Darlington has received almost £1 million in safer streets funding, off-road biking continues to be an antisocial behaviour problem causing crime in my constituency. Will the Minister meet me to discuss what more can be done to tackle this?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am pleased to hear that that substantial award from the safer streets fund is making a difference in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and of course I would be more than happy to meet him to talk about how we can better fight crime in his patch.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns
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Vale of Glamorgan, like many rural areas, experiences horrendous animal welfare incidents, from illegal dog breeding and hare coursing to fly-grazing and horse neglect. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Chief Inspector Rees and her team of officers on how they have used the additional resources that have been made available to combat some of the worst crimes we could possibly imagine?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am more than happy to join my right hon. Friend in congratulating his local police force on their work in this area, and I am pleased to hear that his non-human constituents are as important to him as the human ones. He will be aware that some of these truly appalling crimes need to be addressed much more assertively, and I hope he has noticed that, in the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, we are tabling amendments specifically on hare coursing, which will help to fight that awful crime.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter
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Bearing in mind the security statement coming after this question session, will my right hon. Friend assure me that he is working with both law enforcement and security services to understand what more can be done to increase capacity to counter hostile activity that has the potential to damage democracy but operates below the legal threshold?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I know this is a matter of concern to the whole House, which I know is to be addressed by the Home Secretary shortly. As I hope my hon. Friend knows, police capacity—that relates specifically to the question—has been increased not just in territorial policing but in other arms of policing, recognising as we do that, while it is important to fight crime on the ground in all our constituencies, it is also important to fight it there as well.

Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti
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I am pleased that the Government are well on their way to delivering on their pledge to deliver 20,000 police officers, 867 of whom are in the west midlands, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision by the Labour police and crime commissioner to close Solihull police station goes a long way to undermining safety and security for my constituents in the north and the south of my constituency?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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My hon. Friend will know that there was a passionate Adjournment debate just the other night to discuss issues in west midlands policing. As I said during that debate, it is strange that at a time of unprecedented expansion in UK policing, the impression is being given, in his constituency and elsewhere, of a retreat. I was in the west midlands on Thursday and I know that the chief constable and others are working hard to get on top, but I would hope that in the light of the expansion of policing in my hon. Friend’s part of the world, their property strategy would be reviewed again.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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Workers in local food shops in Cambridge have had a tough time in recent years, facing organised shoplifting and threats of violence. It took the intervention of E. J. Matthews, a notable PC, to help to sort that out, but they are now facing organised ramraids. What resources can be made available to Cambridgeshire police to tackle this awful crime?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, Cambridgeshire police has expanded quite significantly, in terms of pure police numbers, over the past couple of years, but I hope he will also have noticed the work that is being done by the national retail crime steering group, which I chair, to look specifically at crime in this area. Given what he has mentioned about ramraiding in his constituency, I will go away and look at whether a pattern is emerging across the east of England and hope that I can encourage the police to address it.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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The Minister has just said that there is an unprecedented expansion, but back in the real world, antisocial behaviour increased by 7% last year: it is a growing problem across so many communities in my constituency and around the country. Although the new officers are beginning to come on-stream, does he even begin to understand the damage that the cuts not only to police numbers but to services such as youth services have done to communities like the ones I represent?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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Year on year, last year and the year before, we actually saw a fall in police-recorded incidents of antisocial behaviour, but we have seen fluctuations in that crime type over the past few months as the variations in covid lockdown regulations have changed. We are keeping a close eye on it. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that in our “Beating crime plan”, published in July last year, we encouraged police and crime commissioners—I hope he will encourage his to do this as well—to form their own antisocial behaviour taskforces so that they can really pinpoint and address this most local of crime problems very effectively.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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The Minister will be aware that proper community policing is vital for preventing crime and saving lives, yet across London, since the Prime Minister was Mayor, we have seen community policing slashed, and in Richmond borough, in particular, we see our officers routinely extracted to other events. Yet in the same period knife crime has doubled. He will be aware that in September there was the fatal and brutal stabbing of an 18-year-old Afghan refugee and college student in Twickenham. So when will we see a boost to community policing in the Twickenham constituency and across Richmond borough, as this Government have promised us so many extra police officer numbers since 2019?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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The hon. Lady is stretching it a bit to say that crime over the past three or four years was the fault of the previous Mayor, who has not been in office for some time; she may not have noticed. It is hard to notice who is in office in London at the moment. Nevertheless, I hope she will welcome the recent decision by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to reinstitute neighbourhood policing, and that she will see the extra numbers of police officers—many hundreds—that have now been recruited in London appearing in her constituency soon.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
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Current recruitment is welcome, of course, but will the Minister at least acknowledge and be honest with the House that there are 24,000 fewer police officers, police community support officers and staff in the police workforce since 2010 because of this Government’s cuts, and that has a real impact?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I will certainly acknowledge that police numbers fell post the 2010 election, but only as long as the hon. Lady acknowledges that her party crashed the economy, causing us to make much-needed and very vital economies in our national spending. If we had not undertaken those economies, God knows what financial state we would have been in now, following what we have had to do during the pandemic.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
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The great town of Tunstall sadly missed out on its recent safer streets fund bid. Analysis from Staffordshire police and Stoke-on-Trent City Council shows that we suffer disproportionately from more burglary, aggressive begging and feral youths committing antisocial behaviour, so we want to see improved lighting, CCTV extended and gates for alleyways. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me so that he can hear about this bid and why the great town of Tunstall deserves this investment?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am certainly happy to meet my hon. Friend. We will see future rounds of the safer streets fund, and I hope his police and crime commissioner and his local authority will make a bid. I will be more than happy to meet him, not least because the commitment and conviction he shows should be at the forefront of their bid to convince us all to fund this.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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10. What plans she has to increase the number of police community support officers.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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The decisions on how to use funding and resources are operational matters for chief constables, working with their democratically elected police and crime commissioners. They are best placed to make these decisions within their communities, based on their knowledge and experience, including decisions about the right balance of their workforce.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin
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Our Conservative police and crime commissioner was elected on a platform to fix the unfair funding formula for Bedfordshire police, but his solution to raise much-needed funding to put more police on our streets is to raise local council tax. With two large towns and an international airport, Bedfordshire police should not be funded as a rural force. Will the Minister give our force the resources it needs before expecting my constituents to pay more?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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Obviously the Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner is doing a fantastic job. He won a resounding victory in the recent election, and I know he continues to enjoy significant support in that county. As I hope the hon. Gentleman has heard me say in the past, we are committed to coming up with a new funding formula for policing. The formula we use at the moment is a little bit elderly and creaky. He will be pleased to hear that I had a meeting just this morning with the chair of the new technical body that is putting that work together. We hope to be able to run the formula before the next election.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
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The Minister has brushed off criticisms from the Labour Benches, but is he aware of the disquiet on his own Benches? Only last week, Conservative MPs lined up in Westminster Hall to describe a broken system that is

“stacked in favour of the perpetrators rather than the victims.”—[Official Report, 12 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 258WH.]

One said:

“Across the UK there are people afraid to leave their homes after dark, scared to go to the shops…That cannot go on…The police quite simply do not have the powers or resources.”—[Official Report, 12 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 257-8WH.]

We agree. That is why neighbourhood policing is at the heart of our new proposals. We will put a police hub in every new community, create neighbourhood prevention teams and fund a next generation of neighbourhood watch. I wonder whether the Minister has anything new to say to his own disaffected Back Benchers, or is crime simply not “red meat” enough for the “big dog”?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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Hilarious. I understand the hon. Lady is playing catch-up on policing, and she may have missed the 11,000 police officers we have recruited so far. She may have missed the significant falls in knife crime, acquisitive crime and all neighbourhood-type crimes, as we have seen recently. Policing and fighting crime are a challenge, as I know more than most. It is always two steps forward, one step back. It is right that hon. Members on all sides should be anxious and concerned about crime in their constituencies, but that is why we are recruiting 20,000 police officers, why the Prime Minister has made crime a priority and why he wants to roll up county lines and deal with youth violence. This is a fight that we can win, but over time. While we are having some success as it stands, there is always much more to do.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
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11. What steps she is taking to reduce knife crime.

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Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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T4. In the run-up to Christmas, hare coursing caused a huge problem across Leicestershire, no more so than in Bosworth. Hare coursing brings with it damage to property and crops, and the intimidation of farmers and residents, so it must stop. The National Farmers Union and local farmers came together with our new rural crime unit in Leicestershire to try to deal with it, but what more can the Government do to ensure that we clamp down on hare coursing in Leicestershire?

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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Like my hon. Friend, I have seen a rise in that kind of offence in my constituency. As the crops are cut and those animals become more apparent, it obviously becomes more of a problem. As I said earlier, I hope that he will see that in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which I hope the whole House will support, we are introducing a range of offences to deal with that crime which, for the first time, will attract a prison sentence of up to six months.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
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T2. To return to the Home Secretary’s answers to my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary, in September 2020, she said that she would “call the police” if she saw her neighbours having a party in their garden. Is she confident that the Chancellor was aware of that advice?

