§ [Relevant document: The report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis 1996–97.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Allen.]9.34 am
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)
It is a great honour for me to address the House for the first time on policing in London in my capacity as Home Secretary and as police authority for the Metropolitan police. I grew up in suburban Essex, just within the boundaries of the Metropolitan area, and have for years lived down the road in Lambeth, so I am very familiar with how London is policed. In my first few months as Home Secretary, I met the Commissioner on several occasions, accompanied police officers on patrol in Brixton on two occasions, addressed the annual open meeting of the Metropolitan Police Federation and launched the firearms amnesty in Lambeth.
Last week, I had the sad duty of attending the funeral of Police Constable Nina Mackay, who paid the ultimate price for trying to make London safer for the rest of us. Nina Mackay died following a stabbing in Stratford last month. I am sure that I speak for the whole House and for all Londoners in saying that we all salute her courage and dedication. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The price that Nina Mackay paid reminds us all of the courage and dedication of every police officer who performs his or her duties every day of the year.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)
We all utterly share the sentiments expressed by the Home Secretary. Does he agree that the whole problem of police trying to protect our security is dramatically illustrated in the annual report that he has before him, which shows that last year 12,000 officers were injured while on duty? That means that a Metropolitan police officer is likely to be injured once every three years. Does not that illustrate the danger to which we subject our police in trying to protect our capital?
§ Mr. Straw
Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right. I should clarify the fact that the 12,000 figure is the total number of injuries—I shall come to that later in my speech—but some 3,000 officers are injured each year as a result of assaults and, of those, about 1,800 have to take time off duty. Even those figures illustrate the danger that police officers face. Sometimes police officers in the Metropolitan police area, as elsewhere, suffer the most horrific injuries, yet, despite those injuries, they return to active duty.
1138 The Metropolitan police requires strong leadership to command respect and discharge its responsibilities. I am confident that in the present Commissioner and his senior management team the police service in London has that leadership, and I place on the record my thanks to, and confidence in, the current Commissioner.
This is the first policing of London debate since February 1996, when the Metropolitan police's performance for 1994–95 was debated. Although the Home Secretary is the police authority for London and an annual report should form the focus of debate each year, during the previous Parliament the House had the opportunity to debate policing in London only three rather than five times. The reason for that absence of debate is clear: the previous Government were profoundly embarrassed by the lack of practical support that they gave the Metropolitan police. Despite their rhetoric, far from ensuring that the Metropolitan police was equipped to serve Londoners effectively, the previous Administration oversaw a fall in the number of police officers in London of 1,300—from a peak of nearly 28,500 in 1991 to just under 27,200 at the end of April 1997. Police officer numbers may not be the best measure of policing, but it was the measure which the previous Government chose to use and, on that measure, their record on policing in London was a significant failure.
Policing is a substantial public spending programme involving more than £7,000 million this year, over 20 per cent. of which was spent on the Metropolitan police.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire)
The Home Secretary might have mentioned the thousands of extra police in London since the Conservative Government came to power in 1979, but we can debate that. In his report, the Commissioner links a decrease in police numbers last year with two factors: the London formula and the Police and Firemen's Pensions Act 1997. Do I take it, from the Home Secretary's criticism of the previous Government, that he will change the London formula and the way of paying police pensions, in order to give more comfort to the Commissioner?
§ Mr. Straw
I shall make some general remarks about resources for London later, but let me answer the right hon. Gentleman's specific questions. There has been continuing examination of the formula for London. When I announce the police grant in about a month, that formula may better reflect the needs of London policing than it did in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about pensions. I appreciate that he did not do the Home Secretary's job when in government, but the previous Administration sat on a major review of police and fire service pensions, because they found the issue too embarrassing. I promise the right hon. Gentleman that that report will surface in due course. I look forward to his support and that of his right hon. and hon. Friends for the difficult decisions that will have to be taken in respect of the police and fire service pension arrangements.
The demands that are made of the police service are well demonstrated by the Commissioner's annual report, but we are faced, through what we have inherited from the previous Government, with a tight public expenditure round this year and a tight round for next year. Pressures are great, and difficult decisions are required to ensure that our priorities are properly resourced.
1139 In addition to the difficulties that the police service in London has faced over the police grant, the Metropolitan police have been left with barely adequate levels of reserves as a result of the previous Government's funding decisions.
As police authority for London, I have been having a series of discussions with the Commissioner about the Metropolitan police service's budget for 1998–99. I want to ensure that the Commissioner has adequate resources for effective policing in London. No final decisions have been taken on next year's funding allocations. The provisional settlement for the Met will be announced along with that for other police authorities in the next few weeks.
Resources are limited, and the police service, like other parts of the public service, cannot be immune to that reality. The quest for efficiency improvements must be relentless. In my discussions with the Commissioner about his budget, I have pressed him to continue to increase efficiency and effectiveness throughout the Metropolitan police service. I am pleased to say that he is already making significant strides in that regard.
§ Mr. Keith Hill (Streatham)
Does my right hon. Friend accept my assurance that his repeated visits to Brixton, which I represent in part, are greatly appreciated by the local police, local voluntary agencies and the local public? Will he join me in applauding the success of the Lambeth guns amnesty that he launched two weeks ago? It has already yielded nine weapons and a considerable amount of ammunition.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that areas such as Brixton and Streatham require constant high levels of policing? It has been a cause for anxiety that in recent years there have been regular cuts in front-line policing. I am somewhat reassured by the message of potential optimism in his remarks about the forthcoming budget announcement, but will he look particularly at resource allocation in the No. 5 south-west area, the Metropolitan police division that includes Streatham and Brixton, where it is felt that the formula has worked to the disadvantage of front-line policing?
§ Mr. Straw
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for all his compliments. I was wondering what was coming next, and I was not disappointed. Of course I shall take full account of the pressures on resources and the needs of No. 5 police area, along with Nos. 4, 3, 2 and 1 police areas.
