Home Office Questions

22nd February 2016

Emergency Services (Duty to Collaborate)

5. Mr Alan Mak (Havant) (Con): What assessment the Government have made of the potential merits of the proposed duty on emergency services to collaborate. [903663]

9. Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): What assessment the Government have made of the potential merits of the proposed duty on emergency services to collaborate. [903668]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): There are examples across the country of excellent collaboration between the emergency services, particularly the H3 project in Hampshire, where collaboration between the emergency services has driven efficiencies and a better service for the public. Police and crime commissioners will have a duty to collaborate when the Policing and Crime Bill currently before the House becomes law.

Mr Mak: Hampshire fire service and Hampshire police service share a joint headquarters building, resulting in financial efficiencies and a more joined-up service for my constituents. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating both Hampshire emergency services on taking the lead in collaborative working?

Mike Penning: I had the honour and privilege of being in Hampshire recently and saw for myself the brilliant work being done between the emergency services. That is a result of the collaboration between the chief fire officer and the chief constable, as well as the police and crime commissioner doing excellent work to see that we have the right sort of emergency service for the 21st century.

Damian Green: Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that the new generation of police and crime commissioners who will be elected in a couple of months get behind this very important reform? Will he join me in welcoming the commitment of the excellent Conservative PCC candidate in Kent, Matthew Scott, and his strong desire to implement these vital reforms?

Mike Penning: I have seen what Matthew Scott is proposing to do when, as we on the Conservative Benches all hope, he becomes the police and crime commissioner. We need to ensure that we spend taxpayers’ money efficiently and well, and collaboration is the best way forward for that.

Mr Speaker: I call Kate Hoey.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Me?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Lady looks so surprised. She is rarely a shy or retiring soul. If she is, she must overcome her shyness.

Kate Hoey: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Minister is well aware that the fire and rescue services collaborate well all over the country, particularly with the ambulance trusts. Why does he consider it necessary for police and crime commissioners to take control of the fire services under the Bill? Surely the two organisations are so different in so many ways that collaboration is possible without the PCC running our fire services.

Mike Penning: The truth of the matter is that someone duly elected to run the service, as the PCC would be, is better than anybody seconded on to any committee. I am sure we all want efficient emergency services, and the fire service working closely with the ambulance service and the police is the way we would like to do that.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Critical to collaboration between emergency services will be their communications networks. How much will the new emergency service communications network cost and when will it be in place?

Mike Penning: We are currently going out to contract. There are bids out there, which are confidential. We know that the excellent Airwave system that we have had for many years needs replacing. It was very expensive and the replacement will be cheaper than Airwave.

Royston Smith (Southampton, Itchen) (Con): Shortly the police and crime commissioners will be able to put forward a business case to take over the governance of fire and rescue services. My hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Mak) pointed out what Hampshire already does. At present we have a commercial trading arm which completely pays for the governance of the fire and rescue authority. What business case can a police and crime commissioner put forward that would allow him to run that service?

Mike Penning: The local community may want a more efficient service, which could be the case in Hampshire. I accept that Hampshire is particularly good, but that is not the case all over the country. Even when I was in Hampshire, there were people asking me for more collaboration and more work done together, and that request came particularly from the front-line operatives, who are probably the most important people in all this.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): Given the funding cuts to the police service and the fire and rescue services already budgeted for by this Government, can the Minister guarantee that placing fire and rescue services under PCC control will not lead to further cuts in the number of front-line firefighters?

Mike Penning: Thank goodness the Chancellor did not listen to Labour Front-Bench Members when we looked at police funding to 2020, because they wanted a 10% cut, and there will be no cut. We must make sure that we have an efficient service—the sort of efficient service I would have liked to have had when I was in the fire service—and that will be going forward.

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Police and Crime Commissioners

8. Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): What steps she is taking to encourage police and crime commissioners to support early intervention programmes; and if she will make a statement. [903666]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): The Government have supported the first police early innovation leadership academy and provided grant funding for the Early Intervention Foundation. This is really interesting work being done to protect young children. Naturally we will help and encourage chief constables and PCCs up and down the country to help to reduce crime, support victims, and closely engage with their partner agencies, such as the foundation.

Mr Allen: The American comedian Eddie Cantor said, “If those currently on the most-wanted list had been the most wanted as children they would no longer be on the most-wanted list.” In that context, will the Minister welcome the work that his Department is doing with the Early Intervention Foundation in creating police leaders’ academies on early intervention, and will he ensure that funding is available so that every police and crime commissioner elected this year can attend such courses, as this is the best crime prevention measure we know?

Mike Penning: I praise the work of the Early Intervention Foundation; the work it does is very important. Other agencies also do really important work. We all know that if we can catch them young we can prevent people from turning into the types of criminals that sadly this society sees too often in our prisons.

Sir Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con): Following the Government’s troubled families programme, there can be no doubt that early intervention works—it reduces petty crime, encourages school attendance, and gets people into jobs. However, it has become clear—this is why what the Minister is saying is very welcome—that without the active participation of the police such programmes are somewhat ineffectual, so I hope that we will ensure that every chief constable and every commissioner will regard this as a high priority.

Mike Penning: I am sure that every chief constable, police and crime commissioner and PCC candidate has heard exactly what my right hon. Friend has said. That is why we have put the money into the foundation and why we are doing a review of the early intervention academy for police leaders, so that we can have proof of the outcomes and let the money follow good resources.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): Humberside police has 500 fewer officers than five years ago, across north-east Lincolnshire we have had a 38% rise in violent crime, and sexual offences are up 18%. Is it not the reality that early intervention is not a priority for the police on the ground and that it is being pushed on to ill-resourced local authorities?

Mike Penning: I am sure that the Whips Office wrote the hon. Lady’s question, because every single time we hear from the Labour party, it wants more money, and yet its Front Benchers want to cut funding to the police force—[Interruption.] That is the reality.

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TrackMyCrime Service

11. Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con): What the take-up of the TrackMyCrime service among police forces has been up to date. [903670]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): As I wrote earlier, four police forces currently use TrackMyCrime—Avon and Somerset, Kent, South Yorkshire and Humberside—with more to come. According to Minerva IT consortium, it will be made available to 22 forces, including Northampton.

Tom Pursglove: How successful has TrackMyCrime been in supporting victims of crime and keeping them up to date with investigations?

Mike Penning: I wrote my previous answer earlier, because I did not know what was going to be asked. The truth is that if all victims know exactly what is going on once they have reported a crime, they will have confidence to believe in the criminal justice system. TrackMyCrime will help in that regard.

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Topical Questions

T5. [903688] Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): The Government have always justified their cuts to policing on the basis that crime has not gone up. Since 2010, Greater Manchester police force has lost 1,664 officers, which is more than any other force. Recorded crime in Greater Manchester is now going up, and it is doing so faster than in any other metropolitan area. If crime continues to rise, will the Government reconsider their reductions in the number of front-line police officers, as would be reasonable?

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): Let us go over this again. The Government have not reduced the number of police officers on the frontline. Actually, the percentage on the frontline has gone up. The one party that wanted to cut the police budget at the last election was the Labour party—a group of people we did not listen to.

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