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Rob Roberts Portrait Rob Roberts (Delyn) (Ind)
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T6. The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust has identified a growing trend of theft or vandalism of defibrillators in Wales. I cannot imagine the despair somebody would feel on witnessing a cardiac event and rushing to get a defibrillator, only to find that it has been broken or stolen. Does the Minister agree that that is a deplorable crime, and will he meet me to discuss what steps the police can take to stop antisocial behaviour generally and this terrible crime in particular?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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It must be hard for everybody to imagine what kind of twisted mind would think it was a good thing to do to break or steal a defibrillator, and I would be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to examine the problem in his constituency and, indeed, to see if it is a problem elsewhere.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
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T7. Between 2018 and 2021, there were 3,625 spiking reports across 15 police forces in the UK, but just 44 people were charged. Perpetrators are being let off, while victims are being let down. Will the Home Secretary give her backing to Labour’s amendment being voted on this evening in the other place for an urgent review into the incidence and reporting of this crime, as well as of the adequacy of police investigations and the impact on victims?

Oral Answers to Questions

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Monday 22nd November 2021

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
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12. What steps her Department is taking to support special constables.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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I am sure you agree with me, Mr Speaker, that special constables are among the most remarkable citizens in the land. We are bringing forward legislation to enable them to become members of the Police Federation, so that they can access the same support and protection as regular officers. We will also be introducing the police covenant in legislation shortly to ensure further support and protection for the police workforce, including special constables.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie
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I thank the Minister for his answer. Special constables are often on shift during the busiest periods, as they tend to volunteer at weekends and in the evenings, and as a result are exposed to quite high levels of trauma. I give credit to the Stroud special constables, and ask what my right hon. Friend is doing specifically and actively to support their training for and meet the mental health needs of their unique roles?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am grateful for the fact that the welfare of this special—in every sense of the word—group of people is at the forefront of my hon. Friend’s mind. She will be pleased to know that the Government continue to fund the national police wellbeing service, which provides support and particularly post-traumatic incident services to all police officers, including special constables. As I said in the earlier part of my answer, there is more that can be done, and by making sure that all special constables are full members of the Police Federation, they will be able to access the significant support that that organisation can provide.

Kim Leadbeater Portrait Kim Leadbeater (Batley and Spen) (Lab)
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13. What steps she is taking to (a) tackle antisocial behaviour and (b) support victims of antisocial behaviour.

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Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger (Devizes) (Con)
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24. What progress her Department has made on tackling county lines drugs gangs.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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The Prime Minister issued an instruction that we should roll up county lines, and that is exactly what we have been doing for the last two years. Since 2019, we have invested over £65 million, including over £40 million committed this year. This has already resulted in the closure of more than 1,500 lines, over 7,400 arrests and the safeguarding of more than 4,000 vulnerable adults and children.

Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory
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I thank the Minister for his answer. I was very pleased, recently, that a county lines dealer who had been flooding towns across Cornwall, including Truro, with drugs was jailed for five and a half years. There is a lot more to do in Cornwall, because we are seeing an increase in the impact of county lines drugs activity and all the crimes that go with it. Can the Minister confirm that the Government are aware of the issues in Cornwall and assure me that they are committed to working with our brilliant police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez, and the six Cornish MPs to address the continued problems, in particular how the Government can support the wider roll-out of Project ADDER?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am focused on the impact of drugs across the whole country, and particularly in areas such as Devon and Cornwall, where I know the chief constable, and Alison Hernandez, the police and crime commissioner, have been doing an enormous amount of work. This problem is so prevalent across the United Kingdom that every part has to work together, and I am pleased that Devon and Cornwall Police have been working closely, particularly with the Metropolitan Police and Merseyside Police, which are the two key exporting forces for drugs into my hon. Friend’s area. She might be interested to know that recently the British Transport Police, which plays a critical part in gripping the network that distributes the drugs, conducted a fixed-point pilot at Basingstoke Station. It intercepted drugs that were heading towards her constituency, and I hope she will soon feel the effects of that.

Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger
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May I echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory)? There have been very successful disruptions to county lines in my Wiltshire constituency, and I pay tribute to Philip Wilkinson, the police and crime commissioner, and to Wiltshire Police. It is great that they can work in partnership with all the Conservative PCCs across our region, and with the Government. The challenge now is to move one level down, below the cities to the market towns and rural areas, which is where the problem with drugs really manifests itself in my area. Will the Minister continue the efforts on county lines, and ensure real support for local efforts at disruption, not just at regional level?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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My hon. Friend is exactly right, and as my constituency neighbour he feels the same impact on our rural towns and villages as I do. He is right: as I said earlier, this is such a comprehensive problem that market towns and villages must work with large urban areas, and we have to grip the transport network in between. Particularly key is that we aim to take out those who perpetrate this “business” while sitting in the comfort of their homes in a city. The great development in our effort against county lines has been the ability of the police in Liverpool, west midlands and London—the three big exporting areas—to find those guys and take them out.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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17. What progress she has made on resettling refugees under the UK resettlement scheme.

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Craig Williams Portrait Craig Williams (Montgomeryshire) (Con)
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T9. I thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the work that she is doing on prosecuting those who participate in county lines drugs. We need cross-party consensus in dealing with dangerous drug gangs in our country, so does she share my disappointment that the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Home Secretary are backing a policy of not prosecuting those who are found in possession of class A drugs such as heroin, crystal meth and crack cocaine? May I draw her on the issue, and on our party’s approach to dealing with it?

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There should be no room for confusion in people’s minds: drugs are bad in all their forms, and this Government will do everything we can to restrict supply and deal with demand.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thames-mead) (Lab)
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T5. Sistah Space supports black women and girls who have experienced domestic violence. It is campaigning for Valerie’s law, which would introduce mandatory training for police and other agencies, including on dealing with domestic violence in black communities. Will the Minister meet me and Sistah Space to discuss this important issue before the upcoming petitions debate?

John Penrose Portrait John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con)
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T10. Does the Home Secretary agree that successive studies, including even the 2017 Lammy review, have concluded that improving trust in—and the legitimacy of—our law enforcement officials and institutions, particularly in communities where those have historically been low, is essential to reducing crime everywhere? What further steps does she therefore intend to take to level up in that vital area?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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My hon. Friend is right, and he will know that through the Uplift programme we are pushing hard to increase the diversity of UK policing so that the police force looks like the population whom it seeks to protect and represent. We have instituted a review of vetting across policing and, indeed, wider work on police integrity generally, but we are also talking to police leaders about the signal that they send internally within the force to create a culture that inspires trust and a sense of integrity in the British people. I should add that it is important that the police fulfil the basic expectations of every single subject in this land, and in doing so inspire the trust that my hon. Friend seeks.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)
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T6. A harsh winter is about to hit Afghanistan, and the United Nations estimates that 23 million people will be at risk of famine. Surely it is a major dereliction of duty for the Government not to have the Afghanistan resettlement scheme in place. Many people have been left in limbo as a result, and aid agencies are looking for answers in respect of what is going to happen.

Oral Answers to Questions

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Monday 18th October 2021

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
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5. What steps her Department is taking to implement the findings of the pet theft taskforce.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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I start by associating myself with the remarks of the Home Secretary on James Brokenshire, who I worked with over the last 15 years on all manner of subjects. He was a lovely man and a pleasure to know.

It is poignant to realise that Sir David would have spotted the subject of these two questions and, given his long interest in animal welfare, should in any just world be bobbing behind me now to ask a question.

Stealing a pet from its loving owner is a particularly cruel crime, causing heartbreak for the family and great distress to the pet. The Home Office is working with the police to ensure that pet thefts are recorded in a consistent manner and are readily identifiable within the information management systems of forces across England and Wales. The pet theft taskforce has recently made a series of recommendations, which we are considering, and we will introduce a new criminal offence of pet abduction.

Julian Sturdy Portrait Julian Sturdy
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I add my tribute to Sir David. As the Minister said, he dedicated his career to better animal welfare. This topic was very close to Sir David’s heart, and I know he had been lobbying the Minister very hard on it.

As we continue to see a rise in pet thefts by criminal gangs who use the proceeds to fund further criminal activity, does the Minister agree that we have to bring forward legislation on this as quickly as possible? We cannot delay any further. Can he give a clear timescale for when we can vote on that important legislation in this House?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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My hon. Friend is right that, unfortunately, one of the effects of the pandemic, and particularly of the rise in the value of pets, particularly dogs and cats that are happily in demand by many families who look to them for companionship, has been a criminal phenomenon that we need to address. The taskforce has made a number of recommendations and, although I cannot give him an absolute timetable today, he has our undertaking that we are keen to move as swiftly as possible to give him the opportunity to put this offence on the statute book.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes
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Like other hon. Members here, I am honoured to ask this question in memory of Sir David. I met local residents concerned about pet theft recently, in Hanmer, in my constituency. What message would the Minister give to those constituents, who have been worried about this issue locally?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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It is typical of my hon. Friend that he would gather his constituents together to give voice to their concern in this area. The message I would give them is that we recognise their distress and concern. As dog and cat owners ourselves, it is inconceivable to us that our pets might be stolen; the damage and trauma that would be caused to my family if that awful event were to happen is keenly in our minds. The policy development work on this offence has begun. As I said earlier, we hope to bring legislation forward as quickly as possible, so that he and the many other Members who are very interested in this subject and recognise the distress that has been caused in communities up and down the land by this crime can exercise their free democratic will and put the offence on the statute book.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Ian Paisley. He is not here. I call Crispin Blunt.