The Government must be sure that all public spending programmes are in line with our priorities and objectives. That is a key purpose of the Government's comprehensive spending review. The study of value for money in the police—which is taking place as part of the review—provides us with an opportunity to take a wider perspective on value-for-money issues. We are looking at value for money not just in terms of buying goods and services at the best price, but in terms of measuring performance against objectives, and getting away from a focus on inputs towards a concentration on the outputs of the police service.
Let me make it clear that while I am Home Secretary and police authority for the Metropolitan police, I am determined that the House will be able to debate the 1140 policing of London every year. However, I hope to be able to relinquish that post and pass it on to representatives of the people of London.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I explain how it came about that the Home Secretary took on the position of police authority in 1829. In that year, Robert Peel raised a new kind of standing body almost overnight and in a capital city where the largest organ of local authority at the time, apart from the City corporation, had been the parish vestry. We all know that after some early difficulties, the Metropolitan police service became a success and the model for forces internationally, as well as in this country. However, the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 did not of itself ensure that the new institution would be a success.
That Act did not rationalise the policing of London, as is sometimes supposed. Indeed, in a sense it confused it further by dealing only with the parish police and leaving the rest of the police services in London intact. Thus, the City became an island in the Metropolitan sea—and remains so today; the Thames police remained aloof, and so did the horse patrol and constables attached to police offices set up under the Middlesex and Surrey Justices Act 1792. Conflicting and partial jurisdiction was a problem from the start.
Peel, it appears, had first proposed a board of three magistrates to run the new force. However, in the end the Act set up two magistrates at the head of the force and a third official, the receiver, to be responsible for accounting and supplies. The role of the Home Secretary was to have overall political responsibility, the power to appoint—through the Crown—the top three officials and an ability to direct—to some degree—the actions of the magistrates.
In 1829, the following arrangements were in place: two magistrates, who quickly became known as Commissioners, were responsible for operations; the receiver, who was accountable for resources; and the Home Secretary, who was answerable to Parliament.
Through that arrangement, the Home Secretary became police authority for the Met and remains so to this day. In our view, however, that is not a satisfactory situation. Policing in London, as elsewhere, is primarily a local service. We want a police authority that can be properly accountable to Londoners and take full account of the wishes of Londoners. The Commissioner, I am pleased to say, shares that view.
We want to modernise the present arrangements and bring them into line with those of areas outside London, where police authorities made up of a majority of elected members have been in place for some time. Therefore, as part of our plans for a strategic London authority, we are proposing a new police authority for London.
§ Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)
The right hon. Gentleman will, of course, realise that the Metropolitan police district extends a long way beyond the proposed Greater London authority boundaries and includes Broxbourne, Elmbridge, Epping Forest, Epsom and Ewell, Hertsmere, Reigate, Banstead and Spelthorne. That is a considerable expansion of the area. As he is probably well aware, it is proposed that the new police committee will have a representative from those districts. Does he think, however, that that is a correct balance? 1141 After all, it is a significant expansion of the Metropolitan area and, with one representative, it would seem to be a little out of kilter.
§ Mr. Straw
I do indeed know that the Metropolitan police area stretches far into the suburban home counties, because I was brought up in Epping Forest within that area, even though that part of Epping Forest has always proudly remained part of Essex for all other purposes.
We propose a police authority of 21 members, and it is proportionate to have one representative from the outer areas. The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), met representatives from the outer areas this week and, I understand, had satisfactory discussions with them. We remain open to representations about the exact balance of elected members. However, as we have found in other areas—for example, in the Thames Valley, which combines three counties—there are always pressures to increase the total number of members. That desire must be balanced against the need to create a body that is small enough to work efficiently and effectively.
§ Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)
Will the Home Secretary contrast his proposal to offer the outer London districts representation on the authority with the current arrangements whereby, at best, outer London district representatives receive half an hour with the Home Secretary perhaps once a year?
§ Mr. Straw
My hon. Friend puts it better than I. I am grateful to my hon. Friends for anticipating large parts of my speech and for phrasing their remarks more elegantly than I ever could. My hon. Friend is exactly right.
As with police authorities outside London, the majority of members will be elected and will come from the Greater London assembly, with the exception of the representative from outside the Metropolitan area. The other members will be magistrates and independents, and will be selected in similar proportions to those in other police authorities.
Today's debate is a vivid reminder that the Metropolitan police force is different: London policing has many special features. The Met has some unique responsibilities and an international reputation in many areas—and that may require some unique approaches and solutions. We are committed to ensuring that any new structure will preserve the Met's ability to continue that work while maintaining its fine record of achievements.
In 1979–80, I introduced two Bills on the accountability of the police. In the second Bill, I proposed a mainly elected police authority for London, recognising that there would have to be special arrangements to cover the national and capital functions of the police that would continue to involve the Home Secretary to a greater degree than applies to police services outside London. I am pleased to say that the overall idea of a police authority for London was picked up at one stage by the previous Government.
On 23 March 1993, the former Home Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), told the House that the Government's police reform programme would include creating a new police authority for the Metropolitan police in line with the new national pattern. Like so many policies of the 1142 previous Administration, that lasted only a brief time before it was reversed. Indeed, the policy lasted fewer than 100 days before the then new Home Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), told the House that the Home Secretary—which, by strange chance, was him—would remain the police authority for London.
Having reached that position, the previous Government then created the Metropolitan police committee, which was appointed to advise the Home Secretary on his role as police authority. We were critical of those arrangements in opposition, and we are committed to changing them now. However, it would not be in the interests of the people of London simply to abolish the committee and leave me as police authority for the Met with no independent advice until a proper police authority is established.
I met the Metropolitan police committee recently, and I am impressed by the way in which it is carrying out its task. In advance of the proposed change to a police authority for London—and, of course, subject to the outcome of next year's referendum on a London authority—we plan to introduce transitional arrangements for the Metropolitan police committee to combine existing members with what would effectively be a shadow police authority for the following two years.
§ Ms Margaret Hodge (Barking)
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way and I am grateful for his remarks about transitional arrangements, which I hope will be an improvement. Will those transitional arrangements ensure more openness in the deliberations of the Metropolitan police committee so that there can be some accountability to Londoners regarding what is discussed and what advice the committee gives to the Home Secretary?
