HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 cc5-7
3. Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

If he will allow police officers to raise money from licensed premises to pay for additional police officers and community support officers. [134160]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint)

We are concerned about the costs of policing late-night entertainment venues, and we believe that partnership working with the industry is the key to tackling crime and disorder. There are some excellent examples, such as "City Centre Safe" in Manchester. The Home Office is working closely with the Prime Minister's strategy unit to develop an alcohol harm reduction strategy for England. The strategy will tackle a wide range of issues, including managing the costs of crime and disorder.

Mr. Denham

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's reply. The Government have achieved a remarkable increase in the number of police officers, but is not the problem the fact that too much of a police officer's career is likely to be spent policing town and city centres on Friday and Saturday nights, not out in the communities where people also wish to see them? Do we not need a statutory scheme to enable police authorities and local authorities to raise extra money from the licensed premises that make huge profits from hinge and heavy drinking to fund extra police officers and community support officers in every community that needs them?

Caroline Flint

My right hon. Friend is right about the cost to local communities of the disorder caused by crime—47 per cent. of violent incidents are committed under the influence of alcohol. As I have said, we are embarking on a strategy with the Prime Minister's strategy unit to tackle the issue among others, and hope to report later this year. Community support officers can be given designated powers to assist in this area. I understand that Hampshire police, who cover my right hon. Friend's constituency, have so far not bid for community support officers, but there will be another opportunity to do so in spring 2004.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle)

If police authorities are allowed to raise additional revenue, can it be used to pay special constables? They perform an invaluable role, yet their numbers have been cut dramatically under this Government.

Caroline Flint

It will be open to the force to determine the use of any funds so raised. However, there are already a number of schemes that local authorities and the police, working with club owners and publicans, can use to try to address those issues. In fact, the Licensing Act 2003 includes new powers to shut down rowdy premises within 24 hours and review licences instead of waiting for the point when they are up for renewal, which will help to tackle some of the issues.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)

May I welcome on behalf of my constituents the total of nearly 300 additional police for south Wales since 1997 and the community support officers who have recently been added? However. echoing fellow Members' queries, when the strategy review is complete, can it be rolled out as soon as possible, particularly to places such as Ogmore, where police are being pulled out of remote communities for duties in town centres as well as in the fantastic Millennium stadium?

Caroline Flint

I support my hon. Friend's view that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed. It is an issue not only for the police but for local authorities, health services and others. Earlier this year, guidance was published for crime and disorder reduction partnerships on ways in which they could tackle the issue as part of their remit.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Does the Minister accept that the experiment in New Earswick, where the Joseph Rowntree fund paid for a police officer for a two-year trial period, did not work? The Opposition want to replace two-year time-limited grants for community support and rural support policing with long-term funding for our police.

Caroline Flint

I am afraid that I do not know the details of the experiment that the hon. Lady mentioned, but there are issues relating to an end-to-end attitude to the process that involve all sectors of local authorities. If individuals are pulled out to take part in other assignments, that does not necessarily help the problem that they were urged to tackle from the outset. We want collaboration between the police, local authorities and people in the industry to try to find solutions to this challenging problem.

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