Crispin Blunt Portrait Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con)
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4. Whether her Department plans to take steps to reschedule psilocybin to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. [R]

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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We currently have no plans to reschedule psilocybin to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recently published stage 1 of its advice on reducing barriers to research on controlled drugs. We will consider the advice, including its implications for psilocybin, carefully before responding.

Crispin Blunt Portrait Crispin Blunt
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Does my right hon. Friend understand the emerging potential of the psychedelic class of drugs, with psilocybin to the fore, to treat depression, trauma and addiction? Some of this science was emerging in the 1960s, before our current drugs laws closed it down. In 2019, 90,503 of our fellow citizens were driven to suicide by their depression or trauma, or their rock-bottom in addiction has been death. If there is any scale of potential for these drugs, and it appears that there is, any further delay in getting the science and research going is not defensible—in fact, it is a morally disgraceful abrogation of our duty to the public good.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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As a founder of the all-party group on life sciences, I am well aware of the potential of any number of compounds to assist us in the constant battle against mental and physical illness, and of the need for this country to lead in research that might alleviate the problem, not just here, but in the rest of the world. My hon. Friend will know that we reschedule particular compounds where medicines are approved on the advice of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and of the ACMD. He will know that, for example, in June last year we placed Epidyolex, a cannabis-based medicine used to treat certain forms of epilepsy, in schedule 5 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, following exactly that sort of advice. There are ongoing trials and research studies into psilocybin taking place in the UK; a medicine has yet to be licensed by the MHRA, but if and when one is, we will consider rescheduling.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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To catch up on what was said there, can the Minister tell me on what research the UK Government are basing this current policy on psilocybin? Can that research be made available?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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The research is being undertaken in a number of academic institutions, as far as I am aware. I am happy to dig out the detail of where specifically this is being researched—I do not have it to hand. It is worth reinforcing the point that the process for the rescheduling of compounds is that approval is given for a medicine by the MHRA, and advice is then taken from the ACMD as to the rescheduling, as we did with Epidyolex. As soon as those medicines are approved by the MHRA for use, I would be happy to consider rescheduling.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) (Con)
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6. What steps her Department is taking to support victims of domestic abuse.

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Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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8. What recent assessment she has made of the potential merits of implementing drug safety testing for (a) festivals and (b) events in the night-time economy.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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No illicit drug can be assumed to be safe.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
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I echo the tributes to Sir Davis Amess and James Brokenshire, and send my commiserations to their friends and families.

Over a single weekend in Bristol this summer, one young person died and 20 others were hospitalised, leading to police warnings about a lethal batch of pills circulating in the city. It just is not enough for the Government to say, “Don’t do drugs”; that clearly does not work. Will the Government work with organisations such as The Loop, which provides testing, or provide their own drugs testing service as the Welsh Government have been doing since 2014? That is the only way that they are going to save lives.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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We are obviously all distressed to hear the news from Bristol. Any life lost to drugs is obviously to be mourned. Anyone interested in lawfully undertaking activities that include the possession, supply or production of controlled drugs, including through the course of drug testing services, can already apply to the Home Office for a domestic licence, and they will be subject to the usual visits and considerations about the activities that they undertake. I understand the hon. Lady’s implication that we should look at this subject in the round. It is our hope that we will publish later this year a comprehensive, cross-Government strategy on drugs in the round, including on their impact and what we can do about them.

Laura Farris Portrait Laura Farris (Newbury) (Con)
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9. What steps her Department is taking to work with the police in helping to reduce violence against women and girls.

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Mark Fletcher Portrait Mark Fletcher (Bolsover) (Con)
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T2. May I place on record my condolences to the families of the two colleagues whom we have lost? I recently undertook residents surveys in Heath and Shirebrook in my constituency, which showed strong demand for more bobbies on the beat to tackle antisocial behaviour. What progress have we made in getting more police on the streets in Derbyshire?

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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I commend my hon. Friend for engaging with his constituents on what, very often, is easily the closest subject to all of our constituents’ hearts. He will be pleased to hear that we are now approaching the halfway mark on our 20,000 extra police officers, which obviously represents a gross recruitment of something over 20,000. I hope that he will feel the effect of the now well over 100 police officers recruited by Derbyshire constabulary on the streets of his constituency in the weeks to come.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
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I first met Sir David Amess when I entered this House in 2015 and he approached me, as a new Member, to ask how I was and how I was settling in. That conversation captured the essence of Sir David, who was a kind, thoughtful and generous man, always cheerful and smiling. He was dedicated to the service of his constituents, he had passionate beliefs and he worked across party lines on causes that mattered to him and those he served. He was respected and held in affection across the House, and we on the Opposition Benches send our condolences to his wife Julia, and to all his loved ones and parliamentary colleagues.

Sadly, another Member of this House, James Brokenshire, was taken from us too young. I worked with James on a number of security issues, and he was a man of firm beliefs, staunch integrity and unfailing good humour. He pursued causes with passion and respect, and represented politics at its best. We on these Benches send our sympathies to his wife Cathy, and to all his loved ones and parliamentary colleagues.

I would also like to send my best wishes to Lynne Owens, thank her for her work as director general of the National Crime Agency and wish her a swift recovery from her recent surgery.

Mr Speaker, I am grateful to your office and to the Home Secretary for the work on MPs’ security since the heinous crime that was committed on Friday, but I wonder whether she Secretary could offer some more details on the review. Can she confirm when the review she has announced will be completed, and what she will do to ensure that any recommendations are applied consistently by police forces up and down the country?

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Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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T4. I echo every comment made about Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire. The introduction in 2004 of damping to the police funding formula has cost Bedfordshire about 95 officers on the beat. Will the Government commit to scrap damping as quickly as possible, to be fair to Bedfordshire and the other forces affected?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I have made a commitment in this House before that we will introduce a new funding formula for police forces across the land before the next election. That is the objective we are currently working towards, although I would warn everybody that all cannot have prizes.

Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab)
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T5. On behalf of my constituents and myself, I pass on my deepest condolences to the families of Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire.The Secretary of State will no doubt be aware of the long-running extradition cases of the west midlands three, two of whom are constituents of mine. These three people are British citizens and have endured raids, arrest and threat of imminent extradition. Given that the Crown’s lawyers could present no case whatsoever at the extradition proceedings and the threat of extradition has subsequently been dropped, will the Secretary of State outline exactly what evidence was used to justify these arrests in the first place? I am sure the Secretary of State will agree that my constituents deserve to hear answers.

Draft Alcohol Licensing (Coronavirus) (Regulatory Easements) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

General Committees
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None Portrait The Chair
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Before we begin, may I encourage Members to wear masks when they are not speaking, which is in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission? Please also give each other and members of staff space when seated, as you all have done, and, of course, when entering and leaving. Members should send their speaking notes by email to hansardnotes@parliament.uk, and officials in the Gallery should communicate electronically with Ministers.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Alcohol Licensing (Coronavirus) (Regulators Easements) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

I know that every Member of this House will be aware of a hospitality business in their constituency that has closed for good due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Research by Curren Goodden Associates suggests that around 6,000 licensed premises closed in 2020 across Britain, and Members will have heard of many others that are struggling to stay afloat.

This Government have taken a number of measures to support the hospitality industry and other businesses during the pandemic, including the coronavirus job retention scheme, which has paid a proportion of the wages of workers since the first lockdown, a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in the 2020-21 tax year, and a recovery loan scheme that supports access to finance for UK businesses as they grow and recover from the disruption of the pandemic.

We also introduced a number of regulatory easements through the Business and Planning Act 2020, among which were temporary measures to make obtaining a pavement licence quicker and easier for those who wish to set up chairs and tables outdoors. A complementary measure on alcohol licensing gave a temporary off-sales permission to 38,000 licensed premises that did not have one.

The draft statutory instrument is relatively modest and contains three measures. The first is an extension for a further year, until 30 September 2022, of the provisions of the Business and Planning Act to allow sales of alcohol for consumption off the premises of licensed premises that did not previously have that permission. The second measure amends the limits prescribed in section 107 of the Licensing Act 2003, increasing from 15 to 20 days the allowance that a premises user can give in respect of a premises for a temporary event notice, and increasing from 21 to 26 days the maximum number of days on which temporary events may be held at such premises in each of the calendar years 2022 and 2023. The increase in premises’ allowance of temporary event notices will allow unlicensed premises to host more revenue-generating events such as wedding receptions and markets where alcohol is sold, as well as enable licensed premises to extend hours to accommodate celebratory occasions. Finally, the draft statutory instrument amends existing the Licensing Act 2003 (Permitted Temporary Activities) (Notices) Regulations 2005, to prescribe revised versions of the relevant forms for temporary event notice and counter-notice.