§ Mr. Straw
I want to see the committee operating more openly. I stress that there is no suggestion from committee members or from the chairman, Sir John Quinton, that they would want to do it any other way. I am happy to pursue that suggestion further with my hon. Friend.
I turn now to the performance of the Metropolitan police in 1996–97, which is the focus of the debate. The report shows that the Met achieved its targets for robbery in that year, with a detection rate of 19 per cent. for street crimes and 24 per cent. for robberies of business properties. As a result of Operation Eagle Eye, the rising trend of street robbery has been stemmed. To bring hon. Members up to date, in the year to March 1997, the number of burglaries in the Metropolitan police area fell by more than 5 per cent., and a detection rate of 22 per cent. was achieved. Operation Bumblebee—conducted London wide since June 1993—continues to impact on burglary in the capital.
§ Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East)
A fear of crime has emerged on the streets of Beckenham in the past week or so in terms of burglary and street crime. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give the people of Beckenham on that score?
§ Mr. Straw
My hon. Friend is entirely right to say that, despite the success of the Metropolitan police, crime and the fear of crime remain very high in London and elsewhere. The simple explanation is that, as a result of 1143 the previous Administration's record, we have higher levels of burglary, robbery and car crime than any of the 14 western countries included in a recent international crime victimisation survey.
We must not only back Metropolitan police efforts in Beckenham and elsewhere, but put our community safety proposals on to the statute book very quickly. They are designed to ensure that local authorities and the police can work together much more effectively—as in the London borough of Bromley—to secure safety on the streets and in people's homes.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable initiatives undertaken in Croydon involving the local authority and the local police force? They have combined to reduce the level of crime significantly and to increase the level of detection. Will he comment on the relationship between increasing police effectiveness and resources? There is a slight concern that, where local authorities and police work very well together to reduce crime, the net result may be a reduction in the number of police officers: if the level of crime is reduced in an area, the resources are switched to areas with a higher propensity for crime. How is my right hon. Friend confronting that difficult issue?
§ Mr. Straw
I know a good deal about what has happened in Croydon, where there has been a long-standing excellent partnership between police and local authorities. Our policies will build on successful activities throughout the country and strengthen the relationship between police and local authorities.
The question of police deployment in any police area is ultimately a matter for the chief officer. That is entirely right. An area should not be penalised for its success in reducing crime. On the other hand, if an area has been successful and the threat of crime has been reduced, it is appropriate that officers should be moved to other areas in order to follow a similar recipe for success there.
The police operation Crackdown on Drugs has also been successful. The campaign was launched in May 1996, with the aim of getting drug dealers off our streets and educating young people against using drugs. As a result of the campaign, the number of drug trafficking offences detected in London increased by 26 per cent.—nearly three times the target—and the number of drug possession offences detected rose by 6 per cent.
It is right that the Metropolitan police should direct resources to the key areas of concern: robbery, burglary and drugs. However, there is no doubt that people also seek the reassurance of a visible police presence alongside an intelligence-led policing policy. The Metropolitan police have continued to ensure that uniformed operational constables spend significant time on such visible duties. The public also look to the police to provide a high standard of emergency service. The Met now answers 90 per cent. of 999 calls within 15 seconds, despite an increase of more than 5 per cent. in the number of calls received.
I could not talk about policing in London without referring to the work undertaken by the capital's police officers in combating the threat to London from terrorism—work which continues today. As the House 1144 well knows, we face terrorist threats from many quarters—international as well as domestic. We owe a great deal to the police for their vigilance and commitment. I am happy to pay particular tribute today to officers who deal with anti-terrorist measures.
It is a testament to the Metropolitan police service that it was able to cope so magnificently with the two biggest public events in the country within a matter of weeks. It had only days to organise policing of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, one of the largest public events in living memory. A huge and largely unseen effort went into making that event safe and orderly. That was only a few weeks after its successful policing of the Notting Hill carnival.
The Government and I pay tribute—to pick up on the point made by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman)—to the men and women of the Metropolitan police, to all the officers and civilian staff, but especially the 3,000 injured as a result of being assaulted on duty. I remain very concerned about the high level of such injuries—with 1,800 officers forced to take sick leave as a result of injuries sustained on duty.
One thing that makes policing different from almost any other civilian job is that police officers face the ever-present danger of harm against them caused not accidentally but quite deliberately by those with whom they are trying to deal. That danger exists wherever and whenever police officers carry out their duties. There can be little doubt that there are particular dangers and pressures in policing the metropolis. Quantifying the difference is difficult, but it is there. I am struck, when talking to police officers in forces outside London, who may have served in the Met, how often they refer to that difference.
Wherever officers serve, we have to ensure that they are given proper protection against physical harm. The recent killing of Nina Mackay tragically reminded us of the dangers that police officers have to confront. That should have brought home to everyone the importance of giving officers the best possible protection. I share the Commissioner's determination to ensure that his officers are indeed properly protected. Since January 1997, a total of nearly 18,500 Metvests—the Met's protective body armour, have been issued.
The recent inquest into the death of Mr. Ibrahima Sey raised issues about the use CS spray by the police. I know that before CS spray was chosen, the police service looked very carefully at expert advice and at the result of a six-month operational trial. After the inquest, I read all the pathologists' reports and other medical and toxicological evidence that was submitted to it. There was nothing in the evidence to suggest that CS or the solvent MIBK, separately or in combination, present any significant threat to human health. I was—and remain—satisfied that there was no reason to suspend the use of CS spray. I strongly support the use of this equipment, which I believe is helping to protect the lives of police officers as they go about their duties.
I also strongly support—to pick up a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill)—the Commissioner's proposal, which was built on a local request, for a local firearms amnesty, which is now in progress in Lambeth. This is the first occasion on which a local amnesty has been held. My hon. Friend said that I had launched it. I should explain that I simply had a 1145 walk-on part for the launch, which was undertaken by someone much more distinguished than I could ever aim to be—the England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright. On the basis that my enemy's enemy is my friend, I commend Arsenal on their amazing victory at the weekend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That seems to have the unanimous support of the whole House.
