HC Deb 15 September 2004 vol 424 cc1256-7
4. Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab)

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the deployment of additional community support officers and community wardens in Wales. [187922]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

My right hon. Friend and I regularly meet ministerial colleagues to discuss matters affecting Wales. Currently, 122 community support officers are on patrol in Wales. An additional 46 officers have been secured for the four Welsh forces in the third round of Home Office funding.

Mr. David

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. He will know that community support officers are at the cutting edge, in Wales and elsewhere, of the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour. I welcome the fact that, before long, there will be 57 community support officers in Gwent alone. Does he agree, however, that to sustain that kind of support and intervention, continuing high levels of public expenditure are needed?

Mr. Touhig

Certainly, investment in fighting crime is important, and this Government are committed to that, with increases not just in community support officers but in police numbers. We are working closely in partnership with local government, too. In my hon. Friend's borough, which he and I jointly represent, I am sure that he will welcome the newly elected Labour council's decision to employ safety wardens, who will promote community safety and help to tackle crime in support of the work being done by the police. It is further evidence of Labour's commitment to overcome the problems of crime that we face in society.

Alan Howarth (Newport, East) (Lab)

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Newport Chief Superintendent Price is deploying individuals police officers to each ward to build a relationship with the local community? They will be supported by uniformed community support officers to give local residents additional reassurance, and to deter anyone minded to indulge in antisocial behaviour. Chief Superintendent Price is leading by example, being regularly out on the beat himself. Will my hon. Friend commend that strategy?

Mr. Touhig

I certainly will. I met Chief Superintendent Price only last week. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that people do not just want to see the bobby on the beat; they want a strong, organised, uniformed presence back on our streets. I commend the commitment of Gwent police to the introduction of police ward managers, which will mean 66 extra bobbies on the beat. That, I think, will be welcomed throughout the country.

Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend agree that community support officers could work very effectively with the youth service in trying to combat the problems of under-age drinking? It is a particular nuisance in my constituency, where a tremendous amount of litter, debris and glass is being left on the village green and playing fields. Could not an approach involving partnership and co-operation help to solve the problem?

Mr. Touhig

It could indeed. We are living in a time when there is a culture of binge drinking among young people, and for both social and health reasons it is important to tackle that. We need to collaborate with a whole spectrum of organisations, including the police, the health service, youth services and local authorities. The joined-up government that we need is taking place in Wales, where work is being done in partnership with—in particular—our colleagues in the Welsh Assembly.

I know of the difficulties that my hon. Friend is experiencing in his constituency, and of the hard work that he is doing to overcome them. I wish him well, and I hope that the success of his efforts in Monmouth pays him substantial dividends.

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