In the light of Public Health England’s monitoring of trends and consumption during 2020, I would expect our measures to result in a change in where alcohol is consumed, rather than in more people drinking at harmful levels. As we have seen, hospitality businesses across the country are struggling because of the pandemic. Therefore, I hope that the measures to support the industry’s recovery will receive broad support, and I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

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Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for Halifax for her support, not least because I am not often called sensible by Members of other parties. She is right that we need to keep the measures under review. Of course, the people who most closely keep them under review are those who live proximate to premises that make use of them. It is worth pointing out that, notwithstanding these easements, the police and, indeed, councils retain their powers under section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 to issue closure notices on premises that are causing a nuisance because of their licence status. There is also, of course, particularly under TENs, an accelerated review process in the event of one being granted and then subsequently resulting in nuisance, but we will of course keep this under review. On that note, I commend the measure to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Local Policing

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 7th September 2021

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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I heartily endorse my hon. Friend’s closing remarks. We offer our eternal thanks to those who keep us safe on a daily basis. I am privileged to see them in operation at close hand, and have done so for more or less the past decade. My admiration for them grows every day. As he said, they have our thanks both individually and collectively, as a United Kingdom body of men and women to be admired and protected.

I commend my hon. Friend for bringing his constituents’ concerns to the Floor of the House. One of the great characteristics of our democracy, which I have outlined to my constituents again and again—not least during the Brexit debates that raged in this country—is that somebody can get hold of us by the lapels in the high street in Andover or in Portlethen, and give us a good shake; then, on a Tuesday evening, we can show up in the House of Commons and grab the Minister responsible by the lapels, and give him or her a good shake; and the Minister in turn can grab the Home Secretary or, indeed, the Prime Minister, and give them a good poke about something that matters to people in a relatively small community. I am hesitant to raise the spectre of Brexit in this debate, but as I said to my constituents at the time of the referendum, “What would the Interior Minister of a new United States of Europe care about the police station in Portlethen or the number of police officers in Andover?” It is marvellous that we are able to bring these issues to the Floor of this House and to debate them with the people who are responsible.

Sadly, though, as my hon. Friend pointed out, in this case I am not my proxy, for policing runs only in England and Wales. I am therefore obviously twice removed in the situation. First, it is obviously a devolved matter. Secondly, it is a matter that falls under operational independence. It is effectively for the chief constable in each area to decide on strategy, workforce planning, and the buildings and vehicles deployed in aid of the protection of the communities they serve. Although they will obviously listen closely to local communities, it is fundamentally their decision. Having said that, I do understand the strong concern that my hon. Friend has raised about the notion of presence. One of the key concerns that we all hear as constituency Members of Parliament is this concern about police presence: the idea that there should be governed, guarded space in the public realm; that every street in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should be safe for public use so that people can go about their business unmolested; and that the guardians of that should be the police.

This was illustrated to me very strongly back in 2011, when I was deputy Mayor for policing in London and Assembly Member for West Central. There was a horrible murder in Shepherd’s Bush, and the then borough commander in Hammersmith and Fulham—a chap called Kevin Hurley, who went on to be the police and crime commissioner in Surrey—called a public meeting that I attended. There was a row of people at the front of this very large public meeting, with 300 people there, and one of the issues that came up was the fact that Shepherd’s Bush Green police station was not open 24 hours a day; it was closed at night and people were concerned about it. Kevin said, “That’s great: I will reopen the police station if you want me to. Now tell me, which police officers would you like me to bring in off patrol to man the desk?” Of course the audience said, “No, no—we don’t want you to do that.” He then said, rather smartly, “Well, why don’t we leave the lights on so it looks like it’s open?” They thought that was a jolly good idea because the police station was a proxy for presence. It was as important to them as I know the police station in Portlethen is to my hon. Friend’s constituents.

By the way, while that might not be a suitable building, it is a small, handsome stone building with a great history to it, as my hon. Friend said, as part of the former Grampian police, so I can see why there is disappointment locally that it may be closing. I know that he is engaging very closely with Police Scotland and has been quite innovative in his suggestions of a replacement—not least, I understand, some presence in the local Asda, which might also be a useful proxy for a police station and somewhere that police officers could operate from. However, as I say, I am twice removed from that decision. I urge him and his constituents to keep up that engagement with Police Scotland, not least because, if the police station does go, that underlines the need for, exactly as he said, a strong presence on the streets of Portlethen, as he wants across the whole of his very beautiful constituency.

I urge my hon. Friend to keep pushing on this, not least because in England and Wales there is a desire, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) mentioned, that we are trying to fulfil with the recruitment of 20,000 extra police officers. Of course, that is 20,000 gross. The overall recruitment over three years will in the end, to backfill retirements, need to be about 45,000. That will push many police forces up to levels of policing that they have not seen for some time. On top of that, a lot of police and crime commissioners are recruiting beyond their allocation from the police uplift so that some parts of the country will have more police officers than ever before. The Kent constabulary, for example, can already boast that it has the highest number of police officers that it has ever had in its history.

In response to the hon. Gentleman’s challenge, which is a fair one, I urge him to look to his police and crime commissioner to do the same as a number of other commissioners and put their money behind their own part of the recruitment campaign. West Midlands is doing well. There is a large allocation of new police officers coming, but there is always more that can be done. I urge him to support us in trying to get the maximum number of police officers we can for the money that is allowed to us.

I am very pleased that my hon. Friend underlined the integral nature of Police Scotland—the vital part that it plays in the architecture of UK policing. It is absolutely the case that, while the governance and accountability framework for Police Scotland is devolved, its role in the safety of the whole United Kingdom is absolutely critical. UK policing can only succeed or fail as a whole. This was neatly outlined to us—I was pleased that he mentioned it—with the advent of Operation Venetic. This extraordinary operation—a magnificent achievement by the National Crime Agency, which of course works across the whole of the UK—cracked open the bespoke criminal communications system known as Encrochat. It revealed some awful horrors across the whole of the United Kingdom that we were able to get ahead of. Chief among them was the targeting of Scotland by organised crime specifically for the trafficking of drugs. My hon. Friend mentioned some of the remarkable results that continue to come from the intelligence gathered as part of that operation.

The most impactful result for me was that, as part of Operation Venetic, Kent constabulary was able to bust open a factory in its county that was manufacturing street benzos—benzodiazepines—specifically for use in Scotland, where they are a plague in places such as Glasgow, causing so many drug deaths, which are a terrible tragedy in Scotland. They were being manufactured for export to Scotland. As part of that raid, the police recovered 27 million tablets, which for a country of 6.5 million people is quite a few tablets each and a hell of a lot of money that would have been drained out of Glasgow, all of it leading to degradation and misery north of the border. The role that UK policing can play together, particularly to suppress drug supply and take on organised crime, and the critical nature of Police Scotland in that, has never been more important.

I was very pleased just a few weeks ago to pay a very interesting visit to Police Scotland to see the work that it is doing, not least at Gartcosh, its crime campus. I am very impressed by the work it does and by the leadership of Police Scotland at the moment, but I am convinced that there is always more we can do together, not least because the drugs problem in Scotland—the solving of which is as dear to my heart as solving it in Andover or anywhere else in England and Wales—is one we will only crack together. Scotland has some advantages, in that the ability of gangs to get drugs into Scotland is restricted. There are basically two roads in and two rail lines in, give or take, which gives us enormous opportunities for interception, but the greater sharing of technology, the putting together of our heads and the binding of our efforts as one United Kingdom to confront this plague and crime will be successful. That is a key part of our “Beating crime plan”, which we published just before the recess, making sure that we work together as a whole country in fighting crime, at the same time as getting the basics right.

One of the chapters in our “Beating crime plan” is about excellence in the basics, and it speaks to the desire of local policing. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, I and every Member in this House want to ensure that our constituents know they are safe, feel safe and see that they are safe on a daily basis, because the brave men and women of Police Scotland, Hampshire police, West Midlands police, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and all those police forces are able to be out there, visible, doing their job and protecting us all for the good of the whole.

I do not think that my hon. Friend should in the slightest apologise for bringing this matter before the House. This is what we are here for. If we are not here to talk about the problems, worries and concerns of our individual constituents, what on earth is the point?

Question put and agreed to.

Tackling Knife Crime

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. Apologies for my tardiness at the start, coming in a bit late. I had made the schoolboy error of going to Westminster Hall itself, but of course we are not there.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen) on securing this debate and on her speech. I congratulate everyone who has spoken on the knowledgeable and thoughtful way in which they approached a difficult topic. It is easy to have a sense of moral panic, which does not lead to solutions. I hope that the Minister has listened to everything that has been said by Members today on what needs to be done.

Practical measures, for example, include what my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) said about bleed control kits. I have heard about and seen that campaign, and I have talked to Emily Spurrell about the great job that she will do and about the support that she needs. My hon. Friend and all Members present are doing an incredible job on behalf of their constituents, trying to reduce violence. That has to be the first job of us as politicians, to keep people safe. What more important job do we have?

We heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) and for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) who, like me, are from south London constituencies and have particular issues. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East talked about relationships with the black community. It is of course incredibly important to understand that although I might feel that if something happens to me I can go to the police as my place of safety, there are communities that do not feel that. That needs to be fixed.

I pay tribute to my police force in Croydon. Every single week on Friday morning, the community and the police meet. They have built relationships ever since the death of George Floyd, to the point where there is a new trust and respect on both sides and a much better approach to things like handcuffing during stop and search. On that front, some brilliant activities by the police are going on. We need to harness and replicate those.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall, who now chairs the APPG, which I founded and was absolutely my baby for three years; these things are so important. She is doing a brilliant job keeping up the campaign.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) made an interesting speech. He was talking about what I was talking to some police officers about the other day: people who are in the Scouts learn how to use pocket knives. People should learn how to use knives and what the implications might be, the knock-on impact, of using them wrongly and stabbing somebody. Many young people I have met have no concept of what might happen if they stab someone in the leg. They think, “They will be fine”, but of course they are not—the chances are, they will die. If we had more uniformed organisations teaching people how dangerous those things are, but how to use them safely, we might have a slightly different approach to some of the issues.

The spokesperson for the SNP, the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Allan Dorans), talked about the Scottish approach, which I know well. I visited and spent a long time with people from the violence reduction unit in Scotland and with others in America who have done similar things. The public health approach is absolutely the right one. There is plenty of evidence, which the Government are yet to pick up or act on, sadly.

Yesterday, I was with a senior police officer who said to me, “We are in a perfect storm. We have had years of cuts to services.” My hon. Friend the Member for Luton North, I think, said that the children who suffered the cuts 10 years ago are now the teenagers who are involved in knife crime, and that is exactly what the police officer was saying to me yesterday. He added that, on top of that, we have had a year and a half of covid restrictions with people in lockdown. Now potentially we face a summer of violence.

Knife crime reached its highest level on record in 2019-20, at more than 50,000 offences. That is an extraordinary number, which has doubled since 2013-14, when there were 25,000 offences. Between 2010-11 and 2019-20, knife crime rose in every single police force in the country. Since 2014, there has been a 72% increase in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds admitted to accident and emergency for knife wounds and the most common age group for victims of homicide recorded in the year ending March 2020 was 16 to 24-year-olds. That was followed by 25 to 34-year-olds. While the effects of lockdown saw a fall at the beginning of the year ending September 2020, there were still 47,119 offences: an average of 120 knife crimes a day.

Last week, the UK’s anti-slavery commissioner found that for the first time more children than adults were identified as potential modern slavery victims last year. The commissioner’s annual report found that of the 10,689 potential victims referred to the national referral mechanism, 4,849 were children. The unrelenting rise, which Members have discussed today, in county-lines drug dealing, where criminal gangs exploit children, is fuelling violence. and the Government are simply not doing enough to stamp down on criminal drug gangs. The Minister for Crime and Policing said last November:

“Back in the early part of the previous decade, we thought we had beaten knife crime, but unfortunately it is back.”—[Official Report, 9 November 2020; Vol. 683, c. 595.]

He may be good at acknowledging that there is a serious problem with serious violence in this country, but not so good at actually doing something about it.

More than 20 teenagers have been killed in London this year and many more have had their lives cut short across the country. How many children will die before the Government recognise this as the violent epidemic that it is? I came into the House in 2017 determined to tackle the scourge of rising levels of serious violence. I set up and chaired the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, and it is very sad to be speaking in the House today when yet another young life has been lost in my constituency. Two weeks ago, a 16-year-old boy called Camron Smith was murdered in his own home in front of his mother in a horrific murder that could have been avoided.

Last week in the Chamber, I asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), whether the Government would commit to helping every vulnerable child this summer. She replied by saying that they were doing that through increased investment through the Department for Education funding over the summer, but that funding is limited. It amounts to a few pennies per child and excludes a large number of children who might otherwise need safeguarding support. The Government’s education recovery proposals are one tenth of Labour’s offer and, unlike Labour, contain no money for breakfast clubs or extra-curricular activities. The Under-Secretary referred to the Youth Endowment Fund, which is welcome, but it is £200 million over 10 years. Again, statistically, if we look at the number of children we need to help, that sum is small fry in comparison with what is needed.

I do not need to repeat the level of cuts to youth services that we have seen over this period of government, as well as the cuts to local government, policing, police staff, domestic-abuse risk officers and forensic officers. We have not just lost police officers on the beat; we have lost the whole apparatus behind that of people who actually help prevent and solve crime. We have 8,000 fewer police staff now than we did 10 years ago and more than 7,000 fewer police community support officers. We know that PCSOs were a key link between communities and the police: people we know, see and understand, and we and know their names. We have a relationship with them and they might talk to someone’s mother if that person got into trouble. That has been decimated by the Government.

We have heard many solutions and I think we would all be happy to sit down with the Minister and talk about those further. We know it is possible to reduce violence. As the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Allan Dorans) says, violence is not inevitable. We know that things can be done. We know that knife crime goes in peaks and troughs and when there are interventions, violence goes down. However, those interventions need to be long term and rooted in communities.

It is important that the Government, local authorities, the police and the voluntary sector are able to join together to prevent, recognise and respond to violence. Central to that is the need to prevent the criminalisation of children, as well as early intervention to prevent young people from becoming involved in violence in the first place. So many cases of youth violence tell the same sad story in which the victim and the young person inflicting violence have both had adverse childhood experiences.

We need to look to authorities such as Lambeth Council. Over the summer, Lambeth has taken the approach of identifying the most vulnerable children—the 100 most vulnerable, say—who are at risk of getting involved in crime or who are already involved in crime. The council has a plan for what each of those children will be doing over the summer and where—for example, this week, that child will be going to this activity; the following week, they will go to that one, and so on. That is a really interesting and important approach, and one that we can look at replicating. The amount of money that we spend on interventions with our young people— social care, council and police interventions over the years—is probably absolutely extortionate, but all those interventions do not actually amount to the protection we need to give those children so that they are not getting involved in crime.

It is time that we looked at the justice system and sentencing. That is a really difficult area because we are talking about children. We know that prison is not the answer, but the police would say that if a vulnerable and exploited child becomes involved in a criminal gang, and he carries a knife, no one will tell the police, so they do not know. If he stabs someone in the leg as part of the criminal activity, that person will go to hospital, but no one will tell the police, so they do not know. If he then gets caught with a knife, the police know, but there is no intervention to take him out of that situation. He will be referred to the youth offending team and there might be some kind of intervention.

This is very difficult, but I know of cases where young people have been caught carrying knives and, because there was no intervention at that point, they have gone on either to commit murder or to be murdered themselves. This conversation is very difficult because they are young children. Of course, we need to do all the prevention and intervention, but we also need to think about when we do it. I know of a case where somebody was caught carrying a 3-foot zombie knife and nothing happened as a result. I think the Minister needs to look at that.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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That is exactly what knife crime prevention orders are for.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As well as prevention, at some point, we need to think about wrapping our arms around those people. I do not think that knife crime prevention orders are the answer, but they are being piloted. [Interruption.] The Minister talks about them from a sedentary position. He announced them with great fanfare in the middle of the knife-crime panic a couple of years ago, but nothing has actually happened yet. They are being piloted now, two years after they were talked about as the answer to everything. I am just saying that we need to have a conversation about the pathway and about exactly what happens to young people when they come to the attention of the police.

As I said in the Chamber last week, our summer holidays should be full of opportunities, including youth work, mentorship programmes, sports clubs, mental health support, as well as good neighbourhood policing, of course. In the medium term, we need proper wraparound support for at-risk children, including different housing when it is needed—moving people away from the area where they are susceptible to violence is a huge issue—people to talk to, mentoring, and proper youth services. In the longer term, we need to completely change the way that we tackle violence. The Government need to do more work in schools to better detect, prevent and eliminate violence, and they need to work with the NHS to properly treat the epidemic and immunise our society.

Under this Government, criminals are getting away with it, pathways to crime are wide open, and our children are being exploited by criminal thugs and groomed into violence. Our justice system is not taking the right response, and our Government are not taking the problem seriously. My question to the Minister is: where is the emergency summer plan to stop our children fighting and murdering one another over the summer holidays, and how does he plan to stop riots over the summer? Knife crime prevention orders have not been piloted yet; the education recovery plan is one tenth of what it needs to be; the Youth Endowment Fund is spread super-thin over 20 years; and the summer activities fund amounts to pennies per child. We need action. The scale of the problem needs to be matched by a proper response, because at the moment, drug use is rising, crime is rising, and the Government have no summer plan.

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Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I should begin by recognising the important reason that the hon. Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen) referenced for raising this particular issue in debate, and expressing my condolences to the family of Humza Hussain on that horrendous event, recognising that his family are sadly going through something that too many families have gone through. Like the hon. Lady, I have sat with too many of those families over the years and seen the devastation that is wrought by these terrible acts, within the family, among friends and loved ones, and in the wider community that is affected by these events.