The amnesty demonstrates that all communities are willing to say to criminal elements, "Stop! We are not prepared to accept this kind of behaviour. We demand a safer community." The number of firearms in Lambeth handed in has reached 12. That is 12 fewer weapons with which the police and the public may be threatened.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)
I am grateful for the Home Secretary's considered and comprehensive review of the issues in London. We all support the idea that the Met should have the powers that they need to do their job. I ask him to consider one further extension of powers, which they tell me that they do not have and which impedes them greatly.
When a young man was murdered in my constituency in August, a gang of young men were brought in for questioning. Those young men were bailed to reappear for an identity parade. Between their bailing and their reappearance, they had all substantially changed their identity. The police believe that they should have the power to require that people's appearance is the same when they come back as when they were bailed, and that it should be a criminal offence not to comply with that. I believe that many unresolved serious crimes, including murder, would be dealt with better if such a power were introduced.
I shall be grateful if the Home Secretary will look at that issue as a matter of great priority and give officers the power that they say they need.
§ Mr. Straw
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. The Commissioner has not personally raised that matter with me, but the hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue about improving the detection of crime. I shall certainly consider it. I shall write to him and place a copy of the letter in the House.
There are many other respects—alongside the backing that Lambeth has given the police—in which the community is already involved in maintaining law and order. I should like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who give up their time to help the Metropolitan police, in particular the 1,600 officers of the Metropolitan special constabulary, the lay visitors who attend and monitor police stations, and members of the police consultative groups, which play an important role in making London policing properly responsive, as do those involved in neighbourhood watch schemes.
In July, I announced the establishment of a full judicial inquiry to look at matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence. That inquiry, under the chairmanship of the senior, retired judge, Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, held its first preliminary hearing in October and will begin the main phase of public hearings early next year. It is the first inquiry appointed by any Home Secretary under the Police Act 1964 for more than 16 years. It was, therefore, a decision which I did not take lightly.
When I met the Lawrence family, I was deeply moved and impressed by their determination and courage. They made a strong case for the establishment of an inquiry. 1146 The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation subsequently supported their case. I believe that the inquiry, under the Police Act powers, will allow the concerns of the Lawrence family and the police service about this case fully to be addressed. I want the inquiry to look forward as well as back. For that reason, I set the terms of reference as follows:particularly to identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes.The purpose is not just to find out what went wrong, although that is an important part of it. I believe that there will be lessons to be learned for the community and the police in racially mixed areas, and lessons to be learned more generally about relations between minority ethnic communities and the police.
Britain is a multiracial and multicultural society, and the Metropolitan police area is the most racially mixed area in the country. There should be trust and confidence between all sections of the community and the police. That is why I gave my personal backing last month to the launch of a major thematic report by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary which sets out a blueprint for improving policy community relations and for tackling racism. The Metropolitan police have a key role in putting that report into practice. I expect them to do so.
The report confirmed that local communities want to see vigorous action by the police to challenge racist, criminal and anti-social behaviour. It also confirmed the need for the police to receive the active support of the black and Asian communities. This is a two-way, not a one-way, street.
It is generally accepted that the current system for dealing with officers who fall short of what is expected of them is not satisfactory. Police staff associations have been working with the Home Office to design better procedures. Others have echoed Sir Paul Condon's concerns about his powers to deal with rogue officers. This is a difficult area, in which the need for robust and speedy discipline procedures must be balanced with fairness to officers, who are unusually vulnerable to malicious allegations.
The Home Affairs Committee decided in July this year to inquire into police discipline and complaints. It is taking evidence from a range of interested groups and individuals, including the Commissioner. I expect its report around Christmas and await it with interest.
I note—turning to another matter of police personnel policy—that some officers within the force are unhappy with the career development policy for the Met, usually referred to as "tenure". I understand the reasons for that unhappiness, but I also understand that, for effective policing in London, it is crucial that the Metropolitan police service has the right mix of experience and specialist knowledge in police stations. The key is to get the balance right and I have confidence that the Commissioner will do that, balancing the needs of individual officers, local divisions and London as a whole.
The Metropolitan police service is playing an active role in developing and increasing the use of new technologies in the fight against crime. Many details have been given in the Commissioner's annual report and there is no reason for me to repeat them. I merely say that the establishment of the new DNA database, on which I commend the previous Administration and the police service, is producing dramatic new results. One third of 1147 the DNA tests that are taking place within the Metropolitan police service are leading to positive identification. It is an extraordinary and gratifying result.
I shall make some concluding remarks about our overall approach to community safety and youth crime and the changes that we propose to introduce. We shall introduce a crime and disorder Bill to ensure that the police are equipped, along with local authorities, with better and more effective powers to tackle crime reduction and disorder in their areas.
When it comes to specific crimes, it is right that the police service should target such offences as robbery, burglary and drug dealing. We know, however, that many people drift into those crimes through disorder, through their loutish behaviour, which is often difficult to check by means of specific public order legislation. Such behaviour is not being effectively checked by the community as a whole with the backing of the police. I have in mind, for example, graffiti and criminal damage. Those involved drift into disorder and drift further into crime. Too often, regrettably, they get the idea that they can get away with their activities. They then graduate into serious and specific crime.
I am often asked why so many people are in prison. There are many reasons for that, the principal one being that many people commit crimes. Almost every adult in prison began his or her life of crime when a youngster. It is in a sense a testament to the failure of the youth justice system that we allow young people, certainly until they are 15, to get away with the idea that they can commit crime after crime and suffer no serious sanction. Against that background, we should not be surprised if, at the age of 17 or 18, they have graduated into serious crime and need to be incarcerated for quite a long time.
We intend to change things and bring about significant root-and-branch reforms to the youth justice system to ensure that offending is nipped in the bud. We shall ensure that there is active intervention that confronts offending behaviour. If necessary, youngsters who do not get the message may have to be taken into custody for a period. We intend also to ensure that the police and local authorities are given proper powers through community safety orders to deal with criminal anti-social behaviour so that the police and the community do not have to go through the frustration of seeking specific convictions for low-level public order offences, which are often difficult to prove.