It is clear from today’s debate that this is an important issue to lots of Members from across the country, as indeed it is to me and to the whole Government. It should come as no surprise that it is an issue of importance, given that the Prime Minister was previously Mayor of London and dealt with a similar knife crime epidemic in the capital, which was reflected across the whole of the country, and he dealt with it successfully over that period, if I might say so. It is not enough, but we managed to get the number of teenagers stabbed and killed in the capital down from 29 in 2008 to just eight in 2012, and kept it at a low level. That is obviously eight too many, but nevertheless we learned a lot during that period, and we are trying to put that learning into effect as we do our work now.

We are taking significant steps, and I had hoped that they might be recognised across the House, because a number of Members here represent areas of the country that are particularly affected by knife crime—areas where we have been both putting in significant extra resources and galvanising effort to try to achieve a step change in the response of all the partners who are required to tackle knife crime: not just the police, or indeed the Government, but everybody else as well. That has involved personal effort as well as investment across the piece, not just with the police but in local government.

I will begin by reflecting on the police. As Members know, we are recruiting a huge number of police officers at the moment: the latest published figure is approaching 9,000. We are well ahead of schedule on getting 20,000 extra police officers, with many parts of the country back to where they were pre-2010 in terms of numbers. In important parts of the country, of course, police-officer numbers have remained high. For example, in London—we have three Members representing London here today—the number of officers in the Metropolitan police has been consistently higher than it was at the all-time low for murder in the capital, which was 2014. That number has been consistently higher ever since; much of that has been down to Government funding, and obviously, that number will go higher still. We believe that those police officers will make a big difference—including the 74 in Bedfordshire so far, with more to come—and that by having a significant police presence in a focused way, we can do an awful lot of preventive work tonight.

The hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Allan Dorans) has referenced the experience of Glasgow. I met Karyn McCluskey, who was leading the charge in Glasgow all those years ago. It is often forgotten that police enforcement played a very significant role in the fight against knife crime in Glasgow. Certainly in the early years, it was the use of heavy police enforcement, identifying and removing knives from the street, that created the space for some of those other, more supportive, therapeutic interventions to take place, and police enforcement still has a part to play. Although Scotland has had success on knife crime, sadly it is still plagued to a certain extent by this offence: we have seen machete gangs openly attacking people in the street in recent times, as we have across the rest of the United Kingdom. The experience of Glasgow is obviously something that we would love to learn from and benefit from across the whole of the country.

Critically, we are rolling out significant resources to police forces across the land as we speak. Over the past couple of years, there has been a surge fund focused on those 18 forces in whose areas knife crime and violence is most prevalent, and that funding has been used to good effect by the police. We are bringing a sharper focus to it this year, with the allocation of what we are calling GRIP funding, which is looking at hotspots where we want police to take a very targeted, analytical, data-driven approach towards dealing with violence in particular parts of their geography. That is now embedding and will be in place during the summer. It is part of our plan to deal with a possible resumption of violence, post release from lockdown.

The hon. Lady is right that we saw a significant reduction during the past year, with a spike in August as we were released from lockdown. We have put in place comprehensive plans with the police to ensure that we stay on top of any such repetition over the summer. That funding is rolling out now. I am personally driving that programme, and I have met lots of those forces to talk about how they are going to put that funding into place.

We are now in year three of violence reduction units, which similarly received significant funding as part of our £130 million package this year. In my experience of year three, we are seeing a much greater sophistication in violence reduction units, and a much greater level of partnership in areas that receive that funding. For example, I sat down with representatives from Greater Manchester this morning, to go through their plans and look at their violence reduction work. It was very powerful and a sign that those units have matured in terms of the identification of individuals and what they are going to do to support and assist them in turning away from knife crime.

That is a critical part of our architecture in 18 parts of the country. Bedfordshire has a unit that has received funding of £2.6 million. It is a valuable hub for the co-ordination of work that is needed to fight violent crime. We have now funded eight interventions across Bedfordshire, reaching about 12,000 young people. I hope that that will have an impact in the hon. Lady’s constituency, as it will across the rest of the county. A number of Members made the point that, at the same time as looking towards the police to help with enforcement immediately—tonight, because we know there are people out there carrying knives—we must also do the long-term work that targets the crime at its root. That will be done, as the hon. Lady said, by investing in prevention and early intervention.

The hon. Lady disparaged the amount of money that is being invested through the Youth Endowment Fund, but that misunderstands what the fund is there to do. It is investing in transforming our understanding of what works, ensuring that it sits alongside other organisations, funding grants and evaluation programmes, so that they can maximise their spending, whether that is local authorities, police and crime commissioners, police forces or health services, many of which will have to work alongside one another in the fight on serious violence, once the serious violence duty comes into place later this year.

We want to ensure that every pound spent has significant impact. In my experience of talking to many of the groups working with young people to prevent crime, although they are often well meaning and committed, there is often a paucity of evidence, a lack of an investable proposition that what they are doing is working, beyond the anecdotal. There are some programmes that we are investing significant amounts of money in, which we know have an effect, and where there is evaluation.

For example, there is our investment in programmes that look at teachable moments, where young people have a moment of crisis that allows us to get into their thinking and steer them on to a different path, either in police custody or accident and emergency, hopefully the former. Investing in that holds enormous promise and the evaluation shows that it is a strong way to get people out of violence and, in particular, out of gangs, and to move them on to a better life.

We want to ensure that all the money we spend is spent on trained, professional, therapeutic intervention. There are other funding pots that can look at the more general provision around youth services, and I recognise what has been said about those over the years. We want to ensure that our crime prevention focus is sharp and targeted, to ensure that we can exactly target the young people the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) pointed to in Lambeth, to ensure that they head towards a life of truth and light.

Alongside that, there is a lot we can do from a legislative point of view.

Alongside that, there is a lot we can do from a legislative point of view. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been referenced. As I mentioned, that contains the important serious violence duty, which for the first time will put a statutory obligation on all partners in an area to come alongside the police and work to prevent violence, plan, understand the data, look at what the funding streams might be and leverage off each other.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In my contribution, I referred to the need for a strategy or partnership between the Minister’s Department and education. Is that part of the strategy? If it is, I believe that is core to changing the mindset but also to improving the situation. I just ask the question.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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That is a good question. It is certainly the case that violence reduction units, which are led locally, include wider education programmes, and I have seen good examples of that. They are there to generally educate young people about the dangers of carrying a knife, and the fact that someone carrying a knife is more likely to be a victim than to protect themselves. I have seen some imaginative use of such programmes. I was in the west midlands a couple of weeks ago, where a virtual reality set-up was used with schoolchildren to indicate to them the best way in which to continue their lives.

I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken a strong interest in the Bill. It contains serious violence reduction orders, which give the police the power, as the hon. Member for Croydon Central pointed out, to stop those individuals who are known knife carriers, and are known to have been convicted in the past and to have shown a proclivity to violence. They are designed to discourage and deter people from carrying weapons, given the increased likelihood of getting caught, and to protect offenders—to give them an excuse to move away from being drawn into exploitation by criminal gangs.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi
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On the serious violence reduction orders, can the Minister confirm that there will be a full evaluation before they are rolled out across the country?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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They have been through significant scrutiny. Obviously, they will be rolled out subject to evaluation, as we are doing with knife crime prevention orders. As the hon. Lady said, we are piloting those at the moment in London. Those orders have both a positive and a negative impact. For example, somebody subject to a knife crime prevention order can be stopped from going into Croydon town centre, but at the same time in the same order be required to attend an anger management course or some kind of training course—some positive activity that would steer them in the right direction. We will look at any innovation that comes forward and pilot it and try it. Such is the urgency of the problem that there is no monopoly on ideas; we should be willing to try everything.

We can also do more to remove knives. Last week, we commenced the provisions of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, bringing in a ban on a range of knives and other weapons: specific firearms; cyclone knives, which are a sort of spiral knife—Members may have seen those deeply unpleasant weapons for sale online—and rapid-fire rifles. Anyone who possesses these weapons could now face up to 10 years in prison. We think that this ban will help save lives and get more weapons off the street. Certainly, as part of the surrender programme, enormous numbers of these weapons have been surrendered to us.

Although I understand the desire of Members present to push the Government to ever greater efforts, I would like to reassure everybody that there is an enormous amount of effort and commitment going in, both at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, and more widely at the Department for Education and among all those partners who are required to drive down this problem. I know that there has been a lot of challenge this afternoon about the amount of resources going in. I just point out that when I was deputy Mayor of London dealing with a knife crime epidemic back in 2008, that was when spending under Gordon Brown was at an all-time high. Police officer numbers were similarly high and there were youth groups all over the place. Yet still our young people were stabbing each other in great numbers. The connection between knife crime and social structure is not as simple as people sometimes portray.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones
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Will the Minister give way?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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No, because I am running out of time.

I finish by posing a question. We think this is a priority and we are putting enormous effort into it, but the challenge has been made that the issue is very much about poverty. What if it were the case that violence causes poverty, not poverty, as a number of Members have alleged, that causes violence, and that our job, in order to create prosperity in Luton, Vauxhall and everywhere else, is to clear that violence out of the way so people can build the lives for themselves and their children that they deserve?

Deaths in Police Custody

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(6 months ago)

Written Statements
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Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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On 23 July 2015, the Home Office announced a major review into deaths and serious incidents in police custody, to be carried out by the right hon. Dame Elish Angiolini, QC. On 30 October 2017, Dame Elish’s review was published, alongside the Government’s substantive response. In December 2018, a progress update was published focusing on three main themes: supporting families, strengthening accountability and preventing deaths.

The ministerial board on deaths in custody has continued to oversee and drive progress work resulting from the recommendations in the Angiolini Review. Today, as co-chair of the ministerial board on deaths in custody, I report on the progress made in delivering this work programme since the last update.

There has been significant progress made in response to the recommendations made by Dame Elish. Of the 110 recommendations, 65 have been completed fully, with a further 20 completed in part. The Government update addresses in detail each of Dame Elish’s twelve thematic areas covered in her report: restraint, custody environment, health and wellbeing, funding for families and family support, communications, investigations, coroners and inquests, accountability, training, learning, statistics and research.

Since 2018, the Home Office has substantially reduced the use of police custody as a place of safety for people undergoing a mental health crisis and introduced a major package of reforms to improve the effectiveness of the police complaints and discipline systems in order to increase accountability and help reduce delays. The Department for Health and Social Care has rolled out NHS England and NHS Improvement-commissioned liaison and diversion services to ensure when vulnerable people are in custody that their needs are identified and addressed and introduced the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018 (Seni’s law) to increase the oversight and management of the use of force in mental health units, so that force is only ever used as a last resort.

The Ministry of Justice has undertaken a range of work to make inquests more sympathetic to the needs of bereaved people, including updating materials to aid families throughout the coronial process, publishing a protocol on how Government will act when it has interested persons status and encouraging local authorities to provide areas in coroners’ courts that are suitable to family needs.

The College of Policing has published guidelines on conflict management, including de-escalation and negotiations to promote safer resolutions to conflicts, updated its training to cover acute behavioural disturbance and introduced guidance on the role of a safety officer to monitor the use of restraint. Agencies, including the coroners’ services and Independent Office for Police Conduct, are continuing to ensure the voices of bereaved families and victims are part of their training, harnessing their knowledge to ensure they receive appropriate support and that no one else endures the same experience.

Since becoming Policing Minister, I have met a number of key stakeholders to develop my future priorities to tackle deaths in police custody in line with the spirit of Dame Elish’s recommendations. These include supporting police chiefs and police and crime commissioners to continue to drive forwards a zero-tolerance attitude to deaths in state custody, to treat each death as a serious tragedy and to learn quickly from deaths that do occur; ensuring detainees receive the response most appropriate to their needs as soon as possible and that appropriate health and social services are available; improving data collection to fully understand the extent to which protected characteristics impact detainees’ experience and use of powers within police custody and consideration of support for detainees judged at risk of post-custody suicide.

I am committed to keeping our work in this vital area transparent, and will ensure that regular updates on work to prevent deaths in police custody will be included in the published annual progress updates of the ministerial board on deaths in custody.

Every death in police custody is a tragedy. The impact is devastating on their loved ones. Dame Elish Angiolini’s report has been and remains a catalyst for change, and I am determined that we continue to prioritise preventing deaths in police custody and, in the tragic instances that they do occur, holding organisations to account and improving support for families to demonstrate how seriously we take these incidents.

I am placing a copy of our progress update in the Libraries of both Houses and on www.gov.uk.

[HCWS206]

Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group: Annual Report

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(6 months ago)

Written Statements
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Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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My noble Friend the Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) has today made the following written statement:

 I am pleased to announce the publication of the 4th annual report of the Biometrics and Forensic Ethics Group on 20 July 2021. The group provides Ministers with independent advice on matters relating to ethical issues in forensic science and biometrics and considers issues in data ethics.

 I would like to thank the group for their advice concerning the use and retention of biometric identifiers and for their advice on the development and testing of biometric technologies.

 The BFEG has published two reports this year; on the feasibility of using genetic genealogy techniques to assist with criminal investigations by UK law enforcement; and on the ethical issues arising from public-private collaborative use of live facial recognition technology. The group has also updated its ethical principles for the development and use of biometric and forensic technologies and the use of large datasets.

 The group continues to provide valuable advice and guidance: on policy changes relating to the use of the National DNA Database; in support of the Home Office Biometrics programme; and for projects involving large data sets or machine learning applications. The group also provided advice on a leaflet for arrestees explaining their rights regarding deletion of custody images.

 The Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group annual report can be viewed on the website of the group at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/biometrics-and-forensics-ethics-group

and a copy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS210]

Oral Answers to Questions

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Monday 12th July 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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Fire and rescue professionals work tirelessly to protect their communities. Currently, the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services is responsible for negotiating the pay and conditions of fire and rescue authority employees, and central Government have no direct role in this process. The Home Office will be launching a consultative White Paper on fire reform later this year.

Ian Lavery Portrait Ian Lavery [V]
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This Government should salute the courageous men and women of the fire and rescue service, who are the envy of the world, not constantly attack them. It is universally recognised that trade union membership and collective bargaining rights for workers are among the most effective ways to reduce inequality. “Brexit will not be used to reduce labour standards” was the constant cry from Government Ministers. Prove it, Home Secretary. Commitment after commitment has been given to protect and promote collective bargaining. Deliver it, Home Secretary. Stand by your word and confirm that the collective bargaining rights of firefighters within their chosen trade union will not be diminished in any way.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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The hon. Gentleman has a long association with the trade union movement, which I know he has found rewarding in every sense of the word. As I said, we are not, as a Government, involved in pay bargaining for the fire service. There is a national joint council, where the Fire Brigades Union is represented 50:50 with employers. As I am sure he will know, the FBU has accepted a pay offer for the coming year that will be payable from the 1st of this month. There will be a White Paper looking at reform in the future and we will see what comes out of that consultative process.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I do not think it is on good terms for the Minister to be sneaky in the way that he approached the answer. The underhand in there was a bit leading and I hope that we have a better relationship on all sides of this House.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I apologise, Mr Speaker.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you for that.

--- Later in debate ---
Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to help dismantle county lines drugs gangs.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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Since 2019, we have invested over £65 million to tackle county lines and drug supply, including £40 million committed this year. Through our county lines programme, we have become smarter in our activity against these ruthless gangs, resulting in more than 1,000 lines being closed, more than 5,800 arrests and more than 1,500 vulnerable adults and children safeguarded.

Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham [V]
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Drug dealing is a despicable crime that preys on the vulnerable, damages communities and causes misery to so many. Locally, the Burnley and Padiham neighbourhood policing team has set up a taskforce to tackle this issue. Will the Minister confirm that local police forces will continue to have the resources and support they need really to tackle this issue and rid our communities of it? Will he meet me and our police and crime commissioner, Andrew Snowden, to see what more we can do?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am always happy to meet police and crime commissioners and their Members of Parliament to talk about fighting crime, and I am very pleased that my hon. Friend is so embedded in the collective mission to reduce crime in his constituency. He is quite right that we are having enormous success with county lines, and that is off the back of significant Government investment. I am hopeful that police and crime commissioners can see the wider benefits of that programme in suppression of violence in their areas and will supplement the work that we are doing, but he should be assured that we will be making a very strong case in the spending round for continued investment. The one thing I have learned about the Treasury over the past few years is that it likes investing in success, and we are certainly having that with county lines.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his reply. He mentioned that the Home Office and officials are getting smarter, but so are gang members. They are getting so smart that even during lockdown they had the sheer audacity to use our young people to carry drugs up and down the country dressed as key workers. They are always one step ahead. They will continue to exploit our children until we have a clear definition on child criminal exploitation. It is estimated that over 4,000 teenagers in London alone are being criminally exploited. What additional steps will the Minister be taking to ensure the Government put their full weight behind addressing this real and serious issue?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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The hon. Lady rightly highlights one of the truly despicable aspects of county lines, which is the horrible exploitation and often victimisation of young people who are driven into the awful activity. She might be interested to know that we are very focused not necessarily on them but on those who control and victimise them. Much of the activity taking place in the three big forces we are funding—Liverpool, London and in the west midlands—is in targeting those line controllers who drive that exploitation. Interestingly, more and more of them are now not just being prosecuted for drugs importation or distribution, but for modern slavery or under child grooming legislation. That means that when they are convicted, they are put behind bars in the sex offenders wing, which is something not even they see as desirable. It is proving to be a very strong deterrent.