We can build on the work of some local authorities, including the pioneering work of Southwark and Coventry. We intend to give the police and local authorities the right to go to the magistrates court to seek restraining injunctions on the civil burden of evidence, not least because the victims of offending behaviour will not be victims twice over by having to go through the process of going to court and suffering that indignity or pressure, or being intimidated into silence. Such orders are designed to get round the intimidation that bullies currently administer to prevent the detection of their crimes.
There are many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who wish to take part in the debate. That being so, I shall bring my remarks to a close. I am in no doubt—
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
As for combating youth crime, is my right hon. Friend aware that in Croydon the police 1148 take a tough approach on the possession of knives—there is no caution, simply charging? Secondly, is my right hon. Friend sympathetic to the idea that I am pursuing of having certain roads in the centre of a town closed to youths who go around holding glasses or bottles of beer, or who stand outside pubs with glasses or bottles, thereby intimidating shoppers?
§ Mr. Straw
I support that idea. There are already powers for local authorities to introduce byelaws banning on-street drinking. They have been successfully introduced in Coventry and Liverpool. There have been no enforcement problems and the public order situation has been changed.
We shall abolish the present system of cautions and replace it with a single final warning, which will trigger intervention. The most important feature in dealing with youngsters is consistency, not harshness. We must face youngsters with the consequence of their actions. It is one thing to administer a warning to a youngster following a minor offence, but it is better to cover that warning with a further warning that if he does it again there will be not another warning but serious action. Offending behaviour is reinforced if there is a belief that the system never does what it is empowered to do.
For the second time, I shall attempt to conclude my remarks. I am in no doubt that there is unanimous support in the House and across London for the work of the Commissioner and his staff, both uniformed and civilian. They work to make London a safer place. As we approach the new millennium, new policing issues will inevitably arise. Criminals attack local communities as well as crossing international borders. That is why the Metropolitan police will continue to police locally, consulting local people, as well as playing a major role in tackling national and international crime.
The Commissioner is determined that the Metropolitan police are able to do that job as effectively as possible within an ethical framework by, as he says, the right people doing the right things in the right way. Spending constraints will inevitably force the Metropolitan police and the rest of the police service critically to examine all their activities to ensure that they deliver value-for-money policing that broadly meets the demands of the service.
I look forward to listening to the debate, which provides the House with a real opportunity for Members representing London constituencies to explore issues that are at the heart of the public's concerns and are rightly central to the Government's plans to make this country a safer place.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire)
I congratulate the Home Secretary, first on becoming the police authority for London and, secondly, on his ingenuity. I wondered how the right hon. Gentleman would avoid having to dwell on his party's abysmal record in opposition over the past few years when it vigorously opposed and voted against many laws that now, as Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman will want to see applied to the benefit of the public. Even I did not think that he would have the ingenuity to go back to 1829. I greatly enjoyed his historical review.
I do not intend to speak about the racial aspects of crime in London, but I appreciate, as did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and 1149 Hythe (Mr. Howard), the former Home Secretary, the support the right hon. Gentleman gave us to combat racism and racist crime in London and the rest of the country. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will follow that bipartisan tradition on racially motivated or related crime.
Like the Home Secretary, I believe that it is right at the beginning of our first debate on policing in London in this Parliament to recognise the huge debt that we owe to the Metropolitan police. We should recognise the courage, professionalism and good humour with which its officers carry out their responsibilities. We should always be conscious of the risks that they run on our behalf. I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to Police Constable Nina Mackay, who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. She was the 16th Metropolitan police officer in 20 years to forfeit her life on behalf of the public. It is right that the House should recognise and place on record our appreciation of that commitment.
The Commissioner's report records that 11 members of the force received the Queen' s commendation for bravery. I offer our congratulations to Constables Neil Allan, David Barton, Paul Davies, Robert Dean, Antony Diver, David Hall, Derek Hooper, Andrew Keyte, Adrian Mabbott, Carl Ritchie and Deborah Wright for what they did on our behalf.
The 12 names I have mentioned highlight the risk that is attached to this public service. As the Home Secretary said, 3,280 officers were assaulted or injured on duty during the year. What is worrying to us all is that the number has increased—from 3,097 in 1995–96.
Like the Home Secretary, I welcome all moves by the Commissioner that are designed to improve the protection and safety of his officers. I was particularly heartened by the fact that the Home Secretary took time to examine the coroner's report and came to the conclusion that CS gas is an acceptable means of officer protection, thus endorsing his predecessor's decision. I am pleased, as no doubt he is, that appropriate training is being given to officers in the use of CS gas and the Metvest. Officers deserve the best protection available.
The jobs that carry an element of risk are only part of the service. When in difficulty, the first instinct of hon. Members and those whom we represent is to turn to the police for help. The report shows that initial contact is overwhelmingly by telephone. A total of 11.5 million 999 calls, operator calls and direct calls were made to the police in the Metropolitan area last year, of which almost 10 million fell within the charter standard. I say that with some satisfaction, because when the previous Government were developing the concept of quality and trying to quantify standards by which quality could be assessed there was a good deal of vigorous debate about whether they would have any meaning. Their significance is now clearly underlined in the Commissioner's report.
I welcome the aspect of the report that deals with the quality of service to the public. There has been a 28 per cent. increase in the number of thank-you letters that the Metropolitan police have received from the public. We live in a cynical society which more frequently than any of us are comfortable with tends to focus on the negative. The old song said that we should accentuate the positive 1150 and eliminate the negative: it could be said of our country as we approach the new millennium that we have got it almost exactly the other way round.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
That is another new Labour commitment. It is a promise and we shall judge them accordingly in the next four years.
I have said on many occasions in a variety of places that as a society we do not say thank you often enough, either in public or in private. I am pleased that a few more people in the Metropolitan area wanted to say thank you, and I join the Home Secretary in saying thank you to the Commissioner and to all those who work with him.
The fact that people believe that they get a good service from the police is important in its own right, but it is important for another reason: it helps to encourage partnership. I noticed how frequently the Commissioner referred to partnership in his report.
First, the Commissioner referred to partnership with the general public. The Home Secretary and I had the privilege of attending a Crimestoppers function earlier this week: its line is 0800 555 111. That partnership enables the public to have confidence that the police will act on the information that they give and it has made a significant contribution to policing in the capital. The Commissioner and the Home Secretary paid tribute to Crimestoppers. I did not have the opportunity on that occasion to do so, and rightly so, but I now pay tribute to Michael Ashcroft and all those who help him to run that significant and beneficial operation.
The very next day, I heard on Capital Radio an advertisement for Operation Eagle Eye, whose slogan is "Grassed up, banged up". That shows the Metropolitan police's determination to get to grips with street robbery. It is not a partisan initiative: it was launched under the previous Government and is supported by the new and different Government, who have a common commitment to making it possible for the public to feel that they have a role to play, as they did with the Rat on a Rat initiative, and with Rat-Trap, which encouraged people to give information on drug-related crime.
Those initiatives are important. As a former security Minister in Northern Ireland, I have some personal knowledge and I am conscious of the contribution that the public can make. Many people have information about crime and we must devise ways to enable them to make it available so that the police can take action.
Secondly, there has been partnership with various organisations such as the British Transport police to co-ordinate activities inside and outside railway and tube stations. That co-ordinated approach makes it more difficult for criminals to get away with their crimes. There is also much better co-ordination at football authorities. I endorse what the Home Secretary said about two major events. He could also have referred to Euro 96, for which the policing was of a standard that attracted considerable commendation in this country and beyond. The Home Secretary and I share an enjoyment of football, so we regularly observe the policing of football matches. He made generous comments about Arsenal, and rightly so. I see excellent policing at Highbury and at Peterborough, as he does at Blackburn. I take some satisfaction from 1151 that, not only because Peterborough is at the top of its division, but because Arsenal is above Blackburn in the premiership.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I think that Churchill had something to say about the number one. I make a serious point about the contribution of good policing at sporting events.
Thirdly, there has been partnership with local authorities. I have noticed that the police and local authorities have put in place better arrangements to control activities at nightclubs, and crime levels have gone down as a consequence.
Fourthly, there has been liaison between the Metropolitan police and British Telecom on the nuisance and distaste caused by prostitutes advertising in public telephone boxes. The leader of Westminster council sent me examples of such advertising. I have been in the House long enough to know that it is sensible to put these cards in an envelope, for I do not intend to be seen on camera with them. When I pass them to the Home Secretary, he will not open the envelope in front of the television cameras either. I am making a serious point, and I ask the Home Secretary to look again at this issue. If further legislation is needed, the crime and disorder Bill might provide a suitable vehicle. Rather than throw the cards across the Table, I shall make them available to the right hon. Gentleman at the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Straw
I am standing up not to receive the cards but merely to thank the right hon. Gentleman for making these points. I was concerned about this matter in opposition and it was raised with me by members of Westminster city council. I will certainly take up his suggestion and respond in due course.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I am grateful to the Home Secretary and I know that Westminster city council will also be grateful.
Perhaps the best example of partnership in London and other parts of the country has been the partnership between the police, local authorities and the private sector in the provision of closed circuit television. I shall give the House a few examples: Brentford, Heston, Feltham, Bedfont and Hounslow all have CCTV, won from the challenge, covering their sheltered housing schemes.
I shall put together another group—a review of London. Hounslow, Richmond, Wembley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Hammersmith, Wood Green, Feltham, Elephant and Castle, Deptford, Lewisham, Catford, Wimbledon, Morden, Stratford, East Ham, Ilford, Kingston, Barking, Bexleyheath, Southall, Streatham, Canning Town, Uxbridge, Walthamstow and Harrow all have town centre CCTV coverage.
Pimlico, Westminster community, Northolt primary, John Chilton special, Walford high, St. Matthias, Gayton high, Nower hill high, Cedars nursery, first and middle, Mellow lane, Heston community and junior, Hounslow town primary, St. Mark's catholic, Holland park, St. Thomas's, St. Mary's, St. Francis Cumberland, Eastlea, Sarah Bonnell, Whitton and Sir James Barrie—all 1152 schools—have benefited from the partnership, and from Government money, in the provision of CCTV. Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals have also benefited.
What has come from this Government? Nothing. Not a penny. [Interruption.] I find the smiles of Labour Members interesting. They have benefited from the previous Government's commitment to partnership, but they are not looking to their Front Bench with any expectation. They are Labour Members, but the people they represent are looking for cover. Their constituents are looking for security and a decrease in street crime—for the reassurance associated with cameras. Thus far, they are looking to the Government in vain.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in Croydon, a significant amount of money came from the local authority and the private sector in an initiative pioneered by that partnership? The previous Government did provide additional money, but such partnerships have been pioneered in the past by Labour authorities. There is obviously a commitment on the part of the Government to continue that work.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
There is obviously not a commitment on the part of the Government to continue the work. I will be the first to congratulate the Government on yet another U-turn if they ever get round to identifying some money, as the Minister of State has hinted. If he makes such an announcement, the House will recognise, first, that the Government are doing what they should do and, secondly, that they are doing it under pressure and without the commitment that characterised the last Government.
The hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) did not listen to what I said. I said that CCTV was perhaps the best example of partnership between the Government, local authorities and the private sector. That is true in Croydon. It is true all over the country. It was the last Government who made that contribution, unlike this Government.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alun Michael)
Having been corrected on this matter once already, the right hon. Gentleman should have done his research. He should apologise for the fact that his predecessor grossly overspent the budget for the current year and the allocations made before the general election, and made no allocation whatsoever in budget lines for the future. Promises at a general election are easy for a Government who know they are going to lose power.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
Yes, and it is the third time the Minister has said that at the Dispatch Box. Looking at the record of the last Government—which I have, in part, given to the House—one must choose between a Government who put their money where their mouth was throughout the country and a Government who will make no commitment even to the principle of continuing CCTV, much less to the provision of money for it. I have no doubt which side the public would choose.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I am happy to tell the House that I have no responsibility for funding decisions by the 1153 Government. I had some responsibility for, and pride in, the previous Government's actions in making available CCTV with all its benefits for London and the rest of the country. This Government will not even make that commitment.
§ Ms Hodge
The right hon. Gentleman said that the previous Government put their money where their mouth was. Will he explain—perhaps apologise, or at least justify—why, last year, budgetary pressures created by the Government of which he was a member led to a decrease in the number of police constables in London by 240 when the previous Prime Minister had promised 5,000 extra bobbies on the beat across the country?
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I encourage the hon. Lady to go to the Library and ask for the paper that covers expenditure on policing in England and Wales.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
If the Minister does not mind, I shall answer his hon. Friend's question and then give way to him. If the hon. Lady goes to the Library for that information, she will see that there has been a real-terms increase of about 70 to 75 per cent. in expenditure on policing in England and Wales. She will see a second line on the graph, which runs above the England and Wales figures except for one year in 18. It shows the expenditure in London, which is higher than the average expenditure in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Michael
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will do what he promised and answer the question my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) asked. She asked about police numbers; the test that the last Government set for themselves—and failed.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I thought the Minister would have understood the Home Secretary when he reaffirmed to the House what he was told by the previous Home Secretary—that the disbursement of resources is the responsibility of the chief officer in each force. In that context, I asked the Home Secretary whether that meant that he was to change the London formula or the pensions bill—two important issues identified by the Commissioner. We received an equivocal answer from the Home Secretary.
The Government have talked about partnership in the context of community safety. The Home Secretary said that there was a partnership between the Government and local authorities. I should like to quote from a Home Office consultative document entitled, "Getting to Grips with Crime: A New Framework for Local Action". In it, the Home Secretary states:The citizens of this country should not have to put up with the high levels of crime and insecurity which we have seen in recent years, and in many areas they are already seeing the benefits of voluntary collaboration between the police service, local authorities and other local agencies in partnerships to reduce crime. The Government wants to build on this excellent work by providing a new legislative framework to ensure that the contribution of all the key partners to the prevention and reduction of crime is maximised, and to ensure that local people are given every opportunity to contribute to the process.I thank the Home Secretary for stating that there is much voluntary co-operation and that it is working well. To use his words, it is "excellent work". However, I did not 1154 understand the non sequitur that followed—that there would be a quantitative or, I think he implied, a qualitative improvement if legislation were introduced. I should like to examine that issue.
In an accompanying document, the Home Secretary refers to an example in Wandsworth where in 1992 a formal partnership between the council and the Metropolitan police was launched to attack problems such as burglary, graffiti and safety at stations. He states:In 1994 the Watchlink Unit was formed and assumed responsibility for neighbourhood watch support and development in the Earlsfield and Tooting areas.I shall not take an undue amount of time to refer to the whole programme. That voluntary partnership did not require legislation. It came about because the local authority and the police recognised the problem and came together to address it.
In the same document, the Home Secretary refers to the Abbey partnership policing initiative involving the London borough of Merton in partnership with the Metropolitan police and other key local organisations. One of the projects there is the Merton Alleygater scheme to combat domestic burglary by installing security gates across alleys between houses. Hon. Members can read the document for themselves.
Those are two examples of voluntary schemes in London that are praised by the Home Secretary. I know that the size of the document was limited, but in it he might have referred to the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea which, with the police, produced a community safety action plan in 1995 which included a borough-wide strategy for CCTV in public places. A council-police partnership board was established in 1995 and the Home Secretary can find out more about that from the borough. In the document he could have referred to the London borough of Bromley in which, based on co-operation between the Metropolitan police and the borough, the pilot Bromley town centre CCTV scheme led to reductions of 40 per cent. in non-residential burglary; 40 per cent. in vehicle-related crime and 70 per cent. in criminal damage. The council, which I believe is Conservative controlled, agreed to extend the system to Orpington and Beckenham town centres. My point to the Home Secretary—
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I intend to be much more subtle, but I am grateful to the Home Secretary for being my straight man. My point is serious. The right hon. Gentleman's document makes it clear that at all levels the Metropolitan police want to enter partnership schemes. The Home Secretary tells us that 90 per cent. of local authorities recognise community safety as an area of work that is relevant to theft. He says that two thirds are already engaged in independent, multi-agency partnerships and two thirds undertook local crime pattern analysis.
In view of that background, I was surprised to read the Home Secretary's other comment in his consultation document. He states:It costs nothing for a local authority to make crime one of the many factors which is routinely considered when, say, new policies for the delivery of social services are planned,".Later in the document, he states that in order to set the attitudinal framework within which such co-operation can take place he intends to legislate. I ask him to think again. 1155 I have spoken about partnership so that he will not accuse me or any other Opposition Member of being against partnership. My point is different. It is that if there are excellent examples—I think that I am right in saying that there are more than 300—of co-operation between local authorities and police in which each is motivated to work with the other for the common good, what leads him to believe that the process is likely to be enhanced by legislation? Experience teaches us that it is more likely to be enhanced by encouragement, the spread of good practice, guidelines and politicians in all parts of the House throwing their weight behind the development of what has already taken place. We are not debating theory: we are discussing the fact that more than 300 first-class schemes are already in place.
If the Home Secretary insists on taking the legislative route, he is likely to expose himself to a charge which for him would be unjustified although I do not think it would be unjustified in relation to the Government. It is that his intentions are driven more by the desire of Labour councillors for more power than by a desire for better policing in local areas. It is well known that Labour councillors reacted badly when the independent police authorities were set up. We are in danger of seeing a pay-off, resulting from the Home Secretary's legislation, of the old Labour instincts of centralisation, bureaucracy and demarcation which characterise Labour-controlled town halls throughout Britain.
§ Mr. Straw
I shall put the right hon. Gentleman right before he digs himself in deeper. The Crime and Disorder Bill implements a central recommendation by the Morgan committee on partnerships against crime—and that committee was established by the previous Administration. If old Labour has anything to say about the matter, its criticism might be that we are implementing a recommendation that was made to the Conservative Administration. The right hon. Gentleman is completely off beam. The purpose of putting the duty of crime partnerships into law is to impose obligations on local authorities that are not working effectively with police forces. There are a few such authorities and in some areas police divisions are not working effectively with local authorities. The legislation will not make much difference to the best, but it will make a huge difference to local authorities that are not performing well.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I understand that that is the Home Secretary's objective and I am aware of the Morgan report of 1991. Perhaps I know more about the matter than the right hon. Gentleman gives me credit for. My point is about what has happened in the interim. Because we encouraged it, voluntary development has proceeded apace. I am unimpressed by the Home Secretary's argument that, through legislation, he will be able to force Labour councillors to do what by instinct they are not prepared to do now on behalf of those who elected them. They will create a bureaucratic nightmare. We shall return to this matter throughout this Parliament.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
No, because there is to be a statement at 11 o'clock and I must finish before it. 1156 I should like to comment on three of the Metropolitan police's objectives. First, I welcome the decrease in burglary—the figures are back to the 1989 level, although they are still too high. If the Home Secretary wants to be seen to be serious in his commitment to reduce burglary figures further, he has a simple way of going about it. He can give effect to existing legislation. Mandatory minimum sentences for repeat burglars would offer great encouragement to the people of London.
Secondly, I welcome the 26 per cent. increase in the detection of illegal production of, supply of and intent to supply controlled drugs. Drugs lie at the heart of too much crime and anything that the Government can do—I recognise that it is limited—particularly to create an environment that enables that menace, which destroys lives, families and communities, to be dealt with, will command widespread support in the House.
I commend to the Home Secretary taking time to return to the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where the first substance misuse task force in the country was set up voluntarily by the local authority and the police. The health information project in the north of the borough is supported by the council and police and provides voluntary sector input to the drugs referral scheme operated by the police. One of the good news aspects of the Commissioner's report is the increasing effectiveness of partnership. I do not want that to be put at risk. So much that is good and properly motivated is already in place.
Thirdly, 61 per cent. of constable time is spent on the beat. It is a cross-party view that people are reassured by the sight of a policeman or policewoman on the beat. Indeed, the comment, "You can never find a policeman when you want one" is an inverted compliment to the police as it shows that that is where we always start to look for help, so I commend the Commissioner for meeting that objective. I and, no doubt, other hon. Members hope that he will set an even higher objective for next year and meet that too.
I heard what the Home Secretary said about resources. I understand his problem in terms of the budget. Indeed, it must be uncomfortable for him to share his Home Office responsibilities with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as it is the Chancellor, a sort of Home Secretary manquép, who is refusing to allow the Home Secretary to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for burglars and is encouraging him to take over the power of the courts and to tag prisoners and release them early.
We introduced tagging, and support it in the terms that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe, the previous Home Secretary, set out, but if the Home Secretary takes to himself powers that have traditionally been exercised only by the courts, he is going to get himself and the Government into serious difficulty as the public will understand that he and the Chancellor set more store by money than by policing and public protection.
If I were the Home Secretary, I would be suitably aggrieved at the Chancellor because his handling of the economy in the past six months has added 1 per cent. to inflation and I am sure that the Home Secretary knows that 1 per cent. added to inflation represents £17.5 million for the Metropolitan police budget. We do not have to have a big debate about resources. We will settle just for 1157 the fact that, through inflation alone, the Home Secretary and the Chancellor have robbed the Metropolitan police of £17.5 million next year.
The Labour party's manifesto for London says:Labour fully supports the Metropolitan Police in their fight against crime … Those who assault and rob should be caught and punished".But we are not going to have mandatory minimum sentences for burglars and I understand that we are going to let people out of prison early. I then read:many people in London don't feel safe when they are out".But there is no CCTV commitment from the Government to do anything about it. Then I read:Labour boroughs have been at the forefront of partnerships against crime".I look at the list of voluntary initiatives and do not see any reassurance to the public.
After six months, we can assess this Government's attitude to law and order. There is no extra money—indeed there is a decrease in money—there is a policy on burglary that, were it not so dangerous, might be viewed as frivolous, and there is no commitment to taking the fundamental steps, which the people of London want taken, to decrease crime and increase reassurance. The promise was that Labour would be tough on crime. It joins other promises that have been broken. Conservative Members will be the ones who will fight for the people of London.
§ Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for his commitment to the policing of London and particularly to my borough of Lambeth. I know that it was mentioned earlier, but it is 1158 important to point out that he chose to continue to live in my constituency, which people there genuinely thought was a good thing. I also pay tribute to him for the fact that, shortly after he became Home Secretary, he twice spent time with the police in Lambeth, not for publicity reasons and with cameras around, but to go around at night, and to find out what it was really like to be a police officer in one of the most difficult policing areas. He knows what it is like to live and to walk the streets in an area where people fear crime. The people of London should be delighted that we have a Home Secretary who understands and appreciates the difficulties of policing in boroughs such as mine.
In welcoming the debate, which takes place every year—I know that it has been slightly more than a year since the previous one—I want to take stock of where we are and, in particular, to pay tribute to the work of the Metropolitan police throughout London, especially in my borough. We can be proud of the service. It is continuing to change, which it needs to do to serve the needs of London's diverse communities.
I am pleased that relations between the police, the community and my local authority continue to improve. A great deal of constructive work has been done over the past year or so. The community police consultative group continues to prosper—and I say that in the historical context of Lambeth not having had good relations with the police. The group is now under the chairmanship of Mike Franklin. He stepped naturally into the shoes of Nicholas Long, who chaired the group so well and for so long. Mike Franklin is very well respected and everyone is convinced that he will be a great leader for community-police relations in my borough. The future for the group looks very bright.
§ It being Eleven o'clock, MADAM SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 11 (Friday Sittings).