One of the key aspects of our work is gripping the transport network, in particular rail. We are finding that where we shut down their ability to use rail and they divert to roads, their likelihood of using young people, who cannot drive and are more likely to be arrested, is dropping. All our effort is being focused not just on restricting the supply of county lines across the country, but on rescuing and preventing young people from getting involved.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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There have been a number of illegal cannabis farms busted recently by Staffordshire police. Many are in derelict and abandoned buildings, including the empty former Woolworths building in Longton, which was raided for the second time in under two years recently, finding 1,500 marijuana plants. Will my hon. Friend look at what more can be done to tackle the use of empty and derelict buildings by organised gangs to cultivate drugs?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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My hon. Friend is known for his innovative approach to policy and he certainly raises something that merits further investigation. He is quite right that we have seen a growth in the number of cannabis farms across the country in all sorts of buildings. Notwithstanding the drugs they produce, there is very often disgusting oppression and victimisation taking place inside—people who are trafficked across the world to tend the plants—and we need to do something about that as well. He might be interested to know, however, that in their off-hours when police helicopters are not dealing with other crimes, one thing they do is circle around using thermal imaging cameras to find houses that are strangely heated to full blast in the middle of summer, indicating that there may be something afoot. That has been a very rewarding way of investigating those farms. I will look at his idea and pursue it further.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
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What steps she has taken to help ensure that Border Force staff are trained on exemptions from requirements for covid-19 testing.

--- Later in debate ---
Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to tackle scam callers.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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The Government will not tolerate criminals lining their pockets while causing serious financial and emotional harm to victims. We are working closely with the industry, regulators, law enforcement and consumer groups to crack down on scam callers. Additionally, since its launch last year, the National Cyber Security Centre has shut down over 50,000 scams and taken down almost 100,000 websites.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish
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Since the onset of the pandemic, many of my constituents have been contacting me to report an influx of fraudulent or scam telephone calls. The fraudsters behind these malicious enterprises often target elderly or vulnerable individuals, posing as Government agencies, telecom companies, banks or pension providers. Sadly, too many of these cases result in the scammers convincing, or indeed coercing, individuals to part with their hard-earned savings. Does my hon. Friend agree that we must clamp down on this dreadful criminal activity and ensure that there is somewhere that victims can go to immediately to get help?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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As our lives have moved increasingly online, so has crime, as my hon. Friend rightly says. Can there be any Member in the Chamber who has not received a dodgy email or text or even a recorded message on their telephone, which is becoming increasingly frequent? It is typical of my hon. Friend to point out the particular vulnerability of elderly people, who are often coming to grips with technology—many have had to do so over the past year or so for the first time in their lives—and being taken advantage of. He is right to say that we need to do all we can to help them, and through the economic crime victim care unit we are doing exactly that. We are working with the banking sector to ensure that victims are not left out of pocket through no fault of their own. Critically, we can all help the fight by reporting these emails and text messages, and I want to take a moment to say that anyone who gets a suspicious email should please forward it to the email address report@phishing.gov.uk and anyone who receives a similarly suspicious text should please forward it to 7726. The police and other services will be collating the texts and emails, and when they come from the same source, as they do on many occasions, they will act swiftly to shut it down.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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What estimate she has made of the number of people who are eligible for the EU settlement scheme but missed the application deadline of 30 June 2021.

Windrush Day 2021

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Thursday 1st July 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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I thank the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) for calling this debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) for his co-sponsorship. I also thank colleagues from across the House for their insightful and passionate contributions to this vitally important subject.

Last Tuesday, on Windrush Day, we came together to celebrate the Windrush generation. Events were held all over the United Kingdom and the sight of the Windrush flag flying above so many buildings, including here in Parliament—and, as we learned, Luton town hall—was a splendid illustration of what Windrush means to this country. The arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks 73 years ago was a signal moment in our history. It has become a symbol of the rich human tapestry that makes this country great. The passengers on that ship, their descendants and those who followed them have made and continue to make a unique and enormous contribution to the social, economic and cultural life of the United Kingdom.

As someone who was brought up in the constituency of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) and who has spent many years in city and local government in central London, I have shared triumph and tragedy, hate and love with the descendants of and members of the Windrush generation, and seen what an enormous contribution they make to our national life. As the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare) and others noted, many have been at the forefront of the fight against covid, working in the NHS, our emergency services and in other key frontline roles.

The Windrush generation have helped to shape our country. This is their home. Without them, we would be immeasurably diminished; and yet, despite all that, some of them suffered terrible injustices at the hands of successive Governments of all flags. The fact that so many people were wrongly made to feel that this country was not their home is a tragedy and an outrage. I know that the scars run deep. This sorry episode will not be forgotten, nor should it be. This Government have done and continue to do everything in our power to right those wrongs. I will set out some of the steps that we have taken.

In April 2018, the Home Office established a taskforce to ensure that individuals who have struggled to demonstrate their right to be here are supported in doing so. Since then, we have provided documentation to over 13,000 individuals, confirming their status. In April 2019, we launched the Windrush compensation scheme to ensure that members of the generation and their families are compensated for the losses and impacts that they have suffered because they were unable to demonstrate their lawful status in this country.

I reassure Members that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that everyone receives the maximum compensation to which they are entitled. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe mentioned a cap of £100,000. There is now no cap on the amount we will pay out. Since April 2019, we have offered more than £32.4 million, of which £24.4 million has been paid across 732 claims. They have been accepted by the individuals and, as I say, paid. I reassure Members that everybody who accepts and receives a payment also receives a personal letter of apology from the Home Secretary.

We are determined to get this right and that means taking action to improve our approach, where necessary. In December, in response to feedback from members of the community, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary overhauled the compensation scheme so that people would receive significantly more money more quickly. The changes have had an immediate impact. Within six weeks, we had offered more than we had in the previous 19 months. Since the end of December, we have offered an average of £5.2 million a month and have paid more than seven times the total amount that had been paid out before then.

Despite this progress, as a number of Members have claimed, a number of people would rather see the compensation scheme moved from the Home Office to an independent body. However, taking such action at this stage would risk significantly delaying payments to people. The first stage in deciding a claim for compensation is to confirm an individual’s identity and eligibility. This is linked to their immigration status. It would be difficult to decouple that from the Home Office without increasing the time taken to process an individual’s claim and issue payments. There would also be considerable disruption to the processing of outstanding claims while the new body was established and made operational.

That is not to say we are operating without external scrutiny—far from it. For those dissatisfied with their compensation offer, an independent review can be conducted by the Adjudicator’s Office, a non-departmental public body that is completely independent of the Home Office. The scheme was set up and designed with the independent oversight of Martin Forde QC in close consultation with those affected by the scandal. Our approach was informed by hundreds of responses to a call for evidence and a public consultation. Earlier this year, we appointed Professor Martin Levermore as the new independent person to advise on the Windrush compensation scheme and ensure it is easy to access, fair and meets the needs of those affected. We continue to listen and respond to feedback about the scheme to ensure it is operating effectively.

We are not complacent, however. We recognise the need to resolve claims more quickly. Some people have been waiting too long for that to happen and that is not acceptable, as the Home Secretary noted in her letter.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In two years and three months, the Home Office has resolved 687 claims. Does the Minister seriously think that any other system properly set up would be that slow?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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As I outlined, the current total is actually 732 claims, but it has been too slow. That is why, as I said, the Home Secretary took direct action in December last year and we have seen a significant acceleration in payments thus far. We hope that that progress will continue.

As a number of Members mentioned, the death of 21 individuals before we were able to offer them compensation does weigh extremely heavily on all of us and is a source of sorrow and regret. We are working with their families to ensure that compensation is paid out, while recognising that doing so can never provide adequate consolation. Now we have completed the implementation of the December changes I referred to, we are committed to reducing the time between submission and decision over the coming months. To do that, we are recruiting additional caseworkers and directing resources to maximise final decision output, as well as improving the evidence-gathering process by revising our data-sharing agreements with other Departments on our forms, guidance and processes.

We also continue to do all we can to raise awareness of the Windrush schemes and encourage all who are eligible to apply. Last year, we launched a national communications campaign and the Windrush community fund, which was designed to reach further and deeper into the communities who were affected. We have now held 180 events, reaching 3,000 people.

Last year, we also published the Wendy Williams “Windrush Lessons Learned Review”, to which a number of Members referred, which laid bare the failings and mistakes that led to the Windrush scandal. Each of the 30 recommendations has been grouped into different themes that are being delivered across the Home Office to ensure the lessons from the review are being applied across the Department. Despite what was asserted, Ms Williams did not say that the Home Office was paying “lip service” to her review, and she will be returning to the Department in September to review our progress. Alongside that, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the permanent secretary are also leading an unprecedented programme of change to ensure the Home Office is representative of every part of the community it serves. Our ambition is to transform the Department into one that puts people before processes, an organisation that has fairness and compassion at the heart of all it does.

The Windrush scandal is a stain on this country’s conscience. We owe it to those who suffered as a result to deliver lasting and meaningful change, and to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. I am happy to say on Windrush Day, as we celebrate that generation today and hopefully in the years to come, that the Department for Transport is currently investigating whether the anchor from the Windrush can be recovered and restored to become a fitting memorial to that generation, in the hope that we will all aspire to the aspiration of my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) that in the future the colour of our skin will matter no more and no less than the colour of our